MY WORD: Leadership Shelby sees a real show of industrial strength

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By Mike Hesketh

Leadership Shelby is an organization sponsoring an annual group of individuals from the county who have demonstrated leadership qualities and a deep commitment to the community and who are likely to assume greater responsibility in the future.

On Nov. 14, the class of 2012-2013 completed a full-day overview of the industry in our county. We toured the operation of four businesses, and reviewed a wealth of data on the trends in population and employment opportunity, as well as the economics behind the numbers.

We offer a special thanks to Libby Adams, executive director of Shelby County Industrial & Development Foundation, who served as Chair for Industry Day, and to Shelbyville Kiwanis Club and to Martinrea Heavy Stamping, who hosted the group for meals, and to the Shelbyville Rotary Club, who sponsored bus transportation.

Our day began with introductions and overviews from Adams and Shelley Goodwin, executive director of Shelby County Chamber of Commerce. Both organizations are instrumental in supporting the growth of business in our community and providing outstanding service to local business addressing the many challenges they may face.

Ron Crouch, director of research and statistics for the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet of Kentucky, shared data on population, employment, and the economic realities we face:

  • There are more than 70 industrial operations in Shelby County, employing 8,500-9,000 people.
  • The number of people in the U.S. age 25 and under will remain the same during the next 50 years, while the number of people age 40 or older will nearly double.
  • Kentucky is seeing population and growth, along with other states in the Southeast, as people seek a more moderate climate and a better work environment.
  • Education and training initiatives support career opportunities in higher paying skilled jobs that improve productivity through technology (to compete worldwide and bring manufacturing back to the U.S.).

We were introduced to an excellent sample of the range of technology, innovation and strong workforce skills in Shelby County. Our visits included:

  • Nifco America Kentucky is a highly automated injection molding operation, which primarily serves automotive clients. Thanks to General Manager Bryan Kelly and his staff for the tour. Their business is strong and their facility is being expanded to support the growth. The operation is state-of-the-art, capable of running every night “lights out” with no staffing required. We were pleased to see how technology-based operations,like Nifco,provide many tool making and technical career positions for our community.
  • Martinrea Heavy Stamping is an impressive, 1 million-square-foot facility, which produces stampings for Ford and several other automotive companies. Thanks to the General Manager Shawn Adelsberger and his staff for the tour. It’s an extremely impressive combination of experience and technology, utilizing robotic welders and transfer systems that speed the process and provide the consistency needed for today’s automobiles. They have been growing rapidly, and now employ over 900 people across three shifts.
  • Roll Forming Corporation is another technology-based company, which produces roll-formed shapes for aerospace, office furniture and various industrial products. Thanks to Bruce McIntosh and Jim Gajdzik for leading our tours. RFC has critical components on the majority of Boeing commercial aircraft. Its workforce is engaged in continuous improvements that have contributed to improved customer satisfaction, improved safety and lower cost, which translate into a bonus pool in which all employees share.
  • Pegasus Industries is an entrepreneurial model for all to envy. Owner Steve Meador runs a very efficient, versatile operation that prides itself on saying “yes” when customers ask for help – even establishing and managing production inside a customer’s facility if needed. Some of the many services provided include assembly, packaging and packing materials, inventory management and warehousing.

Reflecting on the day, we concluded that the industrial base in Shelby County is clearly bigger and broader than we thought. Jobs and real career opportunities for both skilled and unskilled workers are readily available in our industrial community.

Education and training are key to supporting growth of the many technical and skilled jobs – making sure our students graduate high school career and/or college ready. We wish we could see more.

We appreciate the opportunity to learn and share a perspective on the industries in our area, and look forward to supporting the initiatives that will continue to make Shelby County a great career destination.


Mike Hesketh is the owner/president of Superb IPC in Shelbyville.