Manufacturing Expo in East County supports local businesses and workforce

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Typically closed to the public, the Allen Airways Flying Museum at Gillespie Field in El Cajon made an exception on Tuesday to host the second free edition of the Manufacturers Expo and Resource Fair.  Gathering almost 40 manufacturing companies mainly from the East County, community partners and local workforce, the fair aims to bridge a gap between businesses and the resources available.

Typically closed to the public, the Allen Airways Flying Museum at Gillespie Field in El Cajon made an exception on Tuesday to host the second free edition of the Manufacturers Expo and Resource Fair.  Gathering almost 40 manufacturing companies mainly from the East County, community partners and local workforce, the fair aims to bridge a gap between businesses and the resources available. The event was organized by the East County Economical Development Council (ECEDC), a non-profit organization created in 1984 as “an alliance of key representatives from business, government, and education working together to promote successful business activity in the cities of El Cajon, La Mesa, Lemon Grove and Santee, and in the unincorporated communities of Alpine, Lakeside and Spring Valley.”

James Sly, the Vice President and Chief of Operation at ECEDC, talks about the important role played by the local manufacturing industry not just in San Diego, but mainly in the East County. “Manufacturers in San Diego generate more than 30 million dollars in revenue each year and employ thousands of people, so it’s a big deal, but it kind of flies under the radar in many cases, given all the other really amazing sectors that we have here.” Indeed, based on a data generated by a recent SANDAG study, there are over 4,000 jobs in manufacturing throughout San Diego County paying “an average of $51,000 in this industry cluster.”

Sly believes that manufacturers deserve to have their work showcased because they constitute a primary employment system, generating new money “as opposed to building a retail place where they are only circulating money.”

The day started with an early morning Resource Fair bringing in workforce groups, educators, legislative officials and businesses to discuss about the resources available, followed by the afternoon fair where the public had the opportunity to meet with these companies, see how they make their products, learn directly about the people they employ and inquire about new career opportunities. 

Kim Byrd is a substitute teacher for the Lakeside Union School District and she came to personally meet the people behind the Taylor Guitar brand, a manufacturing company with a factory in Tecate Mexico and another in El Cajon. “It was very excited for me to find out Taylor Guitars are here. They helped my husband Bob, who is a teacher, by donating musical instruments to his kids for an after school musical program.”  Jo Crabtree, the Director of Learning and Development at Taylor Guitars, seconds that, adding that the company’s owner, Bob Taylor, is always involved in helping the community. The company employs its own mechanics to build over 600 guitars every day, partnering up with high schools in East County to create manufacturing classes and career pathways. “We are working now with Grossmont Union School District and their Art and Entertainment pathway, bringing students here today to work behind the camera recording and interviewing people as their school project, while helping us document the event.”  Crabtree urges people to check the company’s website for new job opportunities. “We are always hiring, we have lots of openings all the time.”

Few booths away, the same kind of conversation about career opportunities takes place between Roger Griffiths, the Program Coordinator with the county overseeing the operations at the local Gillespie airport, and Larry Johnson who works two jobs and whose contract with the Navy base in San Diego will expire soon. “Do you offer training for the job openings you have?” Griffith advises, “please check our website and if you don’t see anything today, check back in 10 days, we are always updating.”  

Across from Griffith’s are husband and wife Christine and Dave Jahnz and each has their own presentation table. Mrs. Jahnz is leading a very successful business, Flag Pole Buddy, urging people not to “climb that ladder again” and instead let her install an American flag on their RV. “My business is where we make our money, but on the other hand, Dave has been struggling for the past two years to get his 3D printing company off the ground, “ she says.  Her husband explains his business to the people attracted by the sonogram pictures reconstructed into 3D sculptures, celebratory busts and other potential gifts. “I offer an innovative solution, by using eco friendly paper full color, instead of painted plastic. Look how hard it is,” he said, knocking a block of tri-dimensional printed paper on the cement floor. Jahnz has been in the industry since the beginning. “I’ve met the inventor, I’ve bought millions worth of printing hardware, I know all about it, but I need help with marketing. I built the first ever aircraft quality printed part that was actually installed on a flying airplane, so I know how to build, but I am trying to do everything alone and I am failing,” he says to Wyatt Miller, a 16 years old junior at Santana High School looking for a part-time job to help him practice the skills he is learning in his digital technology school program. “Also, I don’t want to eat Ramen noodles in college,” says Miller who came to the fair with his mom, Missy Miller, strategically positioned few steps behind to let him learn on his own how to manage in a business environment. Miller gets an interview on the spot. 

Asked what is the ultimate goal of this fair other than showcasing manufacturing companies, Sly confirms this is a win-win situation when “seeing manufacturers talking to manufacturers and generating more business or manufacturers talking to workforce and to the public and creating an opportunity for all these people to connect and share their resources, share their capabilities.” 

The event ended with an actual big, loud bang when GET Engineering people demonstrated a testing procedure by allowing a huge, heavy hammer about the size of a wine barrel drop on a steel structure. Good job, it didn’t break! 

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