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Sep 30

Making Stuff

Posted on September 30, 2019 at 12:05 PM by Melinda Mayo

Were you aware that there is a day each year set aside to celebrate modern manufacturing?  Manufacturing Day was established and is promoted by the Manufacturing Institute, who studies the critical issues facing manufacturing and then applies that research to develop and identify solutions that are implemented by companies, schools, governments, and organizations across the country. This year Manufacturing Day will be observed on Oct. 4, and I thought this week’s blog would be an opportune time to highlight the role manufacturing continues to play in our area.


More than 12 percent of the region’s workforce is employed in manufacturing, accounting for more than 20,000 jobs in nearly 300 companies.  These companies range from the small to the large like Eldor, an Italian manufacturer of automotive parts, and TMEIC, supplying motors and electronics to industries around the Globe.  Within the City of Roanoke there are companies that make parachutes, college team memorabilia, baked goods, and cosmetics, to highlight just a few. The Roanoke Regional Partnership had identified two related manufacturing clusters the region focuses upon. One is in the area of advanced manufacturing, such as that noted with TMEIC and the other is in the area of transportation manufacturing such as that noted with Eldor or Volvo Trucks.  Combined, these two clusters represent one of the most important sectors of our regional economy.


Equipping the labor force for opportunities with each of the manufacturing clusters is an important part of the equation.  Efforts include the Virginia Tech Centers such as the Transportation Institute and the Advanced Vehicle Dynamic Lab - both essential in training students for jobs in advanced and transportation manufacturing, but also in aiding in the research so critical for the further development of these manufacturers.  Area community colleges play a vital role as well. Virginia Western Community College, through its Advanced Technology in Mechatronics program, provides students with hands-on experience in training essential to manufacturing automation. Dabney S. Lancaster Community College’s Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Program assists students with integrated systems technology.  We even have a maker space—Makers Mart, operated by the Making Foundation, intended to expose area youth to the idea of making things with their own hands using industrial equipment.

These resources and our long history of manufacturing combine to make Roanoke an ideal place to continue to make the products the World demands. Further, many of these jobs represent some of the best paying jobs in our region, making them invaluable for our area residents and their economic success. While we rightfully celebrate the expansion of healthcare and biomedical research in our area, we should take care not to forget that we have and continue to be a place that makes stuff, and for that we should be thankful and celebrate!  Happy Manufacturing Day!

-- Bob Cowell


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