There are 171 manufacturing businesses in the Fryelands alone. That means that a large percentage of Monroe’s family wage jobs are in manufacturing. Most of those businesses are also locally-owned.
It’s clear to Mayor Geoffrey Thomas that Monroe needs more of that.
But Monroe’s manufacturers have no organization, and until now, the city hasn’t tried to pull them together to talk about how to support manufacturing in town.
April 24, that will change, when the city holds the Monroe Manufacturing Summit at Everett Community College’s Lake Tye campus from 1-2:30 p.m.
“We are working on a 10-year Comprehensive Plan Update and this sort of conversation will be valuable to the city during that process,” said Thomas.
Thomas is reaching out to every one of the 171 manufacturers in the city, as well as hoping to reach others that may be outside the Fryelands, and will bring them together with Rob Prosch, director of Everett Community College’s Monroe Branch; people from the prison; the school district; the Port of Everett, if possible; the Chamber of Commerce and other groups that comprise what Thomas called Monroe’s two manufacturing pipelines.
“There are two pipelines,” said Prosch. “One is the training pipeline for employers, who are looking at how they ensure that the people they bring on board have the right skills.”
The second pipeline is economic, he went on.
“How do we grow manufacturing in Monroe?” he said. “How do we attract other industries to the area that could contribute to the economic development of the city?
Prosch, who will facilitate the Monroe Manufacturing Summit, will help the attendees reach five goals.
The first is to clearly understand those two pipelines.
The next is to get an understanding of what manufacturers need for training and for economic development.
In order to reach that goal, the manufacturers will learn about the various state business “clusters” and will identify to which they belong. If the group is diverse enough, they may split into cluster groups.
The third is to identify job skill gaps for the various industry clusters in town by creating two lists. The first will be skills that the manufacturers agree are sufficient in town. The second will be skills that are not.
Then the group will figure out what the college and the city need by identifying the barriers that exist to growth and development for present and future businesses, and determining which can be addressed by the city or other groups.
“If people say, ‘Oh, the B and O tax is killing us,’ well, there’s not much we can do about that,” he said.
Finally, the group will work out a plan to continue conversations while working toward the goals.
Different stakeholders will be important to each pipeline, said Prosch.
The college, the school district and even the prison can talk about giving future workers the right skill sets to meet local needs.
And the city, chamber of commerce and other economic groups can talk about how to facilitate industry.
“What sort of land use policies do we have?” said Thomas. “We can look at land capacity to expand our manufacturing base, and where else we might be able to locate manufacturing. We can talk about maintaining our roads and developing our transportation network to make sure goods can get around; our high speed internet.”
Also, the city can try to make getting permits as easy and affordable as possible, and work on ways to attract new industries.
The potential for improving the local economy is high, said Thomas at a preliminary meeting including new chamber director Una Wirkebau-Hartt, Prosch, and city administrator Gene Brazel.
“We have more people who come here to work than leave here to go to work,” he said. “We have Boeing in our back yard. They are the biggest demand for manufacturing needs. And the appeal is that these are family wage jobs.”
But it’s not just the aerospace and big production manufacturers that are important, he noted. Monroe has plenty of people who make niche products such as toys or boutique hair products or even jewelry for an Etsy store. All are encouraged to attend, he said.
The Everett Community College campus is at 14090 Fryelands Blvd., on the third floor. The college will provide lunch.