Modified Manufacturing Day ‘a success’ | the BIZ

TRAVERSE CITY — Dylan Gryglewski may wind up working in the medical field after finishing high school and college.

Bill Ford may not come out of retirement and return to a career in manufacturing.

But both learned more about opportunities in the area at Friday evening’s annual northwestern Michigan Manufacturing Day.

The 2021 event was delayed five months from its original date on national Manufacturing Day (the first Friday in October) to the first Friday in February. And instead of busing thousands of students to more than 40 manufacturers like it did in 2019, fewer than 40 students visited five manufacturing companies in the region.

Grand Traverse Area Manufacturing Council Event Chair Kevin Olds was pleased with how modified Manufacturing Day went in 2022.

“Considering the current environment we’re all living in, I would consider this a success,” Olds said on Monday, noting he didn’t hear of any cancellations. “We reached a group truly interested in learning about manufacturing.

“If we reach one or two more kids that didn’t have that on their radar before and do know, then we had an impact. It was a success.”

That was definitely on display at Promethient, where a handful of students from eighth through 12th grades toured the Cass Road facility, which produces conductive heating and cooling of seat surfaces for national companies like Polaris.

“My teacher (Angela Stricker) brought it up to me two weeks ago,” Gryglewski, an eighth grader at Traverse City Area Public Schools Montessori, said of Manufacturing Day. “I was very interested in just the experience of seeing what is out there and seeing how all the stuff works.”

While he may never work in the manufacturing industry, Gryglewski said it probably wasn’t even part of his thought process before learning about Promethient’s Thermavance technology.

“After coming here, definitely yeah … probably,” Gryglewski said. “Before coming here I was very interested in a medical career.”

Finding out more about what is produced in the region also drew out Ford, a retired millworker at Buick.

Learning about the business side of manufacturing drew Traverse City Central senior Connor Leaf to Promethient, despite being an hour and a half after school was dismissed for the weekend.

“It’s interesting to see the CEO and how he communicates information about his business,” Leaf said. “It’s a real interesting idea.

“This is something I joined because I wanted to branch out and learn about it. I’m more of an art guy myself. I’m trying to be a lot more responsible with my time, I guess.”

It also wasn’t just the students making a time commitment to Manufacturing Day. Parents also were part of the Feb. 4 tour.

And while the students gave up the beginning of their weekend, the event cut into the work day for the parents. They were happy to make the adjustment.

“Being here at 4:30, it requires a commitment,” said Tessa Bennett, who jokingly referred to herself as Dylan’s chauffeur. “I had to make plans to leave work a little early. But having a little skin in the game makes it more relevant. You show up and you actually want to learn.”

“This is great,” said Toni Leaf-Odette, Connor’s mother. “It’s real awesome to have an opportunity to see things they’re interested in.”

Bennett, who said there are “a lot of hidden treasures in Traverse City,” said she and Gryglewski researched the companies on Google before signing up for up to three tours on Manufacturing Day.

Both Gryglewski and Leaf planned to follow up thier tour of Promethient with a second excursion to nearby Britten. TentCraft, Clark Manufacturing and Frankfort Manufacturing were the other regional manufacturing facilities offering tours on Friday.

“They sought out the info because they were interested in it,” Olds said.

Opening Manufacturing Day to the public also drew in people like Ford. Olds said a tour for adults may be added when Manufacturing Day returns Oct. 7 for its traditional format of busing students in during the school day.

“We opened it to the public and we got some people from the public,” Olds said. “Maybe that’s something we can incorporate in the future as an added value to the community, so it’s not just students but other people as well.”

CEO Bill Myers — who told the 4:30 p.m. tour participants that he considers Promethient “a technology company” — said manufacturers are looking for a variety of skill sets. Myers said Promethient has 10 direct employees, several contractors and is adding five to six full-time equivalent employees in the coming months.

“We need young people that can work together, communicate well and solve problems,” Myers said of the company that launched in 2017.