DCED chief tours Manitowoc

Shawn Hardy
Dennis Davin, center, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic development, listens to Pat Cassner, vice president of manufacturing, during Wednesday’s ‘Jobs that Pay’ tour of Manitowoc in Shady Grove. At right is Josh Peters of state Rep. Paul Schemel’s office.

The secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and members of the Governor’s Action Team visited Manitowoc Cranes in Shady Grove Wednesday as part of the “Jobs that Pay” tour.

DCED’s Dennis Davin heard from company officials about where Manitowoc’s been, where it’s at and where it’s going during the tour.

Almost a year ago plans to consolidate manufacturing from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, to Shady Grove — where Grove Cranes was founded — were announced, along with the pledge to create 250 jobs over three years. Manitowoc invested $19 million and the state contributed a $1,350,000 grant, according to Brian Ross of the Governor’s Action Team.

Pat Cassner, vice president of manufacturing, closely spoke with Davin throughout a whirlwind walking tour of two buildings — one fabrication and the other assembly — as well as a drive-by of the test area for new projects, a fleet of cranes ready to be shipped and other outside sites.

As part of a pledge not to accept gifts, Davin turned away company memorabilia offered at the end of his visit.

Barry Pennypacker, Manitowoc president and CEO, was plainspoken about the company’s recent struggles, how it is preparing to bounce back and how government can help.

“We’re in a cyclical downturn and hope to pick back up late this year or early next,” he said.

The company is ready for that, with the consolidation from Wisconsin expected to be done by the end of August. At one time, there were upwards of 2,000 employees in Shady Grove and there are now 1,200 onsite in manufacturing operations and support.

Since the beginning of the year, 130 jobs have been added, according to Les Middleton, senior vice president for mobile cranes. All of the hourly employees who lost their jobs in the fourth quarter of last year were able to return if they wanted to.

“When the market comes back, we will be a booming facility,” Pennypacker said. He is looking for an uptick in the next six to nine months and hopes the company will be able to “bring back and create jobs.”

He said Washington can help by committing to billions in infrastructure improvements. In Pennsylvania, he told the secretary he is upset when he sees work on the turnpike being done with foreign cranes.

“I think America’s infrastructure should be built with America’s cranes,” he commented.

He also pointed out the challenge of moving big pieces of equipment at the tight and congested Exit 5 (Route 16) interchange of Interstate 81.

“We have to go north to go south,” he said. Drivers turn around and change direction at the Walker Road interchange in Chambersburg.

He said Davin’s visit was “a wonderful opportunity to show what we’ve done over the past 18 months.”

Davin was enthusiastic at the end of his tour, calling the facility “incredible.”

“It’s such a job creator, what they produce here is fantastic,” he said. He said the company pays a good wage and also remarked at the cleanliness of the manufacturing areas, one of the factors that make it an attractive place to work.

Good-paying, family sustaining jobs with a living wage and benefits that are impactful to a community are being highlighted on the tour, according to Ross of the Governor’s Action Team.

“Manufacturing is what we really need to focus on,” Davin said. The state needs to do a better job concerning training and getting into schools with information about manufacturing jobs.

“Not every kid needs a four-year degree and a master’s for a family sustaining job,” he said.