Manufacturers to voice successes, challenges to lawmakers

By Cara Baruzzi, Register Business Editor


Connecticut manufacturers have long been touting the slogan "Manufacturing's not dead, it's different," and this week they will bring the message to state lawmakers in Hartford during Manufacturing & Technology Day at the State Capitol.

Business owners hope "to get the legislators to understand a little bit more about the value of manufacturing," said Joseph Brennan, senior vice president of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, an organizer of the event. "Nationally, manufacturing is starting to pull the national economy forward and we want to be sure Connecticut is a part of that."

There is a misconception among the public and some lawmakers that manufacturing is a dying industry when, in actuality, it is an important economic driver in the state, according to Paul Hoffman, president of Orange Research Inc. in Milford.

"What we're trying to do is get the word out that manufacturing is alive, is thriving, and there are great-paying jobs out there," said Hoffman, who will speak on a panel as part of Wednesday's activities in Hartford.

Hear more from Hoffman here

"(Some lawmakers) just really don't understand what the viability and importance of manufacturing is to the state. It's really the engine that is going to fuel the economy to get back," he said.

Manufacturing & Technology Day will take place from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Wednesday in the Hall of Flags and North Lobby of the State Capitol. As part of the event, roughly 40 companies from throughout Connecticut will showcase their products and technologies in exhibits.

"There are so many good things happening in manufacturing," Brennan said. "We want to showcase what goes on."

At 9 a.m. Wednesday, state Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith will address manufacturers about ways the DECD tries to help businesses grow. Following that, a panel discussion will take place on various issues facing manufacturers. Panelists will be Hoffman; Kevin Flanagan, sales director at Flanagan Brothers Inc. in Glastonbury; and Doug Rose, president of Aero Gear Inc. in Windsor.

The event gives business owners from throughout Connecticut the chance to come together as a unified voice, said Jerry Clupper, executive directgor of the New Haven Manufacturers Association.

"It's underappreciated by a lot of the legislators, how much of an impact manufacturers, and particularly the smaller manufacturers have on the economy," he said. "That's something we're definitely emphasizing."

In addition to touting the achievements of their industry, manufacturers also plan to let lawmakers know about proposed legislation they oppose.

"They want the legislators to really focus on things to make Connecticut the place that companies want to be and will invest their dollars," Brennan said. Manufacturers already face stiff competition from other states and abroad, he said, and they worry about measures that could impede their competitiveness.

Manufacturers are particularly concerned about bills pertaining to paid sick leave and so-called "captive audience," Brennan said.

Like some employers in other sectors, many manufacturers oppose a proposed bill that aims to require employers of a certain size to offer paid sick leave to workers. Some manufacturers already offer some form of paid leave, Brennan said, and business owners do not want the government dictating the terms by which they must do so.

In general, manufacturers don't oppose the notion of paid sick leave, but feel they need to have more flexibility in how they are able to offer it - to meet their customers' needs and other business demands - than the proposed bill allows, he said.

Brennan also said CBIA and manufactures oppose a so-called "captive audience" bill that would prohibit companies from holding mandatory meetings with their workers where things of a political nature are discussed. Manufacturers feel they should be able to discuss with their employees legislation and state laws that will affect their business, he said.

Manufacturers also plan to voice their support of certain proposals, such as ones that would help them invest in equipment, Clupper said. They also want to urge lawmakers to support and grow vocational-technical programs at the high school and community college level, he said.

"We think they are very critical to our future work force," he said.

Hoffman said some Connecticut manufacturers are starting to see improvement in the economy and their businesses, but recovery is not yet broad.

"It depends on the industry. I'm a little bit more optimistic overall," he said of his company. "We came out of the recession and have seem some improvement in business. (But) there are some industries I talk to that really haven't seen the recovery yet."

Call Cara Baruzzi at 203-789-5748 or follow her on Twitter @CaraBaruzzi. To receive breaking news first, simply text the word nhbiz to 22700. Standard msg+data rates may apply.