BY BENJAMIN FANG
As the manufacturing sector continues to evolve throughout the country, Queens business leaders are looking to build up their network of manufacturers to discuss current challenges and solutions.
The Queens Chamber of Commerce’s Manufacturing Committee has taken this responsibility head on. Geoffrey Smith, vice president of marketing at New York Grant Company and co-chair of the committee with Thomas Powell of Boyce Technologies, said he hopes to build a roster of the different types of sectors and businesses represented in the industry within the borough.
The goal is to bridge these companies, whether it’s a mom-and-pop tool-and-die shop or a major manufacturing company in the aerospace business.
“A great focus and strength would be for us to develop some type of network so that manufacturers among manufacturers can connect with each other,” Smith said. “To make a business development piece behind it to have larger companies understand that there’s this ecosystem that’s here.”
So far, Smith has already brought labor representatives from the state to talk about the minimum wage, and training specialists to discuss workforce development. But as new technology is introduced, the way
products are manufactured and the possibilities are expanding, the industry veteran said.
Innovative companies are now looking at tools like 3D printing, prototyping and additive manufacturing.
“It’s becoming more specialized,” he said. “In that level of specialization comes far more education and depth.”
Smith said he sees the specialization of manufacturing as both a challenge and an opportunity for companies to figure out how to be the best in their niche.
He pointed to a company like Long Island City-based Boyce Technologies, an electronics and communications manufacturer, as a model of what manufacturing companies could look like in the coming years.
“The biggest challenge, like every other business looking to grow, is things like training and skills development,” he said. “Finding people that are compatible to the machines that they are buying.”
The Queens Chamber can play a role in addressing that challenge. By connecting students from schools like Queens College, LaGuardia Community College and Queensborough Community College to industry leaders, the future of manufacturing is already being trained.
Engaged students have already mastered the traditional tool-and-die systems, and are being exposed to more sophisticated machinery, Smith said.
Even older manufacturing companies are starting to change. Businesses and people who grew up on the traditional ways of manufacturing are starting to understand there’s no future “if I stay this way.”
“It was just dads starting up the business, making rotors for brakes or something like that,” he said. “Now, there’s a machine that does this.”
Smith hopes that by building this network of manufacturers across the borough, businesses will have fruitful discussions about the work they do. The committee is already planning a roundtable discussion on how to best engage the community.
“Then manufacturers will start to open up and discuss, and so forth,” he said. “Let’s build this network so we have that foundation.”