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A Message from the Chairman

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Dear Association Members,

As I begin my term as chairman of this great organization, I enter it with a deep and abiding respect for the sacrifices and successes that have allowed it to grow and flourish over the past 108 years. “e Manufacturer & Business Association (MBA) has enjoyed a rich history of being a leader in the Pennsylvania business community and a powerful and vocal advocate on industry related issues at the local, state and federal levels.

From taxes and health care to regulatory and educational reform, the Association has been committed to lobbying for a pro-growth agenda. And now, as we try to #nd real solutions for the skills gap that has plagued so many of our businesses, this united voice is more important than ever before. Which is the reason I address you today.

Right now, I believe that we are on the brink of an extraordinary time in our nation’s history that will directly impact our work force for years to come — a true educational initiative connecting business and industry of which everyone, from employers and educators to parents and students, needs to be aware.

For far too long, the United States has been falling behind in education rankings, with as many as 27 percent of all students not graduating from high school. Many of those who do graduate are unprepared for post secondary education or for a career, and our businesses have suffered because of this skills gap. Surprised? Statistics show approximately 3.4 million jobs a year go unfilled in the United States because there are not enough qualified individuals to take them.

Employers, such as myself, rely on the quality of the work force to stay competitive in this growing global economy. But when nearly one-third of our students fail to graduate, and without the basic skills needed to get a job, I think you can agree that we have a serious problem on our hands.

“This is where the implementation of the Common Core Standards comes in.

I am pleased to report that 46 states, including Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia have agreed to endorse and adopt the use of these standards in kindergarten through 12th grade. These standards establish a clear and consistent understanding of what students are expected to learn, helping them build a strong foundation as they proceed through school, and focusing on what they need to succeed in college and in careers.

Ask anyone in business today and they will agree that our economy needs a solid school system that ensures students gain strong skills in problem solving, analytical thinking and communication — an educational system that will produce a work force that is ready and able to meet the challenges of business well into the future.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education currently is in the midst of a five-year plan to implement and align the standards with the Keystone Exams and PSSA tests. But I believe a strong and collective voice from the private sector will help strengthen this initiative, and I hope you do as well. Because only by being vocal and educating others about the importance of these standards can we move forward as the truly “career ready” community that we strive to become. “e Association is just the right organization to help propel this effort in an ever-changing and competitive global business world, and I expect to share many more updates on its progress in the year ahead.

The Association’s ongoing leadership role in our community’s business growth is also one of the many reasons that I am so pleased to share with you this year’s Annual Report, our premier business-to-business publication. This special edition of the Business Magazine features dynamic articles on our new energy alliance with electricity provider NRG, the Association’s exploration of a private health exchange to help employers brace for the impact of the new health-care law, as well as the many dedicated people and value-added services that are central to the MBA’s mission, which is to help businesses succeed.

Finally, I hope you will enjoy the article on this year’s Annual Event speaker Carly Fiorina, former chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Company, and political satirist Mark Russell, who will be certain to entertain our members on Tuesday, May 14 at the Bayfront Convention Center in Erie. This should be an exciting kickoff to a transformative year for the Association, and I am both enthusiastic and inspired about the many possibilities ahead.

Sincerely,
John Cline
Chairman

John Cline is the president and CEO of Sunburst Electronics, a high technology electronic contract manufacturing company based in Erie, Pennsylvania. Since 1976, Sunburst Electronics has served local, regional and national original equipment manufacturers with quality printed circuit board assembly, chassis, cable assembly and layout/design services.