Manufacturers’ Association awarded OSHA grant for warehouse safety training

The Manufacturers’ Association was awarded a $147,000 training grant by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, that will be used to support warehouse safety in the region.

OSHA’s Susan Harwood Training Grant will be focused on warehouse hazards and is aimed at employees in warehouse facilities and manufacturers, especially small businesses. The programming will help workers and employers recognize workplace hazards, implement injury prevention measures and understand rights and responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

“Safety of employees is a priority for the regional industrial base, and these training funds will transfer the best practices and procedures to the workforce – reducing lost work hours or possible injuries,” said Tom Palisin, executive director of the York County-based Manufacturers’ Association.

Training will include ergonomics, forklift safety, and slips, trips and falls with materials provided in English and Spanish. The Association will soon schedule these no-cost public warehouse safety training courses, with dates and locations throughout central Pennsylvania. Warehousing and manufacturers will also be able to host training sessions at their locations, in conjunction with the Association.

For questions about the new federally-funded grant training for warehouse safety, contact Brian Paterniti, training manager at 717-843-3891 or [email protected].

How manufacturers can help in the fight against COVID-19

Life has changed dramatically for everyone in the last few weeks as the COVID-19 virus – coronavirus – has spread around the world. Schools have closed, businesses have been shuttered and everyone is practicing “social distancing” to prevent the further spread of the virus which protects our most vulnerable in our communities. 

Although we are now fighting a much different foe, America has been challenged like this before and we as a nation came together to win. 

How can our businesses come together to help now? 

The Manufacturers’ Association has a blueprint from our industrial past which brought together communities and industry to fight a world war – the York Plan. If you are not familiar with The York Plan, simply put, it was a community wide effort that emerged during WWII to coordinate US industrial production in support of the war effort. Manufacturers banded together for the first time to share workers, retrain the workforce, coordinate equipment and machinery utilization, and mobilized our small manufacturers to meet the demands of war. 

The York Plan was launched by The Manufacturers’ Association and put into action by our industrial leaders in a partnership with the federal government which allowed manufacturers to convert production in a winning effort to support a wartime demand. This blueprint which started here, spread across our country and brought to bear the industrial might of America to win the war. 

As we manage this current crisis and begin to understand the impact on the US and global economy, manufacturing can again play a critical role in our recovery. 

First, essential manufacturing companies and their supply chains will continue to produce and ramp up production to keep the economy afloat. 

Second, manufacturers are checking inventory to donate supplies to help the frontline first responders and hospitals to battle the virus. 

Third, the manufacturers with the ability to retool are already challenging themselves to convert production that will enable them to manufacture the medical supplies and products needed for the healthcare community. 

Finally, manufacturers will continue to provide family sustaining careers that are almost 20% of our local economy – twice the size of the national manufacturing economy. We can also try to redirect those who may have lost their jobs to manufacturers who need to fill vacant jobs to meet the demand during this crisis. 

We will get through this. The Manufacturers’ Association just celebrated its 114th year supporting the manufacturing community in southcentral PA. We have witnessed many challenges: a Great Depression, two World Wars, globalization of the economy and many other events, but we and our community survived and thrived. 

The York Plan for 2020 is different from the WWII era, but at its core it is still the same. Our advantage today is that we have many more resources available to address these challenges which the Manufacturers’ Association and its’ members can leverage to redeploy the York Plan: county economic development, business chambers, workforce development boards, MANTEC, technical schools and countless community-based organizations. 

The mantra of the York Plan was to “do what you can with what you have” – and fortunately for our communities what we “have” today is greater than in the past; Now what can be “done” today is much more powerful and will help us defeat another global threat.

Tom Palisin is the executive director of The Manufacturers’ Association based in Emigsville, PA. He can be reached at 717-893-3891 or at [email protected]

A Conversation With: Michelle Finch

(Photo: Submitted)

Michelle Finch, 48, is operations manager for Turkey Hill Dairy, based in Conestoga. She joined the company in 2015 and has been part of the company’s expansion into national distribution. Her career has been spent mostly in food manufacturing, having worked at Mars Chocolate North America, Frito-Lay’s York operation, and Kellogg’s Inc.

Finch was recently named to the board of directors of The Manufacturers’ Association, a regional trade association serving manufacturing and logistics members in southcentral Pennsylvania and northcentral Maryland.

She holds two bachelor of science degrees, in chemical engineering and food science, from Penn State University.

A resident of Manchester Township, Finch and her husband have five children, as well as a dog and a cat.

Q: What issues are you looking forward to tackling as you begin your term on the board of The Manufacturers’ Association?

A: I’m learning what all the association is involved in that I can help with. Particularly, I want to help better support them in addressing the workforce needs. I enjoy workforce training and development, and building skills and competencies in employees at all levels of the organization to help them thrive. And I’m hoping to bring that to the association to help with the local businesses.

Q: What makes food manufacturing different from manufacturing other items?

A: I can only speak for myself, because I haven’t worked necessarily in other manufacturing environments – but for me, food manufacturing is very relatable. We’re all consumers, we all eat, and so it’s really easy for me to connect with the importance of doing things right so you not only delight the consumer but you protect their health and safety. For me it’s just been an opportunity to be part of making something that touches everybody.

Q: You have spent a large part of your career in food manufacturing. Why was this the direction you chose?

A: I thought it was a really good fit for the degrees I got in college. I personally have always enjoyed the combination of the art and science and technology that goes into food manufacturing. The food ingredients react and taste different depending on what they’re mixed with or how they’re combined, and then when you apply mechanical processes to them it also impacts them, and for me, I always felt that was really interesting way of manufacturing. I have a chemical engineering degree and a food science degree, so to me, those two majors just naturally led to the processing of food products.

Q: What is your favorite food or drink from Turkey Hill?

A: It’s pumpkin pie ice cream. The reason I like it is two things: one, I love the cinnamon variegate that’s in it, and two, it’s a seasonal item, so that makes it a little special and I’m not going to pig out on it all year long.

Hopes run high for trade-war resolution

As the trade war continues with China, observers in Central Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley hope the latest stalemate might budge if and when President Donald Trump meets with Chinese leaders at the international G-20 conference in late June and agree that both countries can resolve their disputes sooner rather than later.

An agreement was supposed to have been reached this spring, but it was delayed after China tried to make last-minute changes that were rebuffed by U.S. negotiators. Trump has since signaled that he would meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the economic conference of 20 nations to see if the talks can stay on track for possible resolution this year.

“Tariffs drive up costs,” said Darlene J. Robbins, president of the Northeast PA Manufacturers and Employers Association, which is based in Pottsville. “We want to see the administration be successful for bringing China back to the table.”

Robbins, like others, said that an agreement shouldn’t be made without careful thought, as China has not been playing by the rules for decades.

“No tariff is good,” Robbins said. “But we certainly need a fair and level playing field.”

Pennsylvania observers – from farm interests to manufacturers – note that the strength of the U.S. economy has allowed growth to continue, despite the trade disputes. Several experts pointed out that the tariffs have helped some and hurt others, so opinions vary. But, they add, a resolution would be in everyone’s best interests.

In a May 15 article, Wall Street Journal reporter Greg Ip explained how the tariffs are rippling through the economy:

“As with any tax, the person paying the tariff doesn’t necessarily bear its burden,” Ip wrote. “If the tariff is simply passed along to the importer, American businesses or consumers bear the burden. If Chinese exporters cut prices to avoid losing sales, they bear the burden.

“If imports shift to another country, no one pays the tariff — but Chinese are burdened by lost jobs and Americans by a higher price,” he continued. “And if production shifts to the U.S., some of what Americans pay in higher prices goes to other Americans as wages and profits.”

Some shifting of production already is helping in western Pennsylvania, said David N. Taylor, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, which is based in Harrisburg. He pointed to a May announcement, reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that U.S. Steel will be investing about $1 billion in western Pennsylvania facilities.

Gordon Denlinger, Pennsylvania director of the National Federation of Independent Business, or NFIB, said such news is good for small businesses in the Pittsburgh area. Such a huge investment could create opportunities for new businesses to open and existing businesses to grow, as steel mills ramp up construction and then hire new workers.

“Certainly, small businesses will be benefiting,” he said.

Those positive improvements are important for everyone to recognize, said Taylor, who has been outspoken about how U.S. negotiators have a duty to make sure that any deal with China is fair. For decades, China has been cheating on trade, stealing intellectual property, limiting access to its own markets and conducting espionage – none of which should be accepted by a trade partner, Taylor said.

“Trade is for allies,” he said, adding that he fully supports free trade and open markets. “The principle of reciprocity stands above all others. Our national interest matters. Trade is necessary, but trade is for allies.”

Taylor credits Trump for making sure that any deal addresses the issues head on, though he said the implementation of Trump’s plans “has been messy.”

“He actually has defended our country and our economy against a hostile foreign power,” Taylor said. He isn’t confident that a deal will be reached soon, only because China hasn’t shown a willingness to change.

Mark O’Neill, media and strategic communications director for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, agrees that any agreement needs to be “fair and equitable.”

But for farmers, a deal needs to be reached as soon as possible, he said.

Pennsylvania farmers have been struggling for more than five years, predating the tariff crisis. But freer markets had helped, and farmers generally support open markets, he added. The tariffs are hurting farmers, but many farmers agree that there are important principles that need to be worked out with China.

The tensions with Mexico and Canada have had more of an impact on Pennsylvania, O’Neill also said. As long as the deal worked out to revise NAFTA is ratified by all three countries, the agreement will help the state’s farmers, particularly with opening dairy markets in Canada, he said.

“Our farmers are very supportive of the current deal and would like to get it signed,” he said. “The political parties need to come together and hopefully they can.”

The North American Free Trade Agreement, which deepened trade among the United States, Canada and Mexico, took effect on Jan. 1, 1994. The Trump Administration sought to renegotiate the deal, saying it was outdated and unfair to U.S. workers. The new deal, called USMCA, was reached late last year but Democrats and Republicans in Congress need to ratify it. In late May, Trump threatened to add new tariffs to goods coming from Mexico unless Mexican authorities do more to stem the flow of people emigrating illegally from Central America into the United States.

Unlike counterparts in other parts of the country, Pennsylvania farmers export very little soybeans, pork and dairy to China. But those who raise such crops still are affected because prices are worldwide, so any changes globally will affect local operations, O’Neill said.

For soybeans, in particular, China cut imports by 97 percent, which means there is an oversupply – and lower prices – “everywhere,” he added.

The administration’s plan to offer financial payments to aid farmers for the duration of the trade talks will help, he said.

“But farmers don’t want payments. They would rather earn the money on an open market,” O’Neill said.

One concern is that supply chains are changing and that could hurt businesses long-term, as well as China’s latest threat to increase the costs of raw materials, said Tom Palisin, executive director of The Manufacturers’ Association, based in York County.

“Once you lose a market, it is hard to get that back,” Palisin said.

So far, a lot of consumers might not have noticed higher costs because some businesses have been holding off on price increases or had been stockpiling supplies until the trade tensions eased, several observers noted.

“But the hope was that the tensions would be short-lived,” Palisin said. “As it drags on, that isn’t always going to be possible.”