A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

NKY Chamber’s Eggs ‘N Issues ‘Made in Northern Kentucky’ focuses on sustainability, workforce

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

Environmental sustainability and workforce development were hot topics at the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Eggs ‘N Issues “Made in Northern Kentucky” panel discussion Tuesday at Receptions banquet facility in Erlanger.

The Made In Northern Kentucky panel included (lto r) Tony Canonaco of Balluff, Inc., Chuck Thomas of Celanese, Eric Wolff of L’Oreal and Ben Shawe of Mazak Corporation. DAn Tobergte, far right, of TRi-ED, moderated the discussion

The Made In Northern Kentucky panel included (l to r) Tony Canonaco of Balluff, Inc., Chuck Thomas of Celanese, Eric Wolff of L’Oreal and Ben Shawe of Mazak Corporation. Dan Tobergte, far right, of Northern Kentucky TRi-ED, moderated the discussion (photos by Mark Hansel).

The panel included Tony Canonaco president and CEO of Balluff Inc., Ben Schawe, Mazak vice president of manufacturing, Chuck Thomas, site manager for Celanese Corporation and Eric Wolff, vice president, manufacturing with L’Oreal.

Dan Tobergte, president of Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, moderated the discussion, which focused on the key role advanced manufacturing companies play in the region’s economic picture.

Tobergte said in the early 90s conventional wisdom suggested manufacturing was on the decline and service industries were the future.

“I am so glad that we did not listen to that and did not follow that path,” Tobergte said. “We kept manufacturing as a target industry…and it’s paid off very well.”

There are more than 20,000 people directly involved in manufacturing in just over 200 companies in Northern Kentucky. More than 58 percent of the primary industry firms that Tri-ED deals with are manufacturing based.

In the last five years alone, 74 location or expansion projects in Northern Kentucky have been responsible for $950 million in capital investment.

Wolff said L’Oreal is now the largest beauty company in the world. It produces 1.2 million shampoos and conditioners at its Florence facility every day and has a target number at the plant of 2 million.

Wolff said the company is as committed to economic sustainability as it is to increasing its market share.

“From a sustainability standpoint, our CEO Jean Paul Agon has made a statement that we would, as an entire organization, reduce our footprint from a liters-per-unit, from a grams-per-unit waste and our CO2 emissions by 50 percent,” Wolff said. “Value of sustainability has hit a point, at least from a L’Oreal perspective, that is non-negotiable.”

Eggs Made it in NKY Baluff cropped

Representatives from the companies that participated in the panel discussion were on hand to answer questions.

The company is in the process of finalizing a contract that would put the largest manufacturing solar energy installation on its site in Florence.

One challenge to developing and maintaining a qualified manufacturing workforce is a misconception about the facilities themselves. Many people still have images of dangerous work in dirty, dimly lit shops, but Thomas says that’s just not the case anymore.

“I won’t say that manufacturing is easy, it’s not an office environment,” Thomas said. “But we’ve invested a lot in our facilities to make sure that they are safe places to work and the employees have the ability to be very successful. It’s a good work environment, but at the same time, it challenges the employees.”

Canonaco said Baluff integrates manufacturing and sales and marketing in its facility and encourages the next generation of workers to see its operation.

“Throughout the year, we bring students at all levels into Baluff to show them what we do, but also what manufacturing is all about,” Canonaco said. “We say ‘this is an environment you can expect in manufacturing.’ We’ve had parents follow up with us after we’ve had their kids and say, ‘I can’t tell you how appreciative we are to open their eyes about manufacturing.’”

Schawe said the combination of an aging workforce and a resurgence in the industry, however, still leave most companies playing catch up.

“Mazak located in this area back in ‘74…and we had no problem getting talent to support our organization,” Schawe said. Unfortunately that talent is now at a point where they are starting to retire and one of the challenges that we see is getting the young people to get into manufacturing.”

Apprentice programs and other initiatives from individual manufacturers and organizations such as the Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) have helped generate interest from high school students, but there is still work to do.

In Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties, average manufacturing wages are nearly $60,000 per year, compared to $44,500 annually for all jobs and many positions require only a two-year degree. Students who qualify are eligible for financial aid or co-op programs, in addition to apprenticeships.

The next Eggs ‘N Issues, the State of Northern Kentucky Address, features judges-executive from Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties. It takes place at Receptions Sept.20, beginning at 7:30 a.m.

For more information on all Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce events and activities, click here .

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

Related Posts

Leave a Comment