The first Friday of October each year is National Manufacturing Day, a way to highlight modern manufacturing and inspire the next generation with possible career options.
Four local businesses participated in National Manufacturing Day on Thursday and Friday, offering tours and an inside look at what manufacturing processes and careers look like in Laramie.
Manufacturing can often be associated with large, dark or industrial factories, but Star Awards & Promos co-owner Shantel Anderson said the tours were a great way to show people “what manufacturing actually is in Laramie.”
“It’s super exciting for people to see to showcase the little manufacturers, the boutique manufacturers,” Anderson said. “That was a big thing for people to actually see, that manufacturing isn’t just big, dirty shops; it’s actually small, fun things.”
Manufacturing overall is a growing sector in Laramie but is often hindered by struggles to fill open jobs. One of the goals of National Manufacturing Day, according to its website, is to grow community and especially student interest in the field.
Gustave Anderson, quality manager for CNC machining company Avvid Corporation, said many of the company's tour attendees didn’t even realize a company like Avvid that produces over 1 million parts per year even existed in Laramie.
Manufacturing companies like Avvid have been trying to reach out to more K-12 students as they start thinking about their futures, hoping to show that careers in advanced manufacturing can be just as lucrative as any other.
“So few of them have the opportunity to see something like this, so they’re not thinking about that as a career choice or anything like that,” Gustave Anderson said. “It’s hard for us to find people to work here because a lot of people never think about it, they don’t think they can do it, they don’t understand what the environment really looks like — so some of that is a little bit self-serving, but these are also great career jobs that are highly skilled and highly sought after.”
Also concerned about filling jobs, firearm sight and part manufacturer HIVIZ Shooting Systems is working to create an apprenticeship program to help keep pace with their rapid growth; they’ve gone from around eight to over 60 jobs in five years. Carl Jeffs, general manager of the mold making division at HIVIZ, said part of manufacturing day was “trying to spark their interest.”
“Now that we have those skillsets established, we would like these young people to start finding their way over here, coming through our process, gaining the skillsets that will give them a great future and will keep the manufacturing in America,” Jeffs said.
He added he sees manufacturing “becoming a pretty stable thing in Wyoming” especially as more companies in neighboring states like Colorado become increasingly frustrated with crowds and regulations.
“They see a place like Laramie and it’s intriguing to them because it’s like it used to be when they first started getting into manufacturing,” Jeffs said.
More than just promoting the business or sector to potential future employees, Nolan Carter, vice president for screenprinting company Pinebeach Ink, said the day was a way to show the public just how much work, labor, materials and more can go into something as seemingly simple as a t-shirt.
“We wanted to give them a little insight that it can be just a person slaving away, just really working hard, or it can be a lot more automated than it is now and also just to give them a little bit of knowledge of how it works so that when they do pick up a t-shirt, they understand the labor that goes into it,” he said.
This is just the second year Laramie businesses have participated, and each business expressed interest in continuing the effort. Shantel Anderson said she could see the program growing into a big event.
“Each year we’re kind of increasing the number of people that are participating and the promotion of it, and I just see it growing every year,” she said.
Additionally, the Laramie Main Street Alliance is in the process of rolling out its Made on Main program, a way for businesses to get advice about manufacturing in Laramie, especially downtown. Anderson said she could see LMSA becoming more involved in in future National Manufacturing Day events.
The increased collaboration between small businesses, Carter said, has made promoting and operating more fun.
“Everybody seems to be kind of feeding off each other,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s social media doing that or if it’s the downtown Laramie thing or what it is, but it seems like everybody is working together.”