10/5/11 - SEWN Program Works To Preserve Mfg. Industry

Program Works To Preserve Manufacturing Industry
Posted on October 5, 20111

Like so many manufacturing companies, the recession of 2008 took its toll on Miller Welding and Machine Company.  Faced with an uncertain economic future but also a desire to expand its services, the owners of the Jefferson County-based metal fabricating and machining business took the necessary steps to protect its 30-year legacy, which included entering the Strategic Early Warning Network (SEWN) program.

That decision would prove to be a wise one.

Designed and managed by the Swissvale-area Steel Valley Authority (SVA), SEWN is one of the most effective and cost-efficient statewide early warning layoff aversion programs in the United States. Since 1993, SEWN has assisted more than 800 manufacturing firms like Miller Welding and Machine and saved over 17,000 good-paying jobs in the commonwealth, according to Tom Croft, Executive Director, SVA.

The Return on Investment for SEWN, which is funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, has been tremendous.

Croft said SEWN’s program costs average $1,000 per job saved while saving the commonwealth a whopping $25.5 million in unemployment benefits over the past five years and nearly $75 million if jobs/payroll multipliers are included in cost-benefit calculations.

In other words, SEWN more than pays for itself.

“SEWN saves Pennsylvania manufacturing jobs and communities by offering layoff aversion services to stabilize, restructure, turnaround, or attract buyers for at-risk small- to medium-sized companies,” Croft said. “It has received national acclaim as one of the most innovative economic revitalization initiatives in the country.”

Created in 1986 to address the decline of the manufacturing industry in Western Pennsylvania, SEWN now operates in all 67 counties and has four offices located around the commonwealth. The program takes a three-pronged approach – rapid response; quick diagnosis; and layoff aversion/retention plan – via its layoff aversion model to provide assistance to businesses during financially difficult times.

In the case of Miller Welding and Machine, the company’s sound management provided SEWN the opportunity to help them invest in the development of new production capabilities despite the downturn in the economy.  SEWN worked with the company to develop a solar energy industry initiative and enter the U.S. market with that technology.

Since its participation in the SEWN program, Miller Welding and Machine has rebounded and now employs over 400 people.

“It’s a very specific niche we fill and we’re happy to fill it,” Croft said.  Read entire article