Workforce Development – July 13

In the South Central Tennessee area local industries have an acute need for skilled workers. There are a number of programs available to develop workers, but job training is not always aligned with industry’s hiring needs. There is a gap between what students have in skills and what is needed for entry level positions. likewise, the gap extends to the skills of workers already employed In the industry.

Your Manchester Area Chamber of Commerce is busy behind the scenes bringing the right people to the table to address strategies to build a stronger workforce for Coffee County.  We are currently supporting an effort led by County Mayor Gary Cordell to seek new opportunities for high school students and adults, alike, in technical training.
We’re bringing together educators from across our region, local government officials, industry professionals, and business leaders to explore state grant opportunities to provide post-secondary education opportunities right here in Coffee County.  In order to be competitive in industry recruiting, we have to be able to proudly boast that we can provide the workforce needed by prospects.
What we are learning is that there is a definite need, even in existing industries, for more skilled laborers, and we believe we must work to help change the mindset of parents, students, and educators about technical careers.  These are not dirty, second rate jobs; rather, they are highly skilled and high-paying jobs that can be entered into without the burden of astronomical debt and the four-year journey that our traditional idea of post-secondary education provides.  This idea is described fully

We hope to be able to announce a positive result from our work sometime in the next few months.  Stay tuned!

1st Industrial Roundtable Wrap-up – May 2016

On May 12th at 8:00 a.m in the conference room of fischerUSA Stainless Steel, the first official Industrial Roundtable took place.  Plant managers, CEO’s, and Human Resource Managers responded to a call to come together to create an open dialogue and collaborative effort to create a more plentiful, skilled, and stable workforce for industry in Coffee County.  This call to action was a direct result of the knowledge gained and realizations made during the Coffee County 2020 – Positioning for Growth conference where one economic development panelist said the best thing he ever did was establish an Industrial Roundtable.
Why a focus on industry?  Industry creates jobs which means more citizens with purchasing power in our town, fewer unemployed citizens, and all the financial benefits in direct correlation.   A strong and healthy economy requires a vibrant and growing manufacturing sector, and we, at the Manchester Chamber, want to be a proactive part of a stronger business environment in Manchester and across Coffee County.


The Coffee County Industrial Board does a superior job at recruiting great industries. The Joint Industrial Park is a certified site, which means it is shovel-ready and marketable.  You can learn more here:  But the chamber of commerce wants to do our part to make their job easier by allowing them to tout the tremendous workforce available in and around Coffee County.  And while efforts are being made, we want to provide a platform to bring those forces together to assess the needs and address skills gaps where they exist.


Richard Skipper, Director of the Career & Technical Ed program, attended the meeting and pointed out the array of technical skills classes offered at Coffee County High School.  His students will soon have the opportunity to get hands-on training at a manufacturing facility in Coffee County through a paid internship, a program mimicking a similar one in Georgia.  Skipper stated, “This opportunity will give kids a chance to know they can do something they love right here in their hometown and make a good living at it right out of high school….or they could work there for awhile and decide it’s definitely not their forte.”


Margie Lowe shared personal experience drives her motivation in this effort.  “I felt my son was not properly informed or prepared for the opportunities right here in our home town.  We have to do a better job of this if we want our children to stay here and thrive here.”


Also in attendance was Coffee County Mayor Gary Cordell, who expressed his intentions on establishing a plan to build a tech/skills education facility directly aligned with the skills required of our industries.  There is an opportunity to apply for a LEAP (Labor Education Alignment Program) grant to help in that endeavor, but it will require a partnership with a minimum of three counties in our region.


“If we can align multiple counties to come together, learn together, learn from one another, and begin to meet needs, we can find success, Mayor Cordell expressed.  He informed the group that his office just found out about this grant and that the deadline is just around the corner, but they are working diligently to be awarded it.


“Continual learning is important, regardless if it comes in the form of four year degree, tech school, or certified training programs,” Terri Hudson, Executive Director, remarked.  “We’ve got to stop using the phrase, ‘College isn’t for everyone’ because that phrase still denotes that a job in manufacturing is second best…these are highly skilled, high-paying jobs.”


We realized during this roundtable that industry in Manchester is strong, but there are opportunities for collaboration that will only further strengthen their effectiveness.  Attendees agreed to meet on a quarterly basis.  We are excited to be facilitators in this effort toward a strong, vibrant economy in our county.

Industrial Roundtable Kickoff

Your Manchester Area Chamber of Commerce has been planning the formation of an Industrial Roundtable.  Plant managers, VP level, and Engineering managers from industries across the county are invited to participate.
The idea is to provide a platform that brings industry leaders together on a quarterly basis to find out what goes on in each other’s facilities and provides opportunities for sharing of resources.  The chamber will periodically facilitate speakers on topics such as:
  • Why companies choose the areas they choose to locate
  • How to build customer loyalty
  • How to prevent turnover
Additionally, we will connect industries with educators for collaboration on workforce needs.  We will help facilitate industry professionals going into the classroom for presentations as well as student tours of facilities.  Eventually we may facilitate teacher institutes where groups of educators tour facilities to witness the highly skilled, well-paying positions that are available in Coffee County.
The first meeting will take place at fischerUSA on Thursday, May 12th from 8-10:00 a.m.

What An Amazing Lunch – Amy New

What an amazing lunch meeting yesterday! I left feeling proud to be a son of Manchester who, in his infinite wisdom, worked extremely hard to make his way out, simply to find his way back. Yesterday, we honored a local artist, whose beautiful work, some of which highlights our town, is respected and known around the world. We recognized a special local business, a staple in our community on the more historic side of town. And finally, we heard from our guest speaker, Amy New, Assistant Commissioner for Rural Development, who congratulated Manchester on its growth and development efforts thus far. Yup, Nashville is aware we are doing more than making our own codes and regulation guidelines and that we are host to Bonnaroo. Mrs. New focused on data and facts that show a strong, vibrant community is the core of stability and growth and that we must invest in our quality of life before even considering industry recruitment. She also informed us of how our state is making great efforts in regards to research and aligning resources for towns such as ours to accelerate growth and improvement. We will be sitting down with Mrs. New again in the near future to explore more deeply all the opportunities that are available to our community. If you find the time, I encourage you to research more about the state’s rural development efforts.

08dce527-2288-4b81-96cd-7d0d8c2295d9A meeting like yesterday’s is just one example of how our team here at the Manchester Chamber of Commerce is working hard every day to further the interests of your business, to communicate and advance the value and role of business in our society. Sound like the definition of a chamber of commerce in an encyclopedia? Well, it is. I write this to make a specific point. We all have great ideas, grand visions, and agendas. This is why we start a business, are in a particular business field, or join the chamber of commerce, for that matter. The point is, sometimes the next great idea or grand vision exists in the most basic ideology. In this instance, the value and role of business in our society.

Our clients are our employers and their employees; the parents of our children’s teammates, who are “hopefully” our successors. Ultimately, our community’s quality of life begins with you, the businesses. Poor quality of life in any aspect of the cycle means consequences for a particular business field or overall economic strength. Prospects will not want to bring their businesses here, professionals will not want to move here, and our children will not want to stay here if we don’t invest in our own livability.


Thank you to all our members. You are the driving force of our pursuance of stability, growth, and improvement. Thank you to all those who take the time to attend our networking events, seminars, and luncheons. You are the ones who take these new opportunities and knowledge, then share and execute with businesses and community leaders. And thank you for taking the time to read this. All of us at the chamber are doing our absolute best to be a true business resource for you. And as we have already established, you can never stop improving what you do or the service you provide.
Best Regards
The Manchester Area Chamber of Commerce Team
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