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    << Return to news list Cultivating a manufacturing workforce
    Having a young boss inspires creative thinking, said Jim Siplon, chief operating officer of Just Water in Glens Falls.  Siplon was referring to 19-year-old actor and rapper Jaden Smith.
    "He's the largest participant in our business, from an investment perspective," said Siplon, speaking to about 150 high school students at a Manufacturing Day panel discussion at SUNY Adirondack in Queensbury on Oct. 6.
    Siplon said Smith, son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, continually emphasizes the importance of improving the community, not just the product -- a philosophy some academicians call "a double bottom line."
    Siplon and other panelists told students that entry level manufacturing jobs with potential advancement are waiting for applicants that have completed at least some college courses and have strong math, creative thinking and teamwork skills.
    "We have people that are 19. Age is not a thing that we're looking at. We're looking at people that are ready to step up," Siplon said.
    "Plenty of opportunities to grow from an entry level position," said Adam Gray, president and chief executive officer at SheetLabels.com, a commercial specialty printing company in Glens Falls.
    "There's definitely a variety of jobs," said Jennifer Tinkler, operations leader at Irving Tissue in Fort Edward, in Washington County.
    "Find out what you're passionate about, and go with it," said Peg Murphy, human resources director of Espey Manufacturing, a defense subcontractor in Saratoga Springs, in Saratoga County.
    "Critical thinking and troubleshooting are essential skills in manufacturing," said Ron Zimmerman, operations manager for Hollingsworth & Vose, an industrial specialty paper manufacturer that has plants in Easton and Greenwich, in Washington County.
    U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, moderated the panel discussion that was part of Manufacturing Day activities.
    Warren, Saratoga, Washington, Hamilton, Essex Counties BOCES and SUNY Adirondack organized the day of activities to acquaint junior high and high school students with manufacturing careers and training programs that BOCES and SUNY Adirondack operate in which high school students can earn college credit for classes that prepare students for manufacturing careers.
    Earlier in the day, students toured manufacturing facilities in the region.
    Students said they were impressed with the clean, low noise, uncluttered, high-tech work environments.
    Emily Weaver, a student at Hudson Falls Central School District, said she was impressed that Just Water uses biodegradable packaging material imported from Europe and caps and package shoulders made from a sugar cane waste material.
    "They are all about environmental friendliness," she said.
    "Before it was thrown away. There was no use for it," said Nick Fuller, a student at Queensbury Union Free School District, referring to the sugar cane material.
    The company packages water in a carton, similar to cartons for milk and juice.
    "The machine there was the only one in the United States," said Jonathan LaPointe, a student at Queensbury Union Free School District, referring to the packaging equipment, which the company Tetra Pak designed and manufactured for Just Water.
    Just Water, which began production in July 2015, draws water from underground wells on city of Glens Falls-owned watershed property in Queensbury.
    The company packages the water at the former St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church building at 31 Broad St. in Glens Falls, and distributes it to wholesale customers throughout North America, including Whole Foods supermarkets and local Hannaford supermarkets.
    The company brought a new source of revenue to the Glens Falls water system.
    Drew Fitzgerald, a Glens Falls native, put together a group of Los Angeles investors that founded the company, with a strategy to invest in economically-challenged communities.
    EDC Warren County promoted Glens Falls to the investment group, and advised the company on its local implementation.
    The investment group evaluated several other communities before deciding on Glens Falls, because of the purity of its water and quality of community character.
    The company employs more than a dozen people in Glens Falls, and expects to employ more than 40 when the plant reaches full production.
    SheetLabels.com, on Pruyn's Island in Glens Falls, prints product, packaging, mailing and barcode labels.
    Gray, who started as a teenage entrepreneur, established SheetLabels.com when he was a student at Lake George High School, brokering business for printers.
    He later launched his own production facility in a barn on Bay Road in Queensbury, and moved to larger quarters on Pruyn's Island in Glens Falls in October 2014.
    EDC Warren County assisted with the site selection.
    In late 2015, the company invested $1.25 million in a new ultra-violet light, ink-jet label printer.
    "It improves the quality and makes it a smoother label. And it makes it more durable," said Ryan Sankey, a Queensbury Union Free School District student that toured SheetLabels.com, referring to the ultraviolet light process.
    Sankey said he was impressed to learn the company prints labels for customers as far away as India, as well as local customers such as Cooper's Cave Ale Co. in Glens Falls.
    "One of the machines they use is one of only 30 in the United States," he said.
    Gray said SheetLabels.com employs 36 people, up from 30 at the beginning of 2016, and is expected to continue increasing its workforce as customers expand their businesses and new customers are added.
    "The majority of our customers are small companies that are just getting started." he said.
    Gray said SheetLabel.com's volume has increased about 25 percent annually each year over the past five years.
    Siplon, chief operating officer of Just Water, and Kristine Duffy, president of SUNY Adirondack, are volunteer members of the EDC Warren County board of directors.
    In other Warren County economic development news:
    -- Lake George grant
    The village of Lake George will receive a nearly $4.3 million state grant toward the estimated $17.09 million cost to build a new wastewater treatment plant, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Oct. 5.
    "The new plant will benefit the entire region, by ensuring the water quality of the 32-mile-long Lake George, with shoreline in three counties," said Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ronald Conover, the Bolton town supervisor.
    "For us in Bolton, it really begins with Lake George -- the strength of Lake George," he said.
    Conover said EDC Warren County worked diligently with the Board of Supervisors to advocate for the grant.
    The funding comes from a state grant program for water and sewer system infrastructure improvements, established under the Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017.
    "These investments are critical to supporting the health and safety of our communities, and help lay the foundation for future growth and prosperity in the region," Cuomo said, announcing $44 million in grants to municipalities in the eight-county Capital Region.
    Elsewhere in Warren County, the town of Hague will receive a $98,563 grant toward a $394,250 project.
    -- Badger retires
    Tim Badger, long-time vice president of marketing for Glens Falls National Bank, has retired, ending 45 years of employment with the bank.
    At his retirement reception on Sept. 28, I reminded Tim of a Post-Star report I wrote in 1999 when Glens Falls National was the first bank in the area to offer internet banking.
    We talked about how internet banking has evolved since then.
    Internet banking is not the only technology that has changed.
    Some years ago, Tim chuckled as he told me a story about the time he took marketing photos of the exterior of the bank's buildings on the west side of Glen Street, before the era of digital photography.
    When the film was developed, the reflection of the competing bank on the opposite side of Glen Street, commonly known as the White Bank, could be seen in the windows of Glens Falls National in every shot.
    The late Walter Grishkot, co-founder and long-time organizer of the Adirondack Balloon Festival, often told the story about the time he was leaving the bank and it was raining, and Tim offered him a Glens Falls National Bank umbrella to borrow.
    Walt always ended the story by saying of Tim and his staff, "They are such nice people."
    Enjoy your retirement Tim.
    We'll be watching for you at Adirondack Thunder hockey games.
    -- Bolton development
    The town of Bolton has established a policy that all new street lighting must have downward facing, anti-glare fixtures.
    "People want to see the stars, they want to see the sky," said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover. "That's part of why they are here."
    Bolton's economic development strategy focuses on maintaining the natural character of the town and developing and improving recreational amenities to appeal to tourists and to the town's large segment of residents that own homes in multiple communities.
    In recent years, the town has worked with Bolton Chamber of Commerce, EDC Warren County and the state to refurbish the town's pier on Lake George, build a new visitor's center and restroom facility, and expand the town historical society museum.
    "You're trying to keep what's best about a small community like Bolton," Conover said.
    Conover, who is chairman of Warren County Board of Supervisors, said EDC Warren County does a good job of recognizing the distinctive needs of each community.
    In Bolton's case, the need is to maintain a quality of life that will retrain residents and draw tourists to support retail and hospitality entrepreneurial ventures.
    Adirondack Winery of Lake George opened a tasting room and retail outlet in Bolton Landing in July, on Route 9 across from Tops Market.
    A micro-brewery is in the works, and the owner of The Lodges at Blue Water Manor, opened in 1923, is undertaking a five-year improvement plan.
    The town and the Lake George Land Conservancy collaborated to preserve an open space property overlooking Lake George known as The Pinnacle, and to open the property for hiking.
    Now town officials and the conservancy are negotiating easements over private property for trails to connect The Pinnacle with Cat and Thomas mountains, and to jointly promote hiking and mountain bike opportunities with the towns of Chester and Horicon.
    "It's not the environment here and the economy over here," Conover said. "To me, it's all one in the same."
    -- Manufacturing history
    All signs pointed to "a banner year of trade" in 1916 as Glens Falls area manufacturing plants ramped up operations to reap the "benefit of a new era of prosperity," The Post-Star reported on Jan. 1, 1916.
    The Finch, Pruyn & Co., International Paper Co. and Imperial Wall Paper Co. mills, as well as Portland Cement Co., were operating at full capacity, after a period of diminished production.
    International Paper, for example, had returned to a six-day production schedule after operating an average of 4.5 days per week over the previous eight months, according to The Post-Star report, which can be viewed in the microfilm collection at Crandall Public Library.
    The Clark Textile mill was arranging to increase employment to 100 people, and H & F Bench Co., a lace manufacturer, was planning an expansion of its plant.
    "Local manufacturers declare the prospects are bright for the continuation of the existing conditions and find that 1916 should go down in history as a banner year," The Post-Star reported.
    The Finch, Pruyn & Co. mill, now known as Finch Paper, on Glen Street in Glens Falls, International Paper Co. mill, now known as Essity, across the Hudson River in South Glens Falls, and Portland Cement, now known as Lehigh Northeast Cement, on Warren Street in Glens Falls, continue to operate locally more than a century later.
    EDC Warren County is working with developer Gerard Nudi to recruit tenants for the former lace factory building on Warren Street in Glens Falls, and is working with Queensbury officials to reuse the former Imperial Wall Paper Co. site, most recently known as Ciba-Geigy, off Lower Warren Street in Queensbury.
    Maury Thompson is a former newspaper reporter who retired from The Post-Star after 21 years of covering the region. He keeps his finger on the pulse of economic development, business and quality of life in Warren County by writing a twice-a-month column for EDC Warren County.
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