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Officials: Manufacturing growth all about collaboration

Oct. 05, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON Russ Safreed is a partner in a small manufacturing firm in Big Chimney, W.Va.

The company, MarTek, makes a patented product dubbed the “Chicken Switch,” a portable, remote-controlled device that protects workers from electrical surges during industrial high voltage circuit breaker switching operations.

The product is sold to Fortune 500 companies all over the United States and Canada, and is beginning to be marketed overseas.

So why was Safreed at the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing on Friday morning?

“A lot of the components we use we developed at the Byrd center, and we continue to manufacture some parts here,” Safreed said. “RCBI is pretty important to us right now.”

That’s collaboration. And the word was the theme of the symposium and gathering on Friday to celebrate National Manufacturing Day.

RCBI, with locations in Huntington and three other West Virginia cities, provides manufacturers with regional access to advanced manufacturing equipment, workforce development and technical training programs with the goal of developing new businesses and jobs in West Virginia.

Speaking during Friday's symposium were Marshall University President Stephen Kopp, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., who dropped in via Skype. All touted how government, education and business need to work together to keep manufacturing alive in West Virginia.

“Everything in this room, even the pots that the plants grow in, somebody made it,” Williams said. “They started with some raw material, transformed it in some way, added value to it so that we can improve our way of life. 

“We keep hearing people say that we are turning into a service economy. Heaven help us if that’s what we’re turning into. We have to continue to make things that have value.”

The widespread perception that American manufacturing is dead is countered by recent evidence, said RCBI CEO and President Charlotte Weber.

“I don’t know that manufacturing will be what it was; I think we approach it differently now,” Weber said. “But you look at all the companies that are re-shoring, companies are coming back. This whole movement of ‘Made in America’ is coming back. People are believing in that. People are realizing the importance and quality that comes with making things in America.”

The celebration included tours of the RCBI facility, and demonstrations of the center’s 3D printers printers that take an engineered design and replicate a three-dimensional scale model from layers of resin.



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