A Letter from the Director
Rural Manufacturing in Louisiana
Manufacturing investment and wages are one of the top tier components of the Louisiana economy, especially in our rural communities. Per data provided by the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service ( https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/county-typology-codes/descriptions-and-maps.aspx#manufacturing), 8 of the 64 parishes are classified as manufacturing-dependent. Three of these parishes are rural parishes and five are considered to be located in metro areas. While the limited number of manufacturing-dependent parishes denote a solid economic diversification metric, the low concentration of manufacturing in areas of our state can lead to a limited understanding of the economic impact and employment benefits derived from manufacturing. I have experienced this first hand in Natchitoches Parish where I have lived and worked with manufacturing for 30 years. Natchitoches Parish is one of the eight manufacturing-dependent parishes and there remains a limited awareness of the existing manufacturers, available roles, the needed skill sets to excel in these roles and salary opportunities.

A blog written by NIST-MEP posted on the MEP of Louisiana blog ( http://mepol.org/blog/geography-manufacturing-case-mep-rural-manufacturers) highlighted a recent analysis of MEP Center’s rural manufacturing clients. While median earnings for manufacturing are generally the top or second largest in rural parishes, the results from this analysis concluded multiple challenges, including employee recruitment. As the MEP of Louisiana team meets with manufacturers throughout Louisiana and conducts current state assessments, employee recruitment and available skilled resources are a top need for most manufacturers. 

I am pleased to see the response from our business and community leaders and community colleges in Louisiana responding to this limited skill talent need and bringing awareness to the manufacturing that exists in our local communities. K-12 students are getting solid engagement, exposure, and tours of manufacturing operations and roles through Manufacturing Day (a yearly event held the first week of October) in Natchitoches Parish, with the work of Northwest and Central Louisiana Manufacturing Managers Councils, coupled with the North Louisiana Economic Partnership, the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, the Rapides Foundation and many manufacturers in the state.

Public and private investment as a result of Advancing Centers of Technology (ACT) 360 ( http://act360.csrsonline.com/) in our local community colleges has provided up-to-date classroom facilities throughout the state. Governor John Bel Edwards proclaimed February as Rural Outreach Assistance Month for small businesses, including manufacturers, in Louisiana ( https://www.lsbdc.org/blog/?p=2873). In addition, Governor John Bel Edwards and Dr. Monty Sullivan, President of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, announced providing $500 - $1,000 scholarships to graduating Future Farmer of America high school students that enroll in a Louisiana community college ( http://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/newsroom/detail/1154). A $4 million investment by Rapides Foundation and Central Louisiana Technical Community College (CLTCC) is focused on expanding manufacturing training ( http://www.kalb.com/content/news/CLTCC-gets-4-million-to-build-education-center-462134923.html).

In addition, manufacturers, educators, community leaders and economic developers in Central and Northwest Louisiana pulled together to address these limited skill resources in the area. Using benchmarking techniques developed by the Toyota skilled maintenance programs in Kentucky and Texas, this group of manufacturing, community and education leaders developed the Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program highlighted in the MEP blog found at this link ( http://mepol.org/article/louisiana-advanced-manufacturing-federation-advanced-manufacturing-education). It takes all of these partnerships focused on the workforce and economic development needs of our manufacturers to develop a strategy and vision to positively impact our businesses and state. With this focus, rural manufacturing training needs will be addressed!

To learn more about the MEP of Louisiana, please visit http://mepol.org. If you have a need and would like to visit with our MEP of Louisiana team, please connect here or call us at 337-482-6767.

Mike Wolff, Director
Partner Spotlight
National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)

Since 1988, the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) has worked to strengthen U.S. manufacturing. MEP is part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a U.S. Department of Commerce agency. Through its collaborations at the federal, state and local level, MEP centers in every state work with manufacturers to develop new products and customers, expand and diversify markets, adopt new technologies, and enhance value within supply chains.

As a public-private partnership, MEP delivers a high return on investment to taxpayers. For every one dollar of federal investment, the MEP national network generates $17.9 in new sales growth for manufacturers and $27.0 in new client investment. This translates into $2.3 billion in new sales annually. And, for every $1,501 of federal investment, MEP creates or retains one manufacturing job.
To learn more about NIST MEP or the MEP National Network, visit https://www.nist.gov/mep.
Education Connection
On December 7, 2017, Ali Ahmad, the MEP of Louisiana, and Crystal Chiasson, Fletcher Community College (Workforce Development Manufacturing programs include machining and process technology) visited with Machine Tech, Inc., located in Houma, Louisiana to discuss opportunities for collaboration.

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership of Louisiana (MEP of Louisiana) is part of a national network of more than 1,500 experts. It is a public/private partnership funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) that works with small and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers to create and retain jobs, increase profits, save time and money, develop new customers, and expand into new markets. Working with the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS), the MEP of Louisiana partners with public 2-year institutions to create relevant, timely programs and services that address their specific industry needs. The MEP of Louisiana employs several tools to help manufacturers grow and compete to include lean implementation, Six Sigma, ISO implementation, product design, facility layout, value stream mapping, and business/strategic planning.   
February 2018: Face of Manufacturing
“I’ve really grown with the company. I’ve learned other trades in the manufacturing process in each unique role.”

For a person who broke into the career field of manufacturing “on accident”, Steven LaRochelle fell in love with the industry from the start and has worked his way up to Floor Supervisor in a matter of 10 years with Pod Pack International.

Even though Steven LaRochelle loves to joke around with the other employees at Pod Pack International, he hasn’t let the serious business of job advancement be a laughing matter. In just 10 short years, LaRochelle has gone from an operator to a mechanic, moved into Quality Control and is now the Floor Supervisor for the single-serve coffee company. His position as a Floor Supervisor combines all of his previous work experience with the company in making sure that the operators are aware of which lines they are working on and what products will be running on the lines for the day. LaRochelle also assists the maintenance department working and repairing packaging lines. Over the years he has also learned how to mill parts on the milling machine at Pod Pack. Using this skill, he is capable of creating his own parts on the production line, from initial design to workable piece. 

“I’m a quick learner”, says LaRochelle. “I moved up quickly to different positions by learning new skills easily. I’ve always liked working with my hands. As a child, I took toys apart and put them back together. This job has been a great way to see how things work.”

After going through a temp agency for a job, LaRochelle was placed at Pod Pack International in 2007 where he “immediately fell in love with the work [he] was doing”. He learned other trades in the manufacturing process which gave him the opportunity for advancement within the company. It wasn’t long before LaRochelle was put on a team who traveled to Italy to certify their new packaging lines. Innovation being an important part of the Pod Pack culture, LaRochelle has embraced each new role and has kept a smile on his face while doing so. If you visit the facility, just make sure this jokester doesn’t throw a pod your way!
­­­­­­­­­Established in 1996 and located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Pod Pack International is a co-packer for single serve coffee and tea products in the coffee and tea industry. Products include espresso pods, Cups, Cold Brew One® pods, quick serve restaurant pods, OCS coffee and tea pods, hotel in-room pods, and the super pods. The owners of the company saw an emerging coffee trend in Europe using single-serve espresso pods for the food service industry, and recognized an upcoming need in the United States market. Pod Pack remains a family owned business, and maintains a family culture to provide the best possible service to their customers.
To nominate the next Face of Manufacturing, click the button, fill out the form and return to kayla.gentry@mepol.org !
What's Happening in the MEP National Network?
NIST Release of Draft Special Publication 800-171A, Assessing Security Requirements for Controlled Unclassified Information

This publication is intended to help organizations develop assessment plans and conduct efficient, effective, and cost-effective assessments of the security requirements in NIST Special Publication 800-171, Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information is Nonfederal Systems and Organizations.

Learn more about the  MEP National Network  and  read the announcement  here