Students’ attitudes shift after experiencing manufacturing

How do you get students to pursue manufacturing careers? In most cases, it’s not so much up to you as them. Per a study conducted by The Manufacturing Institute, SkillsUSA and the Educational Research Center of America, 64 percent of students enrolled in Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses say that their own interests and experiences are the most important factor in choosing a career path.

In light of that, let’s revise the question: How do you spark student interest in manufacturing careers? The simple answer is exposure: Showing them modern manufacturing in action and letting them find what that inspires them, whether it’s the technology, the creativity, the problem solving, the team attitude or the reassurance of good pay and benefits and high job security.

That’s where Manufacturing Day comes in. MFG Day is the perfect way to provide students early exposure to the many career opportunities offered by modern manufacturing. And that isn’t just talk — exit polling from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute in 2016 shows that MFG Day events make a real impact for students that participate. After attending MFG Day events:

  • 89 percent of students were more aware of jobs in their communities
  • 84 pecent were more convinced that manufacturing provides careers that are interesting and rewarding
  • 64 percent of students were more motivated to pursue careers in manufacturing
  • 71 percent were more likely to tell friends, family, parents or colleagues about manufacturing after attending an event

So, how do you get students to your MFG Day event to give them a chance to have a mind-opening experience that sparks their own interests? Use the tips in this blog post, “How to Get Students to Your MFG Day Event,” and do your part to inspire that next generation of modern manufacturers!

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A partner to help drive students to your event
To help increase student participation in your Manufacturing Day event,consider partnering with your local Dream It. Do It. network, which has locations across the United States. Dream It. Do It. is The National Association of Manufacturers’ Manufacturing Institute’s nationwide youth engagement network. And with 30+ state and regional partners, there is probably a Dream It. Do It. site near you.

Made up of manufacturing industry leaders, the Dream It. Do It. network works to change the perception of manufacturing and inspire next-generation workers to pursue manufacturing careers. Working together, each member organization provides resources and support to aid pro-manufacturing efforts in their respective territories and implements activities to meet local, regional, and statewide workforce needs.

Including local manufacturers, schools, and community-based organizations, among others, the Dream It. Do It. initiative offers its partners the opportunity to join a respected national platform to promote manufacturing as a top-tier career choice in the United States and engage and mobilize the next generation of manufacturing workers.

Fanning student interest sparked by plant tours
Manufacturing Day happens just once a year. So, what can manufacturers do year-round to continue their efforts to inspire the next generation of modern manufacturers?

One answer is to build on the success of MFG Day events by conducting regular open houses, an approach developed by the Waukesha County Manufacturing Alliance (WCMA) even before the advent of MFG Day in 2012. Back in 2010, WCMA partnered with Dream It. Do It. Wisconsin and the Manufacturing Institute to develop a program called Schools2Skills for high school students to tour manufacturing facilities in the county in an attempt to inspire them to pursue manufacturing careers and thereby address the critical shortage of talent local employers were facing.

The first Schools2Skills tour was completed by school administrators from all 12 school districts in Waukesha County and quickly took off. Since its launch, Schools2Skills has done almost 40 tours, taking more than 1,200 students to more than 40 manufacturers where they have been able to learn about the rewarding career paths offered in modern manufacturing.

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The tours conclude at regional community or technical colleges, where attendees can learn about education opportunities available for pursuing manufacturing careers, giving inspired students a perfect answer to inevitable questions like, “How do I get involved?” or “What’s next?”

To learn more about how the Schools2Skills program works, check out this account from the Manufacturing Institute.

This article was provided by the National Association of Manufacturers and the Manufacturing Institute, organizers of Manufacturing Day.

On the move: Local web design and marketing firm experiences impressive growth, opens new office

When Jimi Plouffe traded his Playstation 2 for a filing cabinet, he knew that his priorities had changed. At the time, the teenager had set up a small web design business in a bedroom at his parent’s house. He’d gone from video games to buying website domains. Ten years later, he now co-owns Momentum, a web development and digital marketing firm that is celebrating the grand opening of its new office in downtown Utica. The business started in 2010 and had one employee in 2011. Now there are 12 employees who have worked with more than 500 clients. To say that’s impressive growth is an understatement.

A young entrepreneur
Jimi says that it all started in 8th grade, when he was assigned a biography project that asked what he wanted to do when he grew up. He wrote: “I plan on pursuing a career that is based upon computers. I am interested in careers such as web design, computer programming, and graphic design.” So that’s what he did. Over the next few years, Jimi constantly studied and experimented with internet technology. He absorbed everything he could and challenged himself by learning how to build websites and refining his eye for design. Then, at 18-years-old, Jimi started James Michael Solutions and began creating websites for a small number of clients. To better accommodate the new venture, the self-taught designer rearranged his bedroom at his parent’s home, taking down his posters and installing a corner desk. He worked long hours and sought out customers in need of digital assistance. He also received work from local agencies who needed to outsource projects. It helped him build a solid portfolio and several relationships with other web developers. One relationship grew into something more – a business partnership.

Gaining momentum
Jimi and Adam Sgammotta, a fellow web developer and distant cousin, met in 2009 and instantly connected over their shared entrepreneurial goals. Adam previously owned several ecommerce companies and had studied business administration in school. He wanted to open his own company and was ready to leave his full-time job at a local design agency. After working together on several projects and hosting a few brainstorm sessions, the pair sat down at Buffalo Wild Wings and drafted their first joint business plan. Their idea: to build a new website design and development business called Momentum. In 2010, they were ready to make the jump and opened up shop in Jimi’s apartment. That first space, another 10’ x 10’ bedroom, was where they recruited clients and worked late into the night. They were setting the foundation for something great.

Momentum logo

After a successful first year, the pair hired their first employee and moved into an official office space in Clinton Township. By their third year, they had worked with more than 100 companies, hired five additional employees and cracked nearly $1 million in gross revenue. Jimi and Adam had a successful firm on their hands and they knew they needed to expand their operations to keep pace with demand from customers. So by 2016, the pair had hired several more employees and added to their service offering – now providing digital marketing services such as search engine optimization and online advertising. That year also marked the beginning of their search for a larger office and the start of new strategies designed to recruit and retain talent. For instance, Momentum has chili cook-offs, team building activities, dog mascots, ping pong tournaments, flexible work schedules, fancy furniture, lunch and learns and an annual Halloween party. And I should note, this isn’t your average office Halloween soiree. Jimi and Adam decorate their spaces, host a costume contest and have giveaways. Truly, the company is on to something when it comes to building a healthy and attractive workplace culture.

Looking ahead
In early 2018, Momentum found its new office in downtown Utica. The location, just down the street from Jimmy John’s Field, was attractive, modern and walkable. It was exactly what Jimi and Adam were looking for. They moved their employees into the space on April 1 and it has proven to be an asset for the organization. Workers feel momentum office (1)positive and happy coming into work and their clients, which include Randazzo Fresh Market, Roura, L&L Products, the Detroit Free Press Marathon and Hitachi, are impressed by the atmosphere. Most importantly however, the space will allow them to become further engaged in the area. Jimi, Adam and Momentum as a whole feel strongly about giving back to the community. Whether that means committing to pro bono projects or speaking to local schools about internet safety, the organization is ready and willing to get involved in Utica. And you could certainly feel that spirit at the official grand opening for Momentum on Thursday, July 19. I attended the open house with several co-workers and was moved by the vibrant and celebratory atmosphere and community-oriented activities. Everyone attending the event was excited about the next chapter for the company, including Momentum’s very first client, the Michigan Head and Neck Institute, who spoke to the crowd about their work with the firm and how they have continued on with them for several years now. Thrilled with the services delivered, they have no intention of taking their business elsewhere. This certainly helps Jimi and Adam work towards the goal they established back in 2010: “Be a recognized, global leader in cutting edge web technology and online marketing.” Now with an expanding team, 200 active clients and over 30 percent growth in 2017, you could certainly say Momentum is well on its way to achieving this objective.

For more information on Momentum, visit their website here.

**Momentum is a client of the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development. Working with MCPED, they have access to services like assistance with marketing, financial analysis and planning, strategic planning, management and operations.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Macomb County leaders tout area’s success at Michigan Idea Exchange

Investing in southeast Michigan and positive developments within the region were the ICSC logomain topics of discussion during the Michigan Idea Exchange on Thursday, July 12. Held at Cobo Center by the International Council of Shopping Centers, the event provided an opportunity for local governments to speak to individuals in the real estate industry and for those individuals to share ideas, ask questions and network.

Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel attended to speak on two panels. The first, the event’s keynote, saw Hackel alongside two other leaders from Oakland and Wayne Counties. Together, the three discussed the strengths of the region and its collaborative partners. They also pinpointed what they believe sets their individual counties apart.  For instance, Deputy Oakland County Executive Phillip Bertolini said that balanced finances and the county’s AAA bond rating are its biggest asset. In Wayne County, Khalil Rahal, the executive director for the county’s Economic Development Corporation, said that downtown Detroit and Metro Airport are what makes that region stand out. And then in Macomb, Hackel pointed to the more than $10 billion of investments made by the automotive and defense industries as the factor that differentiates his county from its neighbors.

When asked what issues needed to be addressed in the tri-county area, all three leaders stated that roads and infrastructure are the top priority. And in Macomb County, progress on that matter is already underway. In June, the county and the cities of Sterling Heights and Warren announced a major boost to its efforts in rebuilding Mound Road – one of the most important corridors in southeast Michigan. Innovate Mound, a public-private collaboration focused on restoring the roadway, was selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation as a recommended Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant project to be funded by Congress. The $97.8 million grant will help fund the $184.6 million total cost of reconstruction and in 20 months, the project to fix Mound and make it a smart and connected roadway will begin.

The keynote panel closed with the three leaders committing to further collaboration to ensure positive growth for the region as a whole, with Hackel stating that we need to highlight our assets together and unite who we are and what we are.

The second panel of the day focused exclusively on Macomb County, with County Executive Hackel joined by John Paul Rea, director of MCPED, Kathleen Lomako, executive director of SEMCOG, Scott Adkins, city manager of Roseville and Gene D’Agostini, from D’Agostini Companies. The discussion, titled “Macomb County’s P3 Momentum: From Principles to Practices,” showcased how the county has achieved success in the field of public-private partnerships. Together, Hackel and Rea talked about breaking down barriers for businesses and working to come up with creative solutions for investors. Because according to Rea: “We never want to be in a meeting with developers and hand them a stack of regulations. We are moving to empower and to be a convening agent. We want to be a part of a project and not stop its progress.” Rea cited the construction of Jimmy Johns Field in Utica as an example of this work. In this instance, developers, the city of Utica and Macomb County officials worked together to turn an unlicensed landfill into a state-of-the-art minor league baseball stadium.

This example led to the story of Gene D’Agostini, who years ago wanted to make a major investment in Macomb County, but needed the government’s help. During the recession, D’Agostini purchased Cherry Creek Corporate Park, a 220-acre industrial area in Shelby Township owned by Lehman Brothers. He wanted to build on the property, but he required the support of township and county officials to ensure his vision and timelines could be accomplished. D’Agostini said that after purchasing Cherry Creek, his first call was to those individuals. They cleared the way for him to construct his plans and today, the company has built eight plants totaling roughly 1.2 million-square-feet of manufacturing space. The project even attracted other business to the area, with Grupo Antolin, a Spanish automotive interior supplier, announcing in spring 2017 that it would invest $61.2 million into a 360,000-square-foot building in the park and create 430 jobs. D’Agostini said that none of this would have been possible without the assistance of the township and county officials – who reorganized and fast-tracked to help move the project along.

Stories like D’Agostini’s show how Macomb County is evolving to keep pace with an ever-changing business world. Our leaders want to ensure that this area is economically strong and providing good jobs to its residents, so they will work collaboratively and creatively to make that happen.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Register now for a new financial workshop from the Michigan SBDC

sbdcNinety-five percent of the businesses in Macomb County are defined as a small business, one that employs fewer than 50 people. Because of this, the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development (MCPED) works closely with the Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to offer owners and entrepreneurs assistance with marketing, financial analysis and planning, strategic planning, management and operations. We act as their partner, helping them succeed.

One recent joint activity between MCPED and the SBDC is the development of “Know Your Numbers,” a workshop aimed at helping business owners and key staff better understand and use their financial statements. The course, which is sponsored by Fifth Third Bank, will be held Thursday, July 26 from 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at the MCPED office (1 S. Main Street, Mount Clemens). The ideal participant will have two to three years of financial history and should be pursuing financing or having challenges with cash flow. During the workshop, they will learn how to:

  • Use a balance sheet and income statements in managing a business
  • Use break even analysis to improve decision-making
  • Find the source of cash flow problems
  • Increase a company’s cash flow
  • Strengthen a relationship with a banker and/or lender

Interested individuals can register for the event here. The cost is $25/person and includes a workbook – however, the course is offered at no cost to Fifth Third Bank customers and veterans by calling 734-487-0355.

For more information on MCPED click here and for details on the Michigan SBDC, click here.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Local man creates innovative update to ubiquitous socket wrench

Imagine you own a classic car; one perfect for driving in the various car events and shows around Metro Detroit in the summer. It’s early August, so you decide to make your pexels-photo-175684way out to the Clinton Township Gratiot Cruise. While you’re on the way, something big goes ka-thunk – every car owners’ worst nightmare. You’re almost to M-3, but decide it’s best to pull over and figure out the issue. As an experienced classic car owner, you’ve got your tool set and hydraulic jack on hand. But one rusty bolt won’t come off no matter how hard you push and pull on your socket wrench. Ultimately, the only option is to take it to a mechanic and you miss the cruise completely.

This is similar to the issue Al Gunther faced several years ago while working on his daughter’s car. A rusty bolt prevented him from doing necessary maintenance and he had to pay a professional to do the job. This got Al thinking. As an engineer who has worked for the Big Three, he knew there had to be a better solution to the socket issue. But to come to that, he had to get at the root of the problem: leverage.

You see, Al realized that he could use two breaker bars, in the hands of two people, but he could only use one tool on the socket at a time. His idea – why not have an adapter that would allow two or more tools to turn the socket at the same time, doubling or even tripling the torque that could be applied? That was the inspiration for the Torkster, a made-in-Michigan product perfect for a car-lover’s toolbox.

How does it work? Well, because of the product’s innovative design, the concept is fairly simple. The Torkster is a round device made out of hardened steel with two half-inch square drive holes on two sides, two half-inch pipe thread holes on the other two sides and a half-inch insert driven through the center of the device. At one and a half-inches thick, the insert fits nicely within the Torkster and allows another half-inch drive tool to be used on its back side. So essentially, you attach the Torkster to a socket, insert multiple breaker bars and then use that leverage to easily remove something like a rusty bolt. To get a better idea of how the tool works, you can watch a ‘how-to’ video starring Al here.

Now, I should mention, the most interesting part of the entire Torkster story are its historic implications. The square drive socket wrench was patented more than 100 years ago and is used across the world. But after doing some research, Al realized that no one had ever tried to patent a way to attach more than one wrench to a socket. The Torkster would be a major update for the classic tool. This makes Al more than just an inventor, he’s an innovator. And through his company, Big Al’s Tools, he’s also an entrepreneur – something that he says runs in his family.

Al’s grandfather owned his own business, as did his father, mother and several of his cousins. His father’s business, a small fleet of ice cream trucks driven throughout New Jersey, required long hours and years of hard work. When Al was old enough, he wanted to take over the business, but his father didn’t want that life for him and insisted that he go to college, get a degree and find a 40 hour-a-week job. Al did as his father wished, getting an engineering degree and moving to Michigan to work for the Big Three. But when the recession hit in 2008, he was laid off from his job. So Al mustered his entrepreneurial spirit and opened his first business – Global Engine Cooling Solutions. The company, a full-service provider of engineering consultation, employee training and technical sales support, gave Al the confidence to venture into other businesses too. Soon after, Big Al’s Tools was born and with it, the Torkster.

torkster logoAs previously stated, the Torkster is nearly entirely made in Michigan. Al believes that sourcing materials locally boosts the quality of his product, and as an autoworker, he thinks it is important to support hometown suppliers. His current partners include a steel wholesaler in Detroit, Sharp Screw Machine Products in Chesterfield, Sturdy Broaching in Warren, Michigan Paper Die in Detroit and Suburban Heat Treat in Warren. This all means that if you purchase the Torkster, you can feel good knowing you are buying local. Which begs the question – where can you get the product? Currently, the only way to buy it is online here. So if you’re driving in the Gratiot Cruise in just a few short weeks, you might want to check the site out as soon as possible, place an order and give your toolbox an update.

To learn more about Big Al’s Tools and the Torkster, visit

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Companies interested in choosing Macomb at Select USA

Macomb County recently participated in the Select USA Investment Summit, an event that brings in roughly 1,000 international companies looking to do business in the United States. The conference also attracts economic development officials from across the country who are competing to win the sought after new jobs and investment, which totals $30.7 billion since Select USA first occurred. Overall, our team had a positive experience at the event. And from our conversations with global business leaders, we can tell that Macomb County’s reputation as a great place to do business is growing worldwide.

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Our county economic development team participated in Select USA alongside the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and a contingent of roughly 30 economic developers from various regions across Michigan. Over the course of three days, our group met with companies and business groups from four different continents, including Europe, Asia, North America and South America.  These organizations were interested in Macomb County because of our capabilities in manufacturing, our strong infrastructure of suppliers and our highly-skilled workforce. Being a logistics hub with a major international airport was also a draw for those looking to locate here. And notably, our county’s reputation as the Arsenal of Innovation and it being home to the Michigan Defense Center was a big draw for the team.  We were able to show these companies that our well-equipped economic development toolbox is not only ready to help them get in the door, but to also support them throughout their stages of growth. They also learned that Macomb County is very supportive of business and a great place to live.

As background, pursuing international investment is one part of Macomb County’s comprehensive economic development strategy. The success of this tactic is evident in our increasingly diverse demographics. For instance, nearly one out of every 10 county residents is foreign born and there are more than 80 firms operating here that are headquartered outside of the USA. These international companies are creating great products and paying excellent wages. They include Kuka, Sodecia, Grupo Antolin, Brose and Faurecia, among others. Additionally, Macomb County has facilities for major domestic companies like General Motors, Ford Motor Company, General Dynamics, Fiat Chrysler and Oshkosh Defense. All told, the investments made by both domestic and foreign companies have boosted Macomb County’s economy.  Since the end of the recession in 2009, the county has added 80,493 jobs, increasing from 346,216 jobs to today’s total of 426,709 jobs. This astounding growth is a direct result of an effective economic development strategy, and of course, a great business environment.

To see more of Macomb County’s major investments, click here.

Nick Posavetz is an economic development specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development and is focused on growing, retaining and attracting businesses to Macomb County. To learn what resources are available for your business, reach out to him at