Note: Electronic Craftsmen’s Blaine Gray joined the board of the Waterloo Region Manufacturing Innovation Network on January 22, 2016.

Waterloo Region Manufacturing Innovation Network logoAs a long-time maker of electrical components in the Waterloo Region, Electronic Craftsmen knows first-hand about building a successful manufacturing company in our great community. We know the hard work it takes as well as the new challenges that manufacturers now face. 

This year, Electronic Craftsmen celebrates 60 years as a manufacturer of custom magnetics. I have had the good fortune of being part of its success for a good portion of that. One of the ways that I want to give back is by lending my voice and experience as a manufacturer to the discussion that’s now taking place about economic development in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.

That’s why I have decided to contribute some of my time and energy as a director on the board of the Waterloo Region Manufacturing Innovation Network.

Strengthening the manufacturing community

The Waterloo Region Manufacturing Innovation Network (MIN) has for more than a decade connected key stakeholder groups within the Waterloo Region manufacturing sector. Its mission is to strengthen the local supply chain and create a more responsive and globally competitive manufacturing community.

I think it’s a mission that is more important than ever.

Last fall, I chaired a subcommittee for the City of Waterloo with the goal of developing a strategy for the manufacturing sector. It was an eye-opening experience into how important small manufacturers are to the local economy, but also how under-served they can be.

Many manufacturers in the region are older businesses, run by the same people who have steered them for decades, trained their workforces and provided stable, well-paying jobs. 

But time marches on and as a region, we must not take for granted what we have built. With economic pressures, rapid advances in technology and demographic shifts, this important foundation of manufacturers is not assured.

Manufacturers often keep their nose to the grindstone and don’t have time to go out and explore new opportunities. Many don’t know what sources of economic development funding are available to support expansion or hiring initiatives, for example; nor do they interact regularly with other manufacturers in the region.

As a manufacturer, I understand the kind of support they need and want to ensure that MIN provides a network to connect them to those opportunities.

A vital resource

Along with MIN Chair Valerie Bradford, Business Development Officer for the City of Kitchener, and the rest of the board of directors, I look forward to helping MIN continue to evolve as a vital resource for manufacturers.

I love being a manufacturer. I firmly believe that it’s in Waterloo Region’s best interest — and indeed Canada’s — to continue making goods and not become a community driven only by the service economy. Manufacturing has been a cornerstone of our Region since its earliest days, and I am proud to lend my voice to ensure it remains strong for decades to come.

If you are a manufacturer in the Waterloo Region, I urge you to explore what MIN has to offer, and to get in touch with any ideas you have for how it can evolve. You can email me directly at bgray@ecraftsmen.com.