Manitowoc opens gates for politicians in Shady Grove

Mike Reed, Manitowoc executive, explained operations to members of the Pennsylvania House Legislative Manufacturing Caucus, including from left front: caucus co-chair Eli Evankovich, and Paul Schemel, first-term representative from Greencastle.

A component of the Pennsylvania House Legislative Manufacturing Caucus found out what worked and what didn't in the area, after touring two Franklin County plants. Rep. Paul Schemel (R - Franklin), a member of the 100-strong bipartisan caucus, hosted the tour of Manitowoc Cranes in Shady Grove Thursday afternoon. He also joined Rep. Rob Kauffman (R - Franklin) at Volvo Construction Equipment in Shippensburg in the morning.

Mike Reed, vice president of operations at Manitowoc, led the eight legislators and some of their staff  through the 300-acre facility, stopping in several of the production buildings to see how cranes were built “from steel to wheels”. He credited the employees, with an average tenure of 14 years, for their dedication, loyalty and skills, besting most manufacturing companies. The non-union workforce included 1,350 people.

The mobile hydraulic crane facility ordered 71 suppliers, 17 in Franklin County, and contributed $65 million in direct spend, with $27 million of that in the county, Reed said. Expansions and improvements over the past few years drove internal on time delivery to nearly 100 percent, among other benefits to the production line.

Yet, there was a problem finding and retaining welders, Reed continued, so Manitowoc was shifting toward robotic welding.

Schemel found the visits informative.

“These are major employers,” he said. “I'm learning how government policies affect them. They were very candid at Volvo about what's not going right. That's very helpful to us as we meet on the issues.”

Eli Evankovich (R - Westmoreland/Allegheny) and co-chair of the caucus, was of a like mind. The themes had been similar in the fifty or so tours he had taken since he formed the caucus in 2013.

“Government in Pennsylvania does not move at the speed of business,” he said. “It prevents development from moving ahead.”

He faulted K-12 education for not spurring an interest in manufacturing, and post-secondary institutions for not adequately preparing young people for such careers.

“Pennsylvania is in a great geographical situation, with its water, energy and transportation,” Evankovich said. “But the policies hold back growth.”

He said the caucus had had some success creating policy initiatives, such as the tax credits for businesses that invest in education programs.

At both plants the lawmakers met privately with administrators to discuss their concerns.