The day I learned what manufacturing is really about
by Alec Hrynda
A few months ago, along with five other Oconee County high school students, I was interviewed about what I knew about manufacturing.
While we each answered the questions separately, we mostly had the same kinds of answers – for better or for worse. For example, we all understood that manufacturing was the creation and production of various goods - that was a positive. On the other hand, when they asked us where things are manufactured, we all said China.
Across the board, we all agreed that a good job was defined by making a living wage and being able to live in a safe environment, but we didn’t know that manufacturing could do that for us. What we learned (though admittedly, some of us already knew) is that manufacturing is helping to drive our local economy.
Manufacturing is an ever-evolving industry that is creating opportunities for the people of Oconee County. That is why the ‘Made In Oconee’ campaign is so important. It is helping students like us know there are opportunities right here where we live and to understand deeper the global world we live in.
The Made In Oconee campaign is the Oconee Economic Alliance’s effort to tell the story and further the conversation of the manufacturing sector in Oconee County. Our community has a rich history of manufacturing prowess and a hard work ethic that is not dying, contrary to popular belief, but flourishing in the changing economy and generating new opportunities that ever citizen benefits from. This campaign is designed to celebrate what is made right here - ranging from automotive products to the agribusiness sector, and to enhance the understanding of what makes Oconee County such a vibrant area. It also helps bridge the gap between manufacturing facilities and the school system and to highlight diverse employment opportunities for local students, as well as ensure local manufacturers have access to skilled, local talent.
While most people assume all careers in manufacturing involve a dirty low-paying assembly line, this just isn’t the reality. From finance to graphic design, engineering to human resources, if you can think of a career cluster, you can find it represented in a manufacturing facility in Oconee County.
Did you know we have more than 60 manufacturers in Oconee County? Did you know the annual salary within manufacturing in Oconee County is more than $58,000 a year! These manufacturers employ over 6,000 people which represent nearly 20 percent of our county’s entire workforce. Manufacturing is an exciting, dynamic field with ever-evolving, and well-paying, career opportunities.
So what can students, not to mention everyone else, do to help the Made In Oconee story? Share it, whether on social media or in conversation. Tell others, especially young people, there are job opportunities in exciting industries with great companies like Sandvik, Johnson Controls and Parkway here in Oconee County. These products being made, produced or grown here result in jobs, government revenues, homes being sold, cars being sold and money being circulated in our economy at retail stores. I challenge you to open your eyes to what is manufacturing in Oconee County as mine have been.
Alec Hrynda is a recent graduate of West-Oak High School and is a current student-athlete at Southern Wesleyan University. He has been a part of the Oconee Economic Alliance’s Made In Oconee campaign for the past year.