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Manufacturers talk workforce issues and economic strength


During the 2021 edition of the Manufacturing Outlook leaders from the manufacturing sector talked about how workforce issues are impacting their businesses and the potential effects of federal vaccine mandates, while Chamber leaders gave an update on the environment for economic development in our area.

The event was presented by the Chamber’s economic development arm, the Springfield Business Development Corporation, on December 8 at White River Conference Center.

The featured presentation of the program was a panel of manufacturing industry leaders talking about the issues affecting their organizations and how they are dealing with those issues. 2021 SBDC Board Chair Jena Holtberg-Benge led the discussion, which also featured Tim Massey of Penmac Staffing Services, Maria Matamoro of The French’s Food Company, Krisi Schell of SRC Holdings, and Chris Stange of Digital Monitoring Products.

All the panelists said their companies are having difficulty finding enough people to meet their desires to expand their operations.

“We’re trying to find folks that fit our culture,” Stange said, noting that the company is looking to add 30 more positions to its staff of 360. “We want you to have DMP DNA when you come to work.”

However, Massey said there isn’t a silver bullet for the workforce issue. “Pay is always the (item) that pops up, but pay’s not everything,” he said. “You do want to be competitive and define what that means for you and be educated about what your market is.”

Another issue complicating the workforce problem is the potential impact of federal COVID vaccine mandates. As they currently stand, the mandate requires that anyone working at a company of 100 or more employees must be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID.

“We expect some fallout just from a day-to-day basis on that,” Matamoro said of the mandate, an appeal to which is currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court. She added that communicating with employees is critical to combat disinformation about both the mandate and the vaccines themselves.

“We’re being very transparent with information about the incentive,” she said. “There’s a lot of misinformation about what it is and what it isn’t.”

The program began with an update from Chamber President Matt Morrow about the current environment for economic development projects. He noted that 2021 was a record-setting year for project lead activity, following an unexpected record year in 2020.

One of the reasons for the continued success of the lead generation program, he added, was the Chamber and SBDC efforts to convene key partners in the region and strengthen those partnerships, maximize regional assets, and act as a single point of contact for business attraction and expansion to the region.

He also revealed the redesign of the talent attraction website,, which was revamped after nearly a decade in existence.

“As you compete for relocation talent, consider how you can use this new and improved resource, alongside your own materials promoting your business,” Morrow told the attendees. “It’s a project we never stop working to improve. We want to make sure the most relevant content is there for your talent attraction needs.”

To learn more about the Talent Attraction Initiative and how it can benefit your organization, contact Rachael Mhire on the Chamber's economic development team.

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