October is Manufacturing Month, a time to celebrate the makers, builders, and inventors of Nebraska. Nearly one in ten jobs in Nebraska is in manufacturing. Thanks to recent job growth, this summer Nebraska’s manufacturing employment reached its highest point in more than 10 years.
The U.S. economy suffered through the Great Recession from December 2007 to June 2009. As a result of the economic downturn, many companies laid off workers or went out of business altogether. Our state’s manufacturing industry was not immune to the Great Recession. From December 2007 to December 2009, Nebraska’s manufacturing employment plummeted from 102,200 to 91,100. That’s a drop of 10.9 percent in just two years.
The good news is that Nebraska manufacturing has bounced back. Manufacturing employment is currently at its highest level since October 2008. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, Nebraska’s manufactured goods exports have grown 40.9 percent from 2010 to 2018.
The growth of Nebraska manufacturing is occurring all across the state. Here are several examples:
In Scottsbluff, Aulick Industries plans to construct a new 30,000 square-foot building. The new space will allow the company to ramp up its production of truck chassis by 50% and to add numerous jobs.
Lindsay Corp. has announced a multi-million dollar investment in a 32,000 square-foot plant. The facility in Lindsay will manufacture lining for pipes that makes them extremely resistant to corrosion.
In Holdrege, Allmand Inc. broke ground on a plant expansion in May that will add around 20 jobs. Founded in Huntley in 1938, Allmand designs and manufactures portable jobsite equipment including light towers, generators, compressors, heaters, and portable lights.
Becton Dickinson in Columbus is currently building a cutting-edge, $60 million manufacturing facility. When operational in 2021, the plastic molding plant will produce vials, syringe caps, and other plastic components used in the medical field.
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Timpte Inc., a trailer manufacturer, has embarked on a significant project to expand its presence at its longtime home in David City. Among other additions, the company is building a new research and development center and increasing capacity at its main factory. In total, the new project will bring between 30 and 60 jobs to the community.
Scoular’s expansion to Seward this year represents a $50 million investment and will create up to 100 new jobs. Scoular has been creating jobs for Nebraskans since the 1800s. It has grown into one of America’s most successful private companies, with operations around the globe.
This summer, Veramaris in Blair began commercial production of omega-3 acids from fermented algae at a new $200 million facility. The sugar (dextrose) used in the production process comes from Nebraska-grown corn. The omega-3s will be used as nutrition for salmon on fish farms, eliminating the need to catch other wild fish to obtain feed.
Whether making equipment, producing medical supplies, or engaging in value-added agriculture, Nebraska manufacturers are creating jobs and enriching communities.
As impressive as our state’s manufacturing growth has been, we’ve only scratched the surface of Nebraska’s manufacturing potential. To see even greater growth, we must help people get the skills they need to fill the many jobs available. Oftentimes, our state’s manufacturers simply cannot find the welders, machinists, or engineers they need to expand their business.
To turbocharge our manufacturing growth, we’re equipping the current generation of students to take advantage of the rewarding, great-paying jobs in manufacturing. Our Developing Youth Talent Initiative (DYTI) partners with local companies and schools to familiarize middle-school students—and their parents—with the many career opportunities to earn a great wage in manufacturing. As of this summer, DYTI had reached 7,000 students in 23 school districts. In July, we announced $250,000 in additional DYTI grants. These projects will expand DYTI to as many as 5,500 new students in up to 44 school districts. Career academies bring together area businesses and postsecondary educational institutions to provide high school students with hands-on, interactive learning activities in manufacturing. At the college level, students can earn as they learn through a Registered Apprenticeship (RA). The Nebraska Department of Labor is collaborating with businesses, educational institutions, and the US Department of Labor to develop new RA programs across a variety of industries. We’ve increased the number of RAs 44 percent since 2016. On July 2nd, Nebraska’s Department of Labor announced that it had received over $840,000 in federal funds to launch even more RAs across the state. Together, these initiatives are creating a talent pipeline of skilled young professionals to fill in-demand jobs in manufacturing.
By developing our people, we can spur on the growth that’s already taking place in Nebraska’s manufacturing industry. If you have ideas on how to best prepare young Nebraskans to excel in manufacturing careers, I hope you will email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402-471-2244.
Pete Ricketts is the governor of Nebraska.