The 2023 Lehigh Valley Manufacturing Forum
Embracing the Future of Manufacturing and Honoring Manufacturing Day
by Rich Hobbs
President & CEO
In the heart of Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley at the Wind Creek Bethlehem Conference Center, on October 3rd, industry leaders, policymakers, and enthusiasts gathered at the Manufacturing Forum to celebrate the manufacturing sector’s vitality and resilience. This event was a platform for thought-provoking presentations and discussions on the present and future of manufacturing, its importance in the Lehigh Valley, the dedication of the local community to its growth and success, and the new iTEC state-registered Apprenticeship Program.
Keynote Address by Stephen Tang:
The event highlighted a powerful and passionate keynote address by Dr. Stephen Tang, former President & CEO of OraSure Technologies. Dr. Tang’s presentation, titled “The Next Normal: Winning Strategies for Manufacturers,” shed light on the evolving landscape of manufacturing, emphasizing the need for innovation, adaptability, and a commitment to sustainability. His keynote focused on the struggles OraSure endured while developing their IntelliSwab at-home Covid19 test kit, all while working completely remotely. Their efforts took the business from $60 million in orders to $600 million in a few months! His keynote delivered many strong messages about resiliency, innovation, teamwork, and rising to the challenges thrown at them collectively.
iTEC Announcement and Panel Discussion:
One of the highlights of the Manufacturing Forum was the announcement of the Industrial Training & Education Consortium of the Lehigh Valley (iTEC). Participating companies in the Consortium include B. Braun Medical, Lutron Electronics, Heidelberg Materials, OraSure Technologies, Bracalente Manufacturing Group, Health Care Service Corp., Keurig Dr Pepper, Julabo USA, and Thread Bioscience This initiative will provide a robust training framework for the next generation of manufacturing leaders. The panel discussion was moderated by Richard Hobbs, President & CEO of the Manufacturers Resource Center (MRC) since MRC played a role in its inception. The panel featured industry experts, including Morton Rasmussen of B. Braun Medical Inc., Ayesha Herrera of OraSure Technologies, Karianne Gelinas from LVEDC, and Matthew Allen of the German American Chamber of Commerce. Their insights illuminated the importance of preparing the workforce for the challenges and opportunities ahead. iTEC is currently offering state-registered apprenticeship programs in Mechatronics and Industrial Manufacturing Technician career paths. Training providers include Lehigh Carbon Community College and Northampton Community College. Additional programs and training providers are being planned. To learn more about iTEC, visit iTec.
Manufacturing Trends in Lehigh Valley:
Don Cunningham, President & CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) presented key insights into manufacturing trends in the region. He highlighted the Lehigh Valley’s role as a manufacturing hub and how it continues to attract investment and foster a thriving manufacturing community. Don highlighted what’s made in the Lehigh Valley, by presenting a who’s who of the valley alongside their nationally known products (Crayola crayons, Martin guitars, Just Born candy, etc.)
Workforce Updates and Legislative Insights:
Gina Kormanik, Director of Community Planning at the Workforce Board LV, shared important workforce updates, emphasizing the need for a skilled and adaptable workforce to meet the demands of modern manufacturing. U.S. Congresswoman Susan Wild (PA-7) also provided a legislative update, reaffirming the government’s commitment to supporting the manufacturing sector in the Lehigh Valley. Unfortunately, Congresswoman Wild was unable to attend so she sent a short video with her key updates and messages for the audience.
AI and HR Trends in Manufacturing:
Shawn Furman, Advanced Manufacturing Technology (AMT) Strategy Manager at MRC, delivered an eye-opening presentation on the role of AI and HR trends in the manufacturing industry. His insights into how technology can enhance manufacturing processes and human resources management were particularly well-received. Shawn takes an “involve your employees” approach to all things AMT, which is refreshing and serves to calm AMT naysayers.
Lehigh Valley Manufacturer of the Year (2023) Award:
Another highlight of the event was the presentation of the Lehigh Valley Manufacturer of the Year Award, which recognized excellence and innovation in the manufacturing sector. The award went to Kitchen Magic, a company that has demonstrated outstanding achievements in its field over decades of effort. Unfortunately, Brett Bacho, Kitchen Magic’s president was unable to attend to accept the award, but the family and multiple tables of employees attended. Brett did send along an acceptance video and his Continuous Improvement Director, James Mayers physically accepted the award in his absence. James started with Kitchen Magic some 31 years ago as a table saw operator, what a career story!
This coming together in October in recognition of Manufacturing Day displayed the manufacturing sector’s importance, innovation, and commitment to shaping the future. The discussions and presentations left approximately 250 attendees motivated to continue driving manufacturing excellence in the Lehigh Valley and beyond. This forum served as a reminder that manufacturing is not just an industry, it plays a pivotal role in the region’s economic growth and prosperity. Many thanks to the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce (GLVCC) and the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) for cohosting/cosponsoring this wonderful event. See you all next year!