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Students participate in Door County manufacturing tours

All part of DCEDC’s Manufacturing Month awareness campaign

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October 19, 2023

STURGEON BAY – According to JobsEQ – which gathers information from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – there are 60 manufacturing businesses in Door County that employed more than 2,100 people and contributed $300 million to the peninsula’s gross domestic product in 2022.

“Manufacturing represents our largest employment sector,” Korey Mallien, Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC) marketing and communications director, said.

Earlier this month, approximately 400 students from the Sturgeon Bay, Sevastopol, Gibraltar, Southern Door and Algoma school districts had the opportunity to visit a handful of those manufacturing companies that call Door County home – including Marine Travelift, ExacTech, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, N.E.W. Industries, Therma-Tron-X, Hatco, Pro Products, Midwest Wire Products, Renard’s Artisan Cheese, Itasca Automation Systems, Door County Candle Company and Door County Coffee.

The tours – which were coordinated by the DCEDC in partnership with the participating schools, businesses and the Door County Manufacturers Association – aimed to highlight the importance of the manufacturing industry and community impact with the next generation.

Mallien said this year DCEDC’s Manufacturing Month events focused on enhancing awareness of manufacturing’s economic impact in the county, informing potential workforce regarding career opportunities in manufacturing and educating students about career paths in manufacturing.

A learning experience 
Keith Nerby – principal of Sturgeon Bay High School who attended tours with his entire sophomore class of 90 students – said the tours stirred their interest in various skill trade industries.

“This is one of the most important days of the year when it comes to providing opportunities for our students to experience what options they have post high school,” he said. “Many of our students grew up right here in Sturgeon Bay or Door County, but they still don’t know what careers and options exist all around us.”

Mallien said the tours serve as a career-awareness event for students, as well as an opportunity for Door County manufacturers to share their stories and connect with the future workforce.

Students got an up close look at Big Blue – Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding’s 160-foot tall blue gantry crane, which has a lifting capacity of 200 tons. Jennifer Much Photo

“Students learn about a lot of cool products that are made in Door County, as well as the wide range of job opportunities in our county’s vibrant and diverse manufacturing sector,” he said. “Some of the companies currently offer student opportunities through youth apprenticeships and part-time or summer employment.”

Nerby said the tours highlight the commitment the Door County business community has with its schools.

“Students get to see specialized fields like welding, electrical, plumbing and so much more,” he said. “In addition, many of the businesses talked about other options in their company or industry.”

During the tour at Marine Travelift, students were also given an opportunity to explore career options in marketing, accounting and human resources – careers in the manufacturing industry that Nerby said not many students recognize.

“This opportunity is great for all students to see what career options are available right here in our community,” he said.

While at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, students got an up close look at Big Blue – the yard’s 160-foot tall blue gantry crane, which has a lifting capacity of 200 tons.

Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding is a 63-acre facility located in Sturgeon Bay responsible for the designing and sustainment of commercial and government vessels.

Preston Radandt, the senior human resources and labor relations manager at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, said he believes these tours could drum up future employees.

“Having tours allows for continued connection between our company and talented minds who will enter the workforce in the next few years,” he said. “Connection and engagement with our community through our local schools is an ongoing commitment here at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding.”

Bill Hooker – the security manager at Fincantieri who helped guide the tours safely around the shipyard – said students had the opportunity to watch as workers welded beams and carried on daily duties.

Hooker said he believes such an invitation is important to both students and the community.

“Manufacturing is vital to our community’s economic development and having an opportunity to engage with students is invaluable.” he said. “These tours can create visual opportunities that are hard to see and understand when you’re just driving by Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding.”

Some of the career opportunities discussed on the tour, Hooker said, included steel fitting, industrial painting, crane operation, electrical, engineering, project management and environmental health and safety.

Other types of manufacturing
Mallien said the tours also helped shine a light on other types of manufacturing.

Nic and Christiana Trapani, owners of Door County Candle, talked with students about building a brand and the impact of small business manufacturing.

“Door County Candle is a great example because of how it’s gone through such a unique life cycle and multiple expansions,” Nic said. “We create some of the highest quality products in our industry, which only adds significant validity and value to Wisconsin made brands and the amount of manufacturing that goes on in Wisconsin, let alone Door County, is remarkable.”

During the tour of Door County Candle Company, students were able to observe the entire candle manufacturing process. Jennifer Much Photo

During the tour, Nic said students were able to observe the entire candle manufacturing process.

“It shows students what it takes to make the products that manufacturers in Door County make and sell every day,” he said.
Nic said Door County Candle plans to continue to participate in the annual manufacturing month tours – hoping to inspire students.

“As our business keeps expanding and growing and changing year over year, students get to be part of this journey with us,” he said. “Any groups that come next year will see even more change and growth.”

The Door County manufacturing tours started in 2018.

Mallien said plans are already in the works for next year’s event.

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