THE NEWLY CREATED Council of Manufacturers can become an important asset to business along the Niagara Frontier. Some group of this kind is overdue. Syracuse and Rochester have had similar organizations for several years.
The overriding benefit of this council, which sprang from the initiative of the Greater Buffalo Partnership, is that it provides a central forum for manufacturers to exchange ideas.
Members, 80 strong so far and growing, can focus on shared problems and then address them and devise shared strategies.
"We had a lot of disjointed activity," Robert Squier, head of Curtis Screw Corp, said about local manufacturers, "but we needed to be tied together."
The council agenda will include state-wide concerns, such as workers compensation. But an immediate local task is rallying support for the Center for Competitiveness, scheduled to open in Buffalo later this year. The center will concentrate on state-of-the-art training for students and dislocated workers, as well as imparting knowledge about evolving advance technologies.
It is, of course, painfully evident that manufacturing along the Niagara Frontier is not what it once was. The mammoth steel plants are long gone. In the last 20 years, manufacturing jobs have tumbled by nearly 40 percent.
Still, Erie and Niagara counties are home to 90,000 employees in the manufacturing sector. With its millions of dollars in contracts and payrolls generated with earnings from outside the region, this sector provides a powerful surge in the local economy. It offers a powerful base upon which to grow.
With timely leadership from Curtis Screw's Squier and American Brass's Warren Bartel, two manufacturing firms that employ 1,250 locally, the council is ready to roll.
Whether it can also help the area attract new jobs and investment, such as a new Dunlop Tire Corp. plant, is anybody's guess. But the council's emphasis on training workers, staying abreast of evolving technologies and focusing on local manufacturing concerns cannot hurt. Neither will the initiative of Erie County Executive Dennis Gorski in visiting Dunlop's parent firm, Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd., in Japan, in 1993.
Headquartered in Amherst, Dunlop recently changed its mind and included Western New York in the competition for the location of a new plant. Government interest and aid will no doubt play decisive roles in the location decision.
Just the establishment of this new Manufacturers Council suggests, however, a heightened awareness of the assets and concerns of Niagara Frontier manufacturers that outside investors should find attractive.