Building a Community of Manufacturers: Keats and the Industrial Manufacturing Committee

Keats has been a part of the manufacturing community since 1958, and we’re expanding our commitment to new service areas. Our partners and neighbors can benefit from new initiatives like the Industrial Manufacturing Committee (IMC).

Matt Eggemeyer, Chief Operating Officer of Keats, currently serves as the Vice President of the Wheeling-Prospect Heights Chamber of Commerce and plays an integral role in the Chamber’s IMC.

We sat down with Matt to learn more about the IMC and how it can support you.

Wheeling Commerce

What Is the IMC?

The Industrial Manufacturing Committee is a subgroup of the Wheeling Chamber of Commerce that was created to provide a voice for local manufacturers in Illinois. We work to provide manufacturers with useful information and events. Our goal is to make it easier for local manufacturers to find resources that are specific to their industry.

How Does the IMC Help Manufacturers?

The IMC provides education about the services manufacturers can use. For example, we highlight grants and government assistance programs that are made available specifically for manufacturers in Illinois. The IMC also helps members fill out forms and get in touch with the right people.

We also have opportunities for manufacturers to meet their local representatives. In a recent event hosted by IMC, members were invited to join a breakfast with U.S. 10th District Congressman Bob Dold. Meetings and events help representatives learn what the manufacturing community needs with regards to education, workforce, and revitalization efforts.

What About Community Work?

Community is a big focus for Keats and the IMC. Recently, I had the opportunity to moderate an event hosted by the IMC, “Attracting Future Manufacturing Leaders.” The event highlighted the challenges faced by local manufacturers trying to recruit young people into the industry.

During the event, manufacturers discussed whether our education systems were doing enough to teach young people the skills they need to enter the manufacturing workforce.  But what I found really interesting was how our conversation evolved to what can we — as manufacturing facility owners and managers — do to help open our facility doors and highlight the opportunities available at our facilities.

As experienced manufacturers and engineers, it is our responsibility to help inspire the future leaders of manufacturing and publicize the opportunities available.

For those interested in joining the manufacturing workforce, advanced math, machinery, and computer skills are often highly sought after. As for Keats, a good candidate is someone with passion.

This is showcased in our staff at Keats — our team’s past experience is not the typical math and science background. Highly-valued members of our team at Keats had careers in the food and retail industries, others joined Keats straight out of high school. But what unites our team is a strong work ethic and the ability to adapt and learn the skills needed through a hands-on approach.

What Are the Benefits of Joining a Manufacturing Community?

Manufacturers can get a lot out of joining local groups like the IMC. By joining, we can have a bigger voice when asking local, state, and federal lawmakers to support the manufacturing industry within Illinois. The IMC also provides a central place for local manufacturers to learn about benefits made exclusively for increasing and improving production facilities.

We also get more interest from people interested in joining our facilities when we have more manufacturers at our events. These future leaders are looking for reassurance that their careers can be long, and it is also an easy way to get the workforce pipeline growing for any company.

High school students, college graduates, and people looking for a career change want to meet facility managers and employees, tour the facilities, and ask about jobs — and the IMC is a great platform to help facilitate this.

There is still a lot to be done by the manufacturing community to help publicize opportunities available to help keep the manufacturing industry growing with the next generation. We have a responsibility to continue to help the youth and those who have earned transferable skills in other industries and are now looking for a career change.

At Keats, inspiring people to explore the manufacturing industry is a priority. Sometimes people will ask me, “How do you find tool makers?” The truth is you don’t, you make them! We have set up an internal mentoring program we call “Keats U.” The program provides opportunities for those who are new to our team to learn from the experts.

At the moment, our top Set Up Technician, who was hired to set up machines in our facility, has been busy mentoring four people on our team. Keats U. is an investment of resources and team members, but we see value in it — we are educating and teaching the future leaders for our company through these mentoring programs.


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