A brand-new signature business event has been announced this week by KPC Media Group, Inc., publisher of Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly, to bring together the leaders in manufacturing in Northeast Indiana, and to recognize outstanding and historic companies in the sector.

KPC, along with co-sponsor the Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana, will host Sept. 21 the “Salute to Industry” Manufacturers’ Breakfast at the Mirro Center in Fort Wayne. Nine awards will be presented to top manufacturers operating in the 12 counties that comprise the Northeast Indiana/Fort Wayne, Indiana MSA. Historic manufacturers in business for 25, 50, 75 and 100 years will also be honored, according to Lou Phelps, CEO of KPC Media Group, Inc.

“Manufacturers in Indiana account for 27.84% of the total output in the state, employing 17.24% of Indiana’s workforce. In the 12 counties of Northeast Indiana, manufacturing represents 29% of all jobs, based on latest data available before the COVID-19 crisis, Phelps explained. “Assisted by area manufacturing leaders, we will bring together top plant managers, vendors, political leaders and the public for a networking event to discuss issues of importance to this critical segment of our employment base,” Phelps said.

The Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly is celebrating the completion of its 15th year of publication, as one of only two weekly business newspapers in Indiana. “Over the years, we’ve chronicled the changes and amazing growth of industry in our region. In June and July, through special publications surrounding the event, live-streaming our speakers and awards, and through our newspaper and website, www.FWBusiness.com, KPC Media will continue to spread the word about the amazing companies and workforce that Northeast Indiana offers as a place to live and do business,” Phelps said.

“The Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana is both proud and happy to support this first Northeast Indiana Regional Manufacturers’ event,” said Bill Konyha, president and CEO of the organization. “Manufacturing is what we do. Innovation and technology have altered manufacturing and this 21st-century version has become a significantly different career path for Hoosiers. The career path today requires technical skills and it rewards them with income that closely resembles incomes that used to only be realized by college graduates. This event will recognize the leading companies in our area.”

“It is important for our manufacturing community to meet in such a venue. The work that they do, the revenues that they produce, the per capita income that they provide, the talent that they develop, attract, and retain are critical to the economic health of our area,” he added.

Awards will be presented in nine categories, voted on by the readers of the newspaper, the public, and employees of various companies, in some categories. The awards will be:

• Northeast Indiana Manufacturer of the Year

• Northeast Indiana-Owned Manufacturer of the Year

• Northeast Indiana Internationally-Owned Manufacturer of the Year

• Northeast Indiana “Green” Manufacturer of the Year

• Northeast Indiana Plant Manager of the Year

• Northeast Indiana Workplace Diversity Award in Manufacturing

• Northeast Indiana “Best Place to Work” in Manufacturing

• Corporate Citizen of the Year — Manufacturing Sector

• Northeast Indiana Manufacturing Safety Award (Congressional District IN-3rd)

Voting in all categories opens May 22 and closes Aug. 14. See www.FWBusiness.com for the link to online voting. Semifinalists in all categories will be announced Aug. 17, with the winners announced at the event Sept. 21. A major keynote speaker will be announced at a later date. Konyha will update attendees on the latest legislation in the state that will potentially affect manufacturers in Northeast Indiana, including efforts to expand Route 30.

Manufacturing facts

Total Indiana output from manufacturing was $102.09 billion in 2018, the most recent data available, an increase of 29% from 2008. In addition, there were an average of 542,000 manufacturing employees in the state in 2018, with an average annual compensation of $77,234.69 in 2017.

By product area, leading the way were chemical products, motor vehicles and parts, primary metals, fabricated metal products, food, beverage and tobacco products, and machinery.

Manufacturers help to drive Indiana’s economy, with $38.14 billion in manufactured goods exported in 2018, of which 46.95% of the products manufactured here headed to Canada, followed by 32.83% going to Mexico. This helps create jobs in the state, with 24.7% of manufacturing employment stemming from exports. “And, small businesses comprised 85% percent of all exporters in Indiana, in the most recent data available,” Phelps said. “All across our region, there are a number of smaller firms that produce great products, and employ our residents.” Exports add to the logistics employment numbers, as well, including trucking, rail and the warehousing sector.

Northeast Indiana’s largest manufacturing employers include Zimmer Biomet orthopedic supplier with 4,370 employees; General Motors Fort Wayne Assembly with 3,900; Steel Dynamics, Inc. scrap metal processor and steel manufacturer with 2,822; LSC Communications book and other specialized printing company with 1,935; BFGoodrich Tires 1,640; and Thor Industries, Inc. recreational vehicles and travel trailers manufacturer with 1,467, to name a few, according to recent information published by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.

“We think the event is a great idea,” said John Sampson, CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, part of the critical leadership that markets Northeast Indiana worldwide, and provides support to existing companies.

“Indiana is a national leader in the concentration of wages and employees in manufacturing, with 7 of the 11 counties in Northeast Indiana in the top 3% or 4% of all counties in the U.S. with a strong manufacturing base. The depths of knowledge, expertise and logistics are well known. We’ve got it all,” said Sampson.

“People sometimes overlook the importance of manufacturing in Northeast Indiana to the state, and the country. It’s just amazing of the level of international investment in our region around our expertise, our work ethic, the innovation and creativity that has come out of manufacturing here. We haven’t survived this long in our area without the creativity,” he added.

Information on sponsorships, advertising and ticket sales for the “Salute to Industry” Manufacturers’ Breakfast and special “Salute to Industry” editorial products to be published in June and July to highlight area manufacturing companies can be found at www.FWBusiness.com.

KPC Media Group, with offices in Fort Wayne, Columbia City, Kendallville, Auburn and Angola, is the publisher of three daily and 10 weekly newspapers in the region, as well as numerous daily news websites and social media platforms.

The Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana represents private-sector business in the 12 counties of Northeast Indiana.

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