Back during the height of the Space Race in the 1960s, astronaut Gus Grissom one day was touring a factory to watch workers building the very equipment he’d soon be flying. He was asked to say a few words to those working that day, and a few words is what they got. He told them all, simply, “Do good work.”
It was just three words, but those words became a rallying cry of sorts for aerospace manufacturing, right through the moment in July 1969 when the United States won the race by beating the Soviet Union to the moon.
Manufacturing has been the backbone of the American workforce for more than a century now, generations of people who have created, innovated and consistently found bigger and better ways to “do good work.” With October being Manufacturing Month throughout the nation, they are still words to celebrate, because American manufacturing is not only alive and well here in Muscogee County, but thriving.
The industry today represents approximately 12% of America’s Gross Domestic Product and 12% of the total jobs in America. Standing by themselves, the 18.5 million manufacturing jobs in our country today would represent the ninth largest economy in the world. It remains as vital a part of our economy as it ever has.
What’s changed is how it is now done, and by whom. Those who still think of the dark, dirty plants of yesterday would be in for a pleasant surprise when they saw the facility of one of our area’s top manufacturers, world-renowned aerospace company Pratt & Whitney in Columbus. Here, highly paid, highly skilled workers do their jobs in pristine, high-tech modern shop environments, producing jet engines with Pratt & Whitney’s cutting edge Geared Turbofan™ program that represent the very leading edge of the aerospace industry today. Additionally, the Columbus facility also has a thriving aftermarket business, and recently announced that Columbus is now the North American Site for PurePower® Geared Turbofan™ Engine Maintenance. Talk about exciting times, and right here in our own backyard.
Modern manufacturing brings with it a reach that extends beyond the walls of just one company. The industry’s reliance on the supply chain – the vast network of smaller manufacturers and shops who larger companies such as Pratt & Whitney depend on for the bulk of the parts needed – is critical, and it is responsible for what has become a remarkably robust manufacturing ecosystem here and throughout the world. Pratt & Whitney and the smaller companies that make up the supply chain go hand in hand and depend on one another to get the work done – in fact, of the roughly 100,000 parts that go into a single jet engine, more than 80% of them come from suppliers. When this partnership works well, as it does now, everyone succeeds.
Education is another essential component of 21st century manufacturing, as this is where the top talent of tomorrow is fostered through partnerships, apprenticeships and mentoring programs between the manufactures and the colleges and universities. Competition is heady these days for companies like Pratt & Whitney to attract and retain the right people, and working together with institutions of higher learning is one key way to ensure the best and brightest stay right here. Decades ago grandfathers, fathers and sons were all inspired to follow the path set before them, to pursue careers that they valued every bit as much as the previous generation did. That same cycle can exist today with the right investments made in education and workforce development, and all evidence is that is exactly what we are seeing.
Throughout the last century the American manufacturing sector filled our highways with automobiles and our skies with airplanes, used its talent and imagination to create the products and technologies that shaped our culture in seemingly limitless ways. That spirit is still at the heart of manufacturing today here in Muscogee County, where it continues to drive us to not only do good work, but to do the best work.
Original article published: http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/article111198367.html