Sector profile - Manufacturing

Tom Pritchard, former Director of the Otsego County Office Employment and Training contends that when compared to the other economic sectors of the area, “manufacturing probably is facing the toughest challenges at this point.”

“For a variety of reasons,” he continues,tool “New York State is not all that friendly an environment for a manufacturing business.”

Adding to the State’s constraints are the growing economic pressures caused by global competition. But, despite these twin hurdles, manufacturing is experiencing something of a resurgence in the area.

This is attributable to several factors, including the identification of “niche” manufacturing opportunities, assistance from the counties’ economic development leadership, innovative management, optimized operations and increased production.

Deb Ballentine, Plant Manager at Corning Life Sciences in Oneonta puts it in perspective.

“Manufacturing in general (in North America) is in a situation where we have to be extremely competitive to keep jobs,” she declares. “Asia, Europe, and even South America are becoming much more competitive – especially on commodity products. We have to have an edge.”

“Certainly technology can help us, and our resources. We can’t compete with dollar-an-hour labor, so what can we do different? How do we use the inventiveness of our employees to do things differently, so we can get more volume with same amount of work or the same amount of resources, so we’re on a level playing field?”

Corning has tackled those questions and answered them with enviable success. But, it is not alone. Its results have been repeated throughout the region.

Glenn Nealis is the Director of Economic Development in Delaware County, and he is positively upbeat about the future of manufacturing in the area.

According to Nealis, “We have a wide and diverse manufacturing base that’s been very stable.” He adds, “We’ve been gaining manufacturing jobs over the last five years where other regions have been losing them.”

He points to an increasing number of high tech firms that service aerospace and defense as well as those that have taken advantage of the area’s natural resources and agricultural heritage to produce new and unique products as indicative of the trend.

Chenango County Chamber of Commerce President, Dave Hall accurately surmises that, “manufacturing is probably not coming back on the large scale that we saw many years ago.”

But, it is coming back. Leaner. Smarter. And seemingly, better prepared to meet the future.