Friday, May 21, 2010

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached at

Bringing sexy back… to the manufacturing sector

O.K., you are probably wondering what on earth could possibly be sexy about a career in manufacturing – a grueling (so I’ve been told), dirty and often repetitive occupation that parents regularly pay thousands in college tuition fees for their children to avoid.

It’s true that we hold almost every other form of employment in greater esteem.

At the apex, obviously, are doctors: a job guaranteeing the constant affection, not only of one’s own parents, but any prospective in-laws as well. After that are lawyers, who of course may be a pain in the neck for everyone around them, but make good money nevertheless.

And then there’s the much more common liberal arts graduate, with perhaps a minor in philosophy who, though obviously in need of a large share of handouts from mom and dad, will surely find an office job somewhere, we think.

As for jobs in the manufacturing sector, we affect an attitude most commonly employed toward leper colonies: we’re glad they exist – we just don’t want to be anywhere near them.

But here’s the thing – according to people “in the know” like Columbia River Economic Development Council president Bart Phillips, the coming job recovery looks to be led by a critical, yet much maligned, sector of the U.S. economy.

That’s right, folks: manufacturing. On that score, we’ve received the bulk of what has been the scanty good economic news of late, including plans for a new distribution, processing and fabrication plant to be built by Farwest Steel Corp. on 22 acres of property currently owned by the Port of Vancouver.

The project, announced by CREDC this week, would create up to 225 jobs in a Clark County employment market that has seen continuous shrinkage, not only in traditionally-cyclical industries like construction, but in the previously-immune white collar arena as well.

So to the doubters who claim there can never be anything sexy about a career in manufacturing, I say: You know what’s really sexy in this post-Great Recessionary environment?

A job.