By Jon Bishop
DEVENS — When many people think about manufacturing, they imagine a Dickensian nightmare: Belching smokestacks, haggard workers holding lunch pails, dirty environments.
And so they stay away and encourage others to do the same.
But they’d be wrong.
Which is why Devens joined the rest of the country in celebrating Manufacturing Day on Oct. 3, a day that began in 2012 and is devoted to defeating misconceptions about the industry. A local trade show was held at the Hilton Garden Inn, located at 59 Andrews Parkway.
According to Kelsey Abbruzzese, communications director at MassDevelopment, the day allows students to find out “what it’s really like out there.” This is the first time Devens has held such an event, she said.
“Devens has a terrific manufacturing community,” she said. “They really responded.”
“This is a good day,” said MassDevelopment CEO Marty Jones, adding that there is “a lot happening.”
During remarks, Jones said that manufacturing is an “important part of the economy,” both in Devens and in the rest of the state.
“Manufacturing is one of the largest sectors of the Massachusetts economy,” she said. It offers “great, good-paying, challenging careers.”
State Rep. Jen Benson said it’s important to show people what modern manufacturing is about.
“Technology is an incredibly important part of the manufacturing process,” she said.
Jones said that, because so many manufacturing professionals will be retiring, over 100,000 jobs will become available over the next 10 years — and so they need to get people interested.
MassDevelopment manages a campaign called “AMP it up!,” which does just that. She revealed three new initiatives: an interactive map on the website; a third round of AMP it up! grants, which are up to $10,000 each; and the AMP it up! challenge, which encourages students to research manufacturing and make a video about it.
The top prize: $5,000. MassDevelopment will also give $2,500 to 10 people: a high school and middle school student from the state’s five regions.
“You’ll get a lot of ideas today,” Jones said, referring to the challenge. “There’s a lot happening in manufacturing here in Massachusetts.”
When asked about various misconceptions about manufacturing, Jones said, “(When) people think of manufacturing, they think of a mill.” Many have read about plant closings, and that created the impression that there is no opportunity, she said.
Things are different now, though.
“We’re seeing growth in companies,” she said. And, referring to the jobs that will soon open due to retirements, she said, “We’ve got to have trained workers ready to take those jobs.”
Businesses that attended the event included Vitasoy, Eglomisé Designs, MassMEP and Response Microwave.
Peter Alfano, Response Microwave’s Vice President of Business Development, said he showed students the tools he uses and the products the company creates. That way, they could see “start to finish manufacturing.”
Students at the Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School, located at 49 Antietam St., certainly enjoyed the day. Their teacher, Lorin Hill, said their trip was part of a class called Engineering, Design and Making, and they took full advantage of their time at the show.
“They talked to a lot of different people,” she said.
Juliana Walsh, a ninth-grader, said that the show had “cool jobs,” and Lily Lukaszevicz, a 10th-grader, said that it had “interesting businesses.”
“We are kind of exploring our options, seeing what’s local,” said junior Conor Claflin.
Jillian Guthrie, a 10th-grader, agreed.
“Yeah. It was really interesting,” she said. “It was one of those things that you don’t often think about.”
The Manufacturing Day website can be found here: http://www.mfgday.com/.
MassDevelopment’s AMP it up! website is here: http://ampitupma.com/.