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Chamber, Wayne EDA form manufacturers roundtable

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By JAMES E. CASTO

For The State Journal

“Wayne County manufacturers have more in common than geography,” says Cathy Burns, president of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce.

To explore some of the common issues and concerns that face Wayne County manufacturers and related businesses, the Huntington Chamber and the Wayne County Economic Development Authority have partnered to form the Wayne County Manufacturers Roundtable.

The new group had an organizational meeting in June and will meet again Sept. 10. Future meetings are planned every three months. Manufacturers and related businesses in Prichard and the surrounding area are being invited to take part in the discussions.

According to Don Perdue, executive director of the Wayne County EDA, the county currently is home to more than two dozen manufacturers.

Burns said the group’s initial session saw discussion of a number of topics, including “workforce succession planning, the need for improved technical workforce training and employee recruitment strategies.”

“Our first meeting was very productive,” Perdue said. “At our next session, we hope to drill down a little deeper into the workforce issues.”

One of the participating firms in the new Wayne County Manufacturers Roundtable is Braskem America, a Brazilian-headquartered company that manufactures polypropylene at its plant at Neal in Wayne County. The plant at Neal is one of five Braskem plants in this country.

Neal Plant Manager Jeff Blatt applauded the formation of the new group and the opportunity it provides for Wayne County businesses “to have a consolidated voice on key issues that do or will impact our ability to compete.”

“A prime example,” Blatt said, “is the current and future needs each of us have in attracting competent and capable team members to our varied enterprises.”

Commenting on the county’s workforce needs, Burns said the Chamber and the Wayne County EDA “recognize the importance of a skilled, educated workforce and are pleased to join efforts with local employers and educational providers to bridge the gap.”

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