Creators Wanted is having a moment. In Charlotte, North Carolina, the fourth stop of the mobile experience’s five-city expedition around the U.S., the Creators Wanted Tour Live continued to generate big excitement about manufacturing and the career opportunities the industry offers.
“I’m only 22 and I bought a house, a boat and a dirt bike,” said Ketchie Inc. Lathe Department Lead Machinist Zach Whitley, during a nationally aired live Creators Wanted Spotlight conversation with students from East Mecklenburg and Hopewell high schools. “Manufacturing is what has enabled me to have this lifestyle.”
Makers needed—and rewarded: The spotlight event was part of the four-day stay of the mobile experience at Central Piedmont Community College presented by Trane Technologies. The tour, a project of the NAM and its workforce development partner, The Manufacturing Institute, seeks to inspire, educate and empower the next generation of manufacturers—and recruit at least 600,000 new workers to address the manufacturing talent shortage, which is estimated to leave more than 2.1 million jobs unfilled by 2030, according to Deloitte and the MI.
Its message seems to be getting out.
- “I had never heard of manufacturing before” today, Anson High School sophomore Janita Willoughby told Charlotte Channel 9 WSOC-TV reporter Susanna Black. But as it turns out, in a manufacturing career “you’re making a lot of money and you’re doing stuff you like, so that’s a good thing,” she said.
Goings-on galore: In addition to the spotlight event, the student- and job seeker-focused happenings in Charlotte were many and varied. They included:
- A kick-off event featuring talks from speakers including North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, Creators Wanted Legacy Sponsor Trane Technologies’ Mike Lamach, NAM Board Chair and Trane’s executive chair, Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston; Community College Chief Academic Officer Heather Hill; MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee; and NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons
- A manufacturing fair with local manufacturers and education partners, highlighting local career opportunities and pathway programs, certifications and degrees for those interested in manufacturing
- Tours by local high school students of the escape room-like Creators Wanted experience
- Q&A sessions in which students had the opportunity to discuss the manufacturing industry and its jobs with real manufacturers
“Something that excites you”: “There’s a common misconception that manufacturing is boring,” Lamach told an audience of students at the Charlotte kick-off event. “What I love about this Creators Wanted tour is how it pulls you [toward] the many different possibilities in manufacturing. There are many different kinds of opportunities to learn and grow, and all kinds of ways to make a difference. I hope you’ll find something that excites you.”
- The Charlotte stop hosted more than 450 students from West Mecklenburg High School, Anson High School, South & West Stanley High Schools, Floyd Johnson Technology Center, East Mecklenburg High School, Hopewell High School, Myers Park High School, Rowan-Salisbury High School, Harding University High School, the Epiphany School of Charlotte and CPCC, generating approximately 68,000 email signups.
Highlights: Video and photos show some of the fun and learning that took place last week.
A Trane Technologies team member talks to student attendees at a Creators Wanted event.
Local high school students and teachers proudly display their escape room times.
The race to the gateway to the future was on in Honda’s “Sum of All Parts” challenge, where these students made the correct choice as to what product this team of Honda associates is creating.
Students had fun working with DJ Enferno to make their own Creators Wanted music anthems, putting more of the creativity central to manufacturing to work.
The tour in Charlotte brought manufacturing’s promise to students with differing abilities. Teachers reacted positively to the impact of the experience.
Lamach, whose leadership on Creators Wanted helped get the campaign off the ground, took the stage to emphasize what the tour is all about: students.
The response: Creators Wanted earned notice from some well-known names, both in North Carolina and elsewhere.
Manufacturers are in Charlotte this week at @cpcc to fill jobs with the next generation of creators.
— Senator Thom Tillis (@SenThomTillis) November 17, 2021
Group hopes to recruit high school students to join manufacturing jobs https://t.co/SlVccG81ta
— Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) November 17, 2021
Central Piedmont is proud to host the Creators Wanted tour this week!
Creators Wanted is a mobile experience designed to bring the story of modern manufacturing to communities across the country and promote employment within the industry.
Learn more: https://t.co/9j6ZTEac4A
— Central Piedmont Community College (@cpcc) November 16, 2021
Media mentions: In addition to WSOC-TV, broadcast and online news outlets including the Charlotte Business Journal, WCCB Charlotte and Business North Carolina also covered the Creators Wanted Charlotte stop.
The final say: “You can’t create the future unless you’re engaging the future,” said Chrys Kefalas, chief strategist of the tour and vice president of brand strategy at the NAM. “Students came to us not thinking about manufacturing as a career and left aspiring to careers in the industry. Resumes were handed to manufacturers. We’re creating lasting memories that won’t just result in new workers but [will] also change lives.”
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has made an about-face on commonsense investor protections it adopted last year to provide appropriate oversight of so-called proxy advisory firms—and the NAM is pushing back.
The background: Last year, the NAM won a major victory when the SEC published a new rule to regulate proxy firms, which have significant influence over public company governance decisions and the performance of shareholders’ investments. Now under new leadership, the SEC has so far refused to enforce the rule—and yesterday, the commission issued a new proposal that would wipe out important progress.
What it means: The rule secured by the NAM ensured that investors would have access to more complete and accurate information before casting proxy votes. The SEC’s new proposal would reverse the rule’s requirements that proxy firms engage with public companies—specifically rescinding the provisions mandating that the firms provide copies of their recommendations to impacted businesses and notify investors when those businesses file a response. The new proposal also weakens the SEC’s anti-fraud standards for materially misleading statements published by proxy firms.
A deeper dive: Beyond the rule itself, the action points to larger problems at the SEC.
- Politics over policy: By reversing a rule that had been developed over the course of a decade through leadership from both political parties and with significant input from all sectors, the SEC is undercutting the capital markets’ need for a steady, apolitical regulator.
- Not the first time: Even before yesterday’s rule change, the SEC had unlawfully refused to enforce the existing proxy firm rule. The NAM filed suit last month to force the SEC to abide by laws on the books.
- Arbitrary changes: The 2020 rule was set to take effect on Dec. 1 of this year, so the SEC had no new information about its impact on the market when it voted to reverse course—raising serious questions about the commission’s compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act’s prohibition on “arbitrary and capricious” rulemaking.
Next steps: The NAM is challenging the SEC’s nonenforcement of the 2020 rule in court, and we will continue to hold the SEC’s feet to the fire. We will also engage with the SEC on its new proposal and will push back on the commission’s attempts to remove these critical investor protections.
What we’re saying: NAM Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Relations Aric Newhouse released a statement on the SEC’s about-face: “The NAM is extremely concerned that the SEC has proposed substantial revisions to last year’s reasonable, light-touch proxy advisory firm rule—especially absent any new information about its impact on the market. Businesses and investors need reliable rules of the road, and the NAM is disappointed that the SEC plans to reverse course on a decade’s worth of bipartisan, consensus-driven policymaking just a year after the rule’s reforms were finalized. The SEC’s about-face is deeply troubling, but manufacturers continue to support appropriate oversight of proxy firms given their conflicts of interest, errors and outsized influence. The NAM looks forward to engaging with the SEC to defend the rule’s commonsense investor protections in the coming months.”
It’s more than just the name of an educational tour. It’s an urgent message, too: Creators are indeed wanted and in great numbers.
That was the theme of the kickoff event of the Charlotte, North Carolina, Creators Wanted Tour Live stop, which took place Tuesday amid a packed crowd of students, community and education leaders at Central Piedmont Community College—North Carolina’s largest community college.
Perfect timing: The Creators Wanted campaign, a joint project of the NAM and its workforce development and education partner, The Manufacturing Institute, seeks to inspire, educate and empower the workforce of tomorrow. And manufacturing sorely needs more members for that workforce, said MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee.
- “This is part of a campaign that could truly not come at a more important time for the manufacturing industry and for emerging workers across the United States,” Lee told the audience of students from nearby West Mecklenburg High School and Anson High School, adding that there are nearly 900,000 job openings in manufacturing.
Getting ready and providing access: North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, joining the premier event via video, told the audience, “With our community-college training and with partnerships with high schools, colleges and universities across the state, we’re getting North Carolinians ready to take on the jobs of today and tomorrow…. Manufacturing opportunity awaits.”
- North Carolina boasts the fifth-largest manufacturing economy in the country, Gov. Cooper noted.
- “When we can partner with initiatives such as Creators Wanted, we see it as another channel through which we can provide access to anyone who wants to pursue a path to greater opportunity and economic mobility,” said Community College Chief Academic Officer Heather Hill.
“Best and brightest”: Creators Wanted Legacy Sponsor Trane Technologies is actively hiring manufacturers, said Trane Technologies Executive Chair and NAM Board Chair Mike Lamach.
- Trane Technologies wants “to boldly challenge what’s possible for a sustainable world,” Lamach said. “To do that, we need the best. We need the brightest. We need diverse thinkers. We need creators, and we need you. Our doors are open to everyone.”
Lamach, a driving force and leader behind the Creators Wanted movement, praised how the campaign pulls students “into the many different possibilities in manufacturing” and emphasized to students from West Mecklenburg and Anson high schools: “You really do hold our future in your hands.” Watch highlights from Lamach’s remarks here.
Preparing for life: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston underscored the need for students to be prepared for whatever comes next, be it higher education or the workforce.
- “Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools … continues to look for ways to partner with innovative education partners and manufacturers to provide our students with experiences that will prepare them for careers,” Winston said. “Our highest priority is preparing students for life once they leave our schools for college or careers.”
“What manufacturing is all about”: NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons urged event attendees to think big about manufacturing and the possibilities before them.
- “I have no idea what the next great invention is that’s going to completely change the world, but what if you were the person who did that?” Timmons asked the audience. You can do that. That’s what manufacturing is all about.”
Related: WSOC TV was one of the news stations in attendance and filed this report, where student Janita Willoughby put the impact of touring the mobile experience this way: “I didn’t know what manufacturing was … [The experience] was fun … It makes me consider this as a job because you can make a lot of money, and you’re doing stuff you like.”
Part hands-on science and technology experience, part TED Talk, part career coaching—that might be the best way to describe the Pella, Iowa, stop of Creators Wanted Tour Live, which wrapped last week.
Pella was the third stop on the mobile experience’s expedition around the country, following Columbus, Ohio, and West Columbia, South Carolina. The objective of Creators Wanted, a brainchild of the NAM and its workforce development and education partner, The Manufacturing Institute, is to inspire, educate and empower the next generation of manufacturers. It aims to help fill the more than 4 million open positions expected in the industry between now and 2030, a number forecast by Deloitte and the MI.
A rewarding field: Manufacturing “is a field that has always rewarded technical skills, hard work and an innovative imagination that refuses to settle for business as usual,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who spoke at the tour stop’s kickoff event, told the audience of local high school students, teachers and media members. “Too many young people simply don’t know about” the many opportunities in manufacturing, she pointed out.
Much to see and do: The events of the three-day stop included:
- Speeches from Gov. Reynolds, MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee, Vermeer Corporation President and CEO Jason Andringa (the host of the Pella tour stop), Pella Corporation President and CEO Tim Yaggi and Iowa Association of Business and Industry President Mike Ralston;
- Mobile experience tours, where attendees got to solve escape room–like challenges and manufacturing-related puzzles;
- A panel with representatives from Vermeer Corporation and Pella Corporation who highlighted the exciting, well-paying jobs available in manufacturing;
- A softball toss/window-strength test in which participants threw balls at a window made by Pella Corporation; and
- Manufacturing demonstrations and other hands-on opportunities for visiting local middle- and high-school students.
‘Making our world a better place’: “You’re going to see for yourself how manufacturers like Vermeer Corporation, Pella Corporation and thousands of others across the country are making our world a better place,” NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons told the crowd at the premier Pella event. “We’re here at Pella today because…we want you to be a part of the manufacturing workforce.”
Impact: The tour stop reached more than 500 students and generated approximately 25,000 email sign-ups.
Some of the fun: Photos and videos from the three days show some of the educational and entertaining activities on offer:
A Pella Middle School student tours the mobile experience at Vermeer Corporation.
A Pella student puts on a welding mask at the Vermeer Corporation welding station.
Pella-area high-school students pose in front of the mobile experience with Timmons, Gov. Reynolds, Lee and Ralston.
A Pella student tries out the Pella softball toss.
The response: Excited messages from tour stop sponsor Vermeer Corporation, journalists including Fox News broadcaster Connell McShane and business associations such as the Iowa Association of Business and Industry filled the Twitterverse last week in response to the mobile experience and its message.
Creators Wanted Public Open House today, Nov. 9, from 5-7 p.m. in the Global Pavilion Arena. Go through the escape room-style experience using skills in manufacturing. Then learn about jobs in manufacturing with Vermeer and @Pella_News. #EquippedToDoMore #CreatorsWanted pic.twitter.com/b9CD58BjMz
— Vermeer Corporation (@vermeercorp) November 9, 2021
The worker shortage isn’t getting any better so manufacturing companies are trying to do something about it.
— Connell McShane (@connellmcshane) November 9, 2021
— Iowa ABI (@IowaABI) November 9, 2021
— The NAM (@ShopFloorNAM) November 9, 2021
— Pella (@Pella_News) November 9, 2021
The last word: Andringa underscored the readiness of his company to take on new creators. He said, “Vermeer has been proud to help generate and develop the next generation of the workforce we need for manufacturing.”
Ports in the United States have been facing serious congestion issues for almost a year, even as manufacturers work tirelessly to ensure essential products can get where they need to go. NAM Director of Photography David Bohrer recently paid a visit to the Port of Long Beach, where an influx of exports coming to the United States is causing traffic jams along the California coast.
Long Beach is one of the country’s busiest ports at the best of times, since it receives much of the trade traffic from Asia. Today, it’s mobbed by ships waiting for their turn to unload. Under normal circumstances no more than one or two ships would be temporarily anchored while awaiting a spot at the port terminals. But as of late October, that number peaked at more than 70 ships holding offshore. Just look at these lines:
Meanwhile, the port is full of shipping containers waiting to be hauled away and emptied. However, there aren’t enough workers, specialized truck chassis, or available truck drivers to handle the volume of containers:
Here is one container in transit. But once it’s unloaded, the empty container has to be stored as well—and current parking and warehousing space isn’t sufficient for the many empty containers at the port.
Recently, the Biden Administration announced an initial plan to help strengthen supply chains and reduce these blockages. Actions include extending hours of operations at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and addressing workforce shortages and negotiated shipping agreements.
- Additionally, on November 9, the White House announced details of a new Action Plan to quickly distribute newly available port funds in an effort to clear backlogs. This plan creates new flexibility in how some ports can use federal dollars to meet on-the-ground needs and sets bold new deadlines for releasing funds—including the authorization of nearly $240 million in grant funding before the end of the year.
The NAM says: “Manufacturers in America have been tirelessly working to maintain operations and provide essential products and jobs to their communities throughout the pandemic. These port backups and supply chain delays aren’t some distant, downstream issue—NAM members are facing historically high shipping costs and unheard-of delivery delays on an hourly and daily basis. We will continue to engage with policymakers to identify short-term solutions and establish long-term measures that allow for economic growth and a functional, inclusive and efficient supply chain,” said NAM Director of Infrastructure Policy Ben Siegrist.
The city of Pella, Iowa, hosted a panel of distinguished Hawkeye State leaders on Tuesday who encouraged students to join the manufacturing industry and welcomed the Creators Wanted Tour Live on its third tour stop.
Having arrived in Iowa on Monday, the mobile experience, which is part of the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute’s comprehensive “Creators Wanted” workforce campaign, has been a main attraction this week. More than 400 students from multiple nearby schools, as well as local business and political leaders and the media, have attended in just its first two days of activation. The campaign’s aim: to inspire the next generation of manufacturers and help fill the 900,000-plus open manufacturing jobs in the U.S.
The largest sector in Iowa: Creators Wanted “is truly a unique opportunity for our young people to be introduced to the many exciting careers in manufacturing,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds told the audience at the Pella kickoff event Tuesday morning. “As governor, it’s encouraging for me to see so many students turn out for manufacturing, which is the largest sector in our economy.”
- Iowa boasts the third-highest concentration of manufacturing workers in the U.S., Gov. Reynolds said.
- Iowa Association of Business and Industry President Mike Ralston also underscored the strong state of manufacturing in Iowa in his address, telling students that nearly 18% of state GDP comes from manufacturing. It is one of the largest percentages nationwide, Ralston said. “The output of all that manufacturing activity is almost $34 billion,” he told attendees.
‘Passionate about manufacturing’: Pella Corporation President and CEO Tim Yaggi told the audience, which included students from Pella High School, Oskaloosa High School and Prairie City Monroe Community High School, about his company’s original mission nearly a century ago. Yaggi hammered home that the firm still has many excellent jobs available for those able and willing.
- “When Pete Kuyper founded Pella … he wasn’t passionate about windows or screens; he was passionate about manufacturing,” Yaggi said. “He knew that for this company, for this city to thrive, we needed a manufacturing base, and the reason he created the company was to create great jobs for the people of Iowa. Family. And that mission is just as true today as it was 96 years ago.”
- Vermeer Corporation President and CEO Jason Andringa, host of the Pella tour stop, talked about the many families employed at his company. Children and grandchildren work alongside their parents and grandparents, he said. “Vermeer has been proud to help generate and develop the next generation of the workforce we need for manufacturing.”
Doing good—and being needed: In his remarks at the premier event, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons mixed things up by asking the audience about their plans for the future. “Raise your hand if you want to change the world for the better, if you want to do good,” he said. Numerous arms shot up. Continued Timmons, “With manufacturing, you can do good.”
Closing argument: “We need more people like you; we need you,” Timmons said. And what’s more, manufacturing gives people “opportunities to have a heck of a lot of fun.… I guarantee you are going to love it.”
Momentum: Joining the tour in Pella and broadcasting live from Vermeer Corporation, Fox Business Network and Fox News ran a combined five stories about the Creators Wanted campaign yesterday, including this hit with Neil Cavuto and Connell McShane. A CNN Newsource piece continues to appear in local television markets throughout the country. And Iowa news media is providing wall-to-wall coverage of the Creators Wanted Pella tour stop.
Want to join the list of Creators Wanted sponsors? Email the Creators Wanted campaign.
Some of the most impressive women in the industry gathered in Washington, D.C., last week for The Manufacturing Institute’s ninth annual STEP Ahead Awards—the first in-person ceremony since the pandemic began. The awards, and the leadership training program that precedes them, are designed to recognize and advance women’s achievements in the fields of science, technology, engineering and production. This year, honorees and “emerging leaders” from both 2020 and 2021 had the opportunity to attend the events, as last year’s events were online-only.
The leadership program: For the leadership training program, the MI brought in distinguished experts to help honorees advance their careers in the industry.
- The program, consisting of general sessions and preselected breakouts, covered a range of must-have professional skills, such as negotiating. It also featured industry executives and STEP Ahead alumnae who provided firsthand accounts of their experiences in manufacturing, along with advice for navigating a career in the industry.
The awards ceremony: The awards gala took place on Thursday night. Nearly 600 guests gathered in person, adhering to strict health and safety protocols, including a vaccination requirement, while hundreds tuned in online. The program featured:
- MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee;
- 2021 STEP Ahead Chair and Johnson & Johnson Executive Vice President and Chief Global Supply Chain Officer Kathy Wengel;
- NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons; and
- Keynote speaker and Gravitas Founder and CEO Lisa Sun.
The awards sponsors included BASF, Johnson & Johnson, 3M, Trane Technologies, BorgWarner and Rockwell Automation. This year’s STEP Ahead Vice Chair and 3M Senior Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Denise Rutherford and Ketchie Inc. President and Owner Courtney Silver served as the masters of ceremonies.
Leading in a crisis: The speakers acknowledged the toll that the pandemic has taken on manufacturers and praised the honorees for contributing to the industry’s robust response.
- As Lee put it, “How many times did we get knocked down? How many times did we think, ‘Maybe we got knocked out’? But we’re still here. And we’re here and we’re standing because of you, because of manufacturing. The women in this room and industry and our world are going to come out of this stronger than ever.”
- Wengel echoed this sentiment, saying, “When I look around this room, it hits me: the incredible impact on human life that manufacturers from so many industries … have made in the past 22 months.”
Creators needed: Timmons, who has been traveling with Lee to promote the NAM and MI’s Creators Wanted Tour Live mobile experience, talked about the importance of attracting more women to the industry.
- “With your example and your mentorship, you’re giving more and more young people a reason to say, ‘I want to be just like her,’” he said. “And we urgently need more people like you.”
Setting an example: Keynote speaker Sun had the crowd laughing and cheering as she talked about the critical importance of self-confidence for women.
- The child of Vietnamese immigrants, Sun worked for 11 years at consulting firm McKinsey & Company. During a year-long sabbatical from the firm, she decided to launch her own fashion company to help other professional women look and feel confident.
- “My 22-year-old self was told that I didn’t have any gravitas; it spurred me to action,” said Sun, referencing the origin of her company’s name. “McKinsey just came out with their ‘Women in the Workplace’ study. Women were the reason that we got through this pandemic … [but] traditional HR structures will not value the things that we did: empathy, relationship building … We have to give ourselves credit first.”
The reactions: The social media response was excited and optimistic—and often just plain proud!
So excited to see @TheMfgInstitute @ShopFloorNAM honor Chief Scientific Officer Ashley Daugherty for her company leadership. She is blazing trails for women in manufacturing – and lifting women up as she climbs! pic.twitter.com/sTGrNZjbwU
— Nephron Pharmaceuticals (@NephronPharm) November 4, 2021
Erika Peterman, BASF’s Senior Vice President – Chemical Intermediates North America spoke to the 2020 & 2021 STEP Ahead award recipients and shared her insights as a female leader in manufacturing on how she has navigated through major inflection points in her career. #MFGWomen pic.twitter.com/Uo5VYv3gRC
— BASF North America (@BASFCorporation) November 4, 2021
— ABB Motors and Drives US (@ABBMotorsMechUS) November 4, 2021
— GrapplingBilly (@GrapplingBilly) November 4, 2021
The last word: As Lee told the honorees, “The ripple effect of your example goes a long way—strengthening our industry and changing our world.”
For Ashley Daugherty, working in manufacturing meant being able to examine complex processes from beginning to end. The appeal of this sort of analysis drove her from undergraduate internships in chemical manufacturing to a master’s degree and then a Ph.D. Today, that same sense of excitement continues to fuel her work as the chief scientific officer for Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation.
A pioneer in the industry: When she began her career in manufacturing, Daugherty quickly encountered a very male-dominated industry, but she refused to let that stand in her way. In fact, she saw an opportunity to help make the manufacturing sector more diverse and inclusive.
- “In all my internships, all my leads and bosses were male,” said Daugherty. “When I went to grad school, there was not one female tenured professor. I wanted to make an impact.”
A critical role: Through her work and education, Daugherty has been at the leading edge of some of the most important medical efforts of the modern era, from anticancer therapeutics to antiviral treatments that combat HIV. In her role at Nephron, she helps produce inhalation medications for asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and has helped hospitals facing shortages of important medications get the supplies they need.
- “Seeing the direct impact of medication that could be used for the most advanced diseases and being a part of that—the impact on patients—is important to me,” said Daugherty.
Testing, testing: In the midst of the global pandemic, Daugherty also worked with Nephron to create COVID-19 testing facilities for all employees. Within weeks, the project was up and running, and today, the clinical lab offers COVID-19 testing with same-day results to all Nephron employees, as well as universities and major businesses across the state.
An example to others: The Manufacturing Institute—the workforce development and education partner of the NAM—recently recognized Daugherty as one of the 2021 STEP Ahead Award honorees. The award is presented to women leaders in science, technology, engineering and production careers who exemplify leadership within their companies and in manufacturing in general.
Words of wisdom: Daugherty encourages other women to make a career in manufacturing, even if they might not have considered it previously. She also advises them to “be persistent.” “Don’t ever give up on your end goal and keep pushing until you get there.”
Eastman may be a specialty materials company, but its focus these days is expansive: the well-being of the planet and the sustainability of manufacturing practices.
“We have three main pillars,” Eastman Executive Vice President and Chief Technology & Sustainability Officer Steve Crawford told us. “How do you improve the climate? How do you care for society? And how do you eliminate waste?”
Eastman means to do all three.
Circular economy: Among Eastman’s goals for the foreseeable future is making major strides toward the creation of a circular plastics economy, a model of production and usage that emphasizes the reuse and refurbishment of plastic products over new creation.
- Eastman encourages traditional, also known as mechanical, recycling when it can be used. However, “300 million metric tons of plastic get produced in the world every year, with less than 20% collected for mechanical recycling. In the U.S., less than 10% actually gets recycled,” said Crawford, who has been with Eastman for 35 years. “Most of it ends up in landfills, incinerated or worse.”
Under construction: Eastman, which plans to make its operations carbon-neutral by 2050, is constructing what will be one of the world’s largest plastic to plastic molecular recycling facilities in Kingsport, Tennessee. It is slated for completion by the end of 2022.
- Eastman estimates that by 2025, the facility will be diverting 250 million pounds of plastic waste every year. By 2030, the company plans to make that figure 500 million.
Why it’s important: “Mechanical recycling—where you go out and take items like single-use bottles, chop, wash and re-meld them and put them back into textiles or bottles—can only really address a small portion of the plastics that are out there,” Crawford said. After a few cycles, the polymers in the products degrade and the process is no longer possible.
- Instead, Eastman uses advanced, also known as molecular or chemical, recycling. “We unzip the plastic back to its basic building blocks, then purify those building blocks to create new materials,” Crawford said. This “creates an infinite loop because that polymer can go through that process time and time again.”
Additional measures: Eastman also makes use of carbon renewal technology, in which hard-to-recycle mixed plastics are brought into the recycling stream, broken down to the molecular level and reformed into textiles and other materials. Fully 40% of the material in Eastman’s Naia Renew cellulosic fiber, in fact, comes from the plastic reclaimed through this process, Crawford said.
- The company is involved in polyester renewal technology as well. Using colored soda bottles, old carpet and a variety of other mixed plastic waste streams, Eastman creates new materials that can be used to make everything from reusable containers to electronics to eyeglass frames.
First do no harm: Before implementing any new technology, Eastman makes sure of one thing: that it has a lower greenhouse-gas footprint than the process it will replace. Said Crawford: “We fundamentally believe that solving the waste issue should not hurt the climate.”
- The company also has a long-term goal regarding emissions: it plans to reduce its greenhouse-gas output by one-third by 2030.
The policy angle: To make a real difference where plastic waste is concerned, the U.S. needs “smart” policies in place, Crawford said. Eastman’s recommendations include:
- Incentives, mandates and infrastructure investment that will increase all recycling;
- Cooperation between companies, nonprofits and local and state governments that have effective models for aggregating and collecting plastic waste; and
- Legislation to ensure the definition of recycling includes advanced-recycling techniques.
The last word: “There is no one company that’s going to be able to create the circular economy by themselves,” Crawford said. “It’s going to take partnerships across the value chain and really smart public policy. We can’t solve this issue alone.”
What a blast! The West Columbia, South Carolina, tour stop of the Creators Wanted Live mobile experience drew hundreds of participants, getting job seekers and students excited about careers in manufacturing.
What went on: With inspirational talks and visits from public figures and well-known business leaders, the second stop on the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute’s cross-country trip drew plenty of attention. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster stopped by to try out the project’s immersive mobile experience, and others, including Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette, Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation President, CEO and Owner Lou Kennedy and Trane Technologies Plant Manager Gregg Krick, gave students heartfelt, inspirational talks about the rewards of manufacturing careers.
The reaction: The NAM and MI team in charge of the tour captured some of the excited reaction to these events on video. Here are just a few clips to give you a taste.
Donte Jackson, a senior at Airport High School in West Columbia, South Carolina, was pleasantly surprised by the teamwork it took to complete the mobile experience challenges:
Dr. Cindye Richburg Cotton, Executive Director of the Brookland-Lakeview Empowerment Center in West Columbia, South Carolina, talks about her students’ positive reactions to the mobile experience:
“The Creators Wanted mobile experience sealed the deal” for Airport High School 11th grader Kenneth Pearson:
Chatting with Trane Technologies representatives, Airport High School students Donte Jackson, Lamont Taylor and Kenneth Pearson discover some of the exciting (and well-paying!) positions on offer in manufacturing:
“I think this is an awesome opportunity for them to see what’s out there.” Hear more from Mike Harlen, a teacher at Lexington 2 Innovation Center in Cayce, South Carolina:
What’s communication got to do with it? As it turns out, a lot! Airport High School senior Lamont Taylor talks about what he learned from the mobile experience:
There’s more: Creators Wanted is less than a week away from its third tour stop in Pella, Iowa. RSVP today to reserve your spot!