Monroe County initiatives provide job training to meet industry needs

EG Industries is among the area companies looking to increase awareness of the opportunities available in the plastic-injection molding industry.

The Ohio-based company expanded its operations in Rochester by purchasing the former ValTech Holdings three years ago, and it employs about 275 people at three sites, explained Scott Taylor, continuous improvement manager. Emerson Street is the company’s central location, but it also operates a warehouse on Buffalo Road and a tool and mold-making factory on Pixley Road, both in Gates.

The company produces devices for large pharmaceutical and medical companies, Taylor said. Although he doesn’t have specific numbers, he added that the company has a large Spanish-speaking population among its workers. The company plans to offer English-language training to these employees and those from other countries, he said.

To expand its training opportunities for its current as well as potential employees, EG Industries reached out last year to Imagine Monroe — formerly known as the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency (COMIDA).

“Just like in precision machining, there are not enough people,” Taylor said of skilled-trades employees.

The company met with staff from Imagine Monroe and Monroe Community College to identify and provide training for potential skilled-trades employees, he said. MCC will provide that hands-on, onsite training through Imagine Monroe’s new “LadderzUP” initiative, Taylor added.

“That’s fantastic,” he said of the Imagine Monroe program.

In order to offer new programs and attract companies like EG Industries, the county rebranded COMIDA as Imagine Monroe in May of last year, said Jeff Adair, Imagine Monore director. The name change helps attract companies by asking them to “Imagine Monroe” for recreation and education, as well as workforce development, he said. The office also will continue to offer tax incentives to attract new companies and assist existing companies with expanding their businesses.

In 2017, Imagine Monroe approved 107 projects — including new businesses, company expansions and obtaining new contracts — which created 1,042 jobs, retained 3,099 jobs and attracted a total of $1.3 billion in private investment in Monroe County, according to information from county officials.

One of Imagine Monroe’s initial offerings was the LadderzUP program, whose goal is to recruit, train and quickly place workers in the region’s most in-demand careers, according to Adair said that the program, which is funded by a $355,000 county grant, provides an answer to the question COMIDA officials often would hear from businesses unfamiliar with the area: What is your workforce like?

LadderzUP acts as a conduit through which business can hire new, skilled employees, Adair said. While the companies taking part in the program focus on their core businesses, the county and MCC provide job training for potential employees. At the end of the training, companies provide jobs for the trainees, he said.

About 90 people were trained by and employed through LadderzUp in 2017, Adair noted.

“Imagine Monroe … is more than just about getting businesses to move here from the outside,” Taylor remarked. “What I really like about LadderzUP, you’re ‘upskilling’ people already here.”

In addition to providing the LadderzUP program to individual companies, Imagine Monroe also has served as a bridge to connect like-minded businesses and create a training program to meet their workforce needs, he said.

For example, Taylor said the county facilitated meetings between EG Industries and other local companies in the plastic injection molding industry. During the meetings, the companies discussed how to overcome the challenge of finding and retaining employees who have entry-level skills in setup, tooling and maintenance.

The goal for this consortium is to develop a plastic injection molding training program similar to the precision machining programs offered at MCC’s Applied Technologies Center in Henrietta, he added, which the college operates in collaboration with the Rochester Technology & Manufacturing Association. The injection molding industry needs to raise awareness about its workforce needs and stable employment opportunities it offers, Taylor said.

In addition to EG Industries, several other companies also have turned to Imagine Monroe when looking to expand operations in the county.

One of those companies is Transcat. Founded in 1964 as Transnational, the company manufactured instruments and test equipment until the late 1990s when it became Transcat and focused on product distribution, said Mike Tschiderer, Transcat’s chief financial officer.

Business has been booming for the last several years, and the company had to decide whether to expand in Rochester or at one of its 21 other sites located in other areas of the country and Canada, Tschiderer said. Transcat employs more than 600 people, including 150 in Rochester, which also serves as company headquarters, he added.

Working with its building landlord — Galina Development — and Imagine Monroe, the company decided to add 12,000 feet to its 37,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center in Gates that will result in 30 new jobs. The expansion will be made possible through a property tax abatement and sales exemption programs provided through Imagine Monroe. The reduction in taxes is for a set period and will provide needed capital for the expansion and equipment purchases, Tschiderer said.

“Moving would have been hard,” he said. “But other municipalities are pretty aggressive in trying to get businesses into their locations. … The extra (Imagine Monroe) incentives helped us make that decision (to stay.)”

The company also is considering using Imagine Monroe’s LadderzUP program in the future, he said.

“We have a good workforce here,” Tschiderer said of his company’s employees. “We have a good history here (in Rochester.) Being able to grow our workforce here is something we wanted to do.

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