Although there is no crystal ball to know all the answers, there are some trends that can help indicate what’s in store for 2018. Here, Harry Eighmy, chairman of the Manufacturer & Business Association Board of Governors and chief operating officer of American Turned Products, shares his outlook for his business, the manufacturing industry and the Association in the year ahead.
American Turned Products is a midsize, precision machined components manufacturer with facilities in Erie and Fairview, Pennsylvania. How would you describe the outlook for your company in 2018?
Our sales are up 10 percent to 15 percent, and that is a good thing, obviously. We are primarily an automotive manufacturer and a first and second tier supplier. This year, we’ve seen a 5-percent to 10-percent increase in our business, and we’re growing — a sure sign that the automotive industry is here to stay.
How would you describe the state of manufacturing in NWPA and Pennsylvania?
We’re in an upward tick in terms of innovation and technology, but the main issue is finding good and talented people. The skills gap continues to be an ongoing issue here in Erie, regionally and nationwide.
What are some of the opportunities and challenges for these manufacturing firms in the coming year?
When you are in a growth spurt, you have the opportunity to invest in new equipment and people. That is one thing that we are doing here at ATP; we are updating our information systems and, this year, we’ve probably spent more money on training than we ever have before.
People are the most important asset for any company, and we recognize that. That said, Erie County can be challenging sometimes in terms of a skilled workforce. Many people presume they have a great skill set, but they’ve only been trained on antiquated equipment. I believe that through the Erie Regional Manufacturer Partnership, efforts like Manufacturing Day and the community college initiative, that we will be able to develop — and retain — a highly skilled workforce for the future.
For the full Spotlight Q&A, see https://issuu.com/mbabusinessmagazine/docs/businessmagazinedecember2017/12.