Editor's Column

I’m always fascinated by how entrepreneurially minded folks find ways to make a living by filling unfilled niches. Way back when automation first started to take hold, and assembly lines started displacing the home-based artisan/manufacturer, people would fill in the gaps. They would screw on the widgets, feed the pieces into the machines and retrieve the finished product at the end of the line. Progress has always been about automating those mundane tasks that don’t take a lot of skill but might take a lot of time.

So, at some point, someone came up with the idea of the vibratory feeder. That is, a contraption that feeds identical parts into a machine without a person having to place each one. The vibrating motion keeps the parts moving and the design orients them in a uniform order so they can be delivered into some other machine, the same way every time.

Designing these machines takes ingenuity and creativity because each one is a custom job, determined by the shape of the widget and how its fed into the assembly process. It comes as no surprise, considering Indiana’s manufacturing legacy, that vibratory feeder fabricators thrive here. In fact, we’re something of an industry epicenter, with dozens located in Central Indiana and several right here in Hamilton County.

Most are small businesses, shops that employ skilled metalworkers, the kind of tradesmen that are becoming rarer these days. These are the kinds of businesses that traditionally provided good jobs for small communities and gave entrepreneurs the opportunity to get started in business. We are delighted to highlight a couple of our own in this edition, and here’s hoping those trades skills remain in demand for many generations to come.

Skills Gap

I got a reminder recently of the dangers of letting trade skills lapse. I was in a meeting with a consultant to the city of Noblesville on the Levinson project, a multi-use proposal for downtown. The consultant said the only way to make these kinds of projects attractive to developers is for the city to become a financial partner. I asked why that is necessary these days when private capital built buildings downtown for years without subsidies.

He said the cost of construction has become so high that they can’t afford to build them without help, and construction costs are a direct result of the skills gap. Tradesmen (and women) are retiring much faster than new workers are getting into the trades and the shortage is driving up wages (which are costs to developers). I know the chambers and schools are working to close that gap and it appears the help can’t come soon enough.

What’s Your Marketing Plan?

It budget season. Here’s my annual reminder that this magazine exists because our advertisers see value in renting space in our pages to market their businesses. We can’t exist without them. We contract with local journalists, designers, printers and salespeople, helping spread the wealth and keeping our dollars local. We try to do our part to promote the local economy. We would appreciate being part of your marketing budget next year. Send me an email and I’d be happy to reply with advertising details.

See you around the county,