Written by Steven Palmatier, Workforce & Industrial Development Liaison
Two weeks ago Norwich Aero employees and I spent three days in West Springfield Massachusetts at the EASTEC trade show, which was organized by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (they are probably best known outside of manufacturing circles for organizing the FIRST Robotics programs). Held every other year, this is the largest event on the East Coast devoted to manufacturing, with an emphasis on machining, fabrication and inspection.
Arriving at the Eastern States Exposition Center, the site of the show, I registered as a vendor and found our location among the 350 other vendors in building three. I had an hour after I had set up our booth to walk through the five buildings that were being used for the show. Buildings one and two where most of the large machine tools were on display were even more chaotic than ours. Large CNC lathes and milling machines were still in their shipping crates on the floor and many of the booths had 30 or 40 people working to get them up and running. The next morning I arrived on site at 7:30 a.m., grabbed a cup of coffee, and headed for building three wondering what I would find. Aisles that had been bare concrete when I left were now carpeted and everything was in place. The show was ready to begin!
At 9:00 a.m. the doors opened and people started to walk through the buildings, and by 10:00 a.m. there were people filing in continuously. When I was not talking with someone, I was scanning the badges on people passing by looking for engineers and executives from aerospace and medical device companies that I could engage in a conversation about the Norwich Aero opportunity.
The sight of Paul Erwin and Ron Charles from Norwich Aero at around noon that day was a welcome respite. I would bet that over the three days of the show we engaged in conversations with well over 2,500 people and handed out more than 350 flyers on the building along with other material on Chenango County.
I also took some time to visit other booths where I knew I would find some industry contacts. Most were surprised to see me there and even more surprised by what we were trying to do. Several of them took flyers and offered to talk to their customers about the Norwich Aero building and the workforce that we were trying to market.
So what are the results of this effort so far as of last Friday?
We have been contacted by people wanting more information on the County and Norwich Aero building and workforce. One company from Syracuse was interested in the employees and wanted to do a job fair at the plant in Norwich, although I feel that this is not the best for our community at this time. One person has contacted us with 2 patented products that he would like to develop and bring to market. Both have commercial potential and I am working with them to see how we can bring manufacturing to Chenango and Norwich Aero. One individual who I met at the show is from Chenango County and has a commercial process that has been developed within a large local plant but they donít want to commercialize themselves. Commerce Chenango is willing to work with him to create a business plan and launch the business here.
I spoke with a Sikorsky Aircraft engineer that was at the show who has concerns about some of their vendors keeping up with future production needs of the company. He will pass on our information to his purchasing department and ask them to give it to suppliers who might be able to make use of the Norwich Aero plant. He also gave me the names of a few companies he thought I should touch base with and I will follow up on these leads over the next several weeks.
We also have leads from the show ranging from investment and venture capital firms to manufacturers. Over the next few weeks each one will receive a letter from Commerce Chenango with an invitation to visit the 50oharadrive.com website. These letters will be followed up by a phone call from me.
This was a unique effort that we made, and I think a valuable one that will ultimately strengthen the economy of Chenango County.
Finally, I would like to thank some of the people from Chenango County that I saw at the show. Tiger Smith, the Darlings from Bainbridge, Doug Sands from Greene and others stopped by booth. Thank you to all of them for keeping manufacturing alive and well in Chenango County.