Planning for Northern Michigan’s Manufacturing Future


There have been many conversations around building a new image for the present and future of regional manufacturing and its diverse career opportunities. These conversations included manufactures, educators, and local government agencies.

So, where to start? As the Northern Lower Regional office for the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC) and NMC’s Training Services, we felt it was our responsibility to do something — not just talk. So, we adopted the motto: “Stay calm and make something.”

This fall, two successful local events around these efforts were held. In last month’s newsletter, we reported on the first regional Manufacturing Day event. Manufacturing Day is a growing grass roots movement of manufacturers dedicated to overcoming the shared challenges facing manufacturers today. The most pressing issue is a gap in skilled labor. Matt Teeter, Precision Machining Technology Instructor with TBAISD Career-Tech Center, summarized the tour by saying, “Giving students the chance to see technology at work is an important part of learning what types of careers are available locally and the skills needed to work in those careers.”

Our next initiative was to host a Grand Traverse Area Manufacturers’ Summit. Our primary objectives for the summit were to establish priorities for the next year and launch a manufacturing council to guide next year’s action steps and begin long-term planning. We needed the voice of the local manufacturers to be heard and enable them to prioritize the region’s manufacturing agenda. Like any start-up, we knew there would be uncertainty and adjustments along the way, and with a positive outlook, long-term thinking, and a community-oriented, big picture perspective, we could strengthen the economy of our region.

On Wednesday, November 5, 2014, we hosted 56 people at NMC’s Great Lakes Campus, Hagerty Center. Thirty-two individuals signed up to serve on a manufacturing council. The agenda topics included:

  • Developing a capable workforce pipeline
  • Branding manufacturing as an economic assets
  • Manufacturing image as a career
  • User groups focused on common issues
  • Aligning educational learning paths

Penny Challender, Vice President of Hayes Manufacturing, reflected on the summit by saying, “It was wonderful to have the opportunity to collaborate with people who have the same daily challenges and concerns. We really enjoyed the brainstorming sessions. There were many attendees who had already put a lot of thought and research into how to improve manufacturing (in general), and we were lucky enough to benefit from their suggestions.” ​

​Dan Swinney, Executive Director of the Manufacturing Renaissance Council, spoke to the group about the need to foster a healthy community by developing collaborative, locally tailored programs to fuel innovation and competitiveness. You can view his presentation to the Grand Traverse Area Manufacturing Summit in its entirety on our website.

Janie McNabb, Chief Operating Officer of Networks Northwest, was one of the sponsors of the summit. She felt, “The manufacturing summit was the first step in developing a coordinated, mobilized, and long-needed manufacturing council. Many great ideas were shared at the summit — ideas the council can act on right away, to truly make a difference in talent development for the industry.”

There was a high level of commitment and collaboration generated from the summit. The next step is a manufacturing working session which will take place in January 2015. Updates will be forthcoming on the initiatives and actions of this dynamic and passionate working group. In the meantime, stay calm and make something!

Betsy Williams, Sales and Training Specialist
Northwestern Michigan College
1701 East Front Street, Traverse City 49686
(231) 995-2018