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Meet the Manufacturers - (City of Bristol)
Episode 4116th January 2023 • ManufactureCT - Meet the Manufacturers • ManufactureCT
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Join us as we speak with Bristol City Mayor Jeff Caggiano and Justin Malley the Executive Director of Economic and Community Development. Let's find out more about their rich history of manufacturing and how the city supports local manufacturers and creates an environment where they can thrive.


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Now on today's episode, I am delighted to be speaking with Bristol City Mayor, mayor Jeff Cagiano and Justin Mai, the Executive Director of Economic and Community Development. Gentlemen, welcome to Meet the manufacturers.

Thanks for having us. Thanks for having us, Claire.

Oh, it's great to have you here. So let's kick things off then.

I'm not sure who this question is best suited for, but tell me a little bit about the city of Bristol and tell me about some of its history when it comes to manufacturing.

Well, Bristol is a great big small town and we have been a manufacturing town from our inception from as early as the Barnes family who are our original settlers actually.

And we just this year celebrated their hundred 65th anniversary in doing business in Bristol. So they started out making. Lin Hoops and Clock Springs and a vi variety of other springs. That has definitely turned an international business now, and it has continued with many other manufacturers locally, like Arthur G.

Russell, Novo Precision Bauer, precision Express Manufacturing, and I, the list goes on. We were just at Springfield Spring and Bristol is kind of a unique blue collar manufacturing town and that this tradition has continued. And grown and we have areas of expertise that we can talk more about later too, but it's just a, a great draw for other businesses around the world.

And, uh, we supply parts to everything from Bristol.

One of the things that we're proud of is this, the culture here, right? Because of. The history of manufacturing that the mayor just touched on. You have families that have grown up in manufacturing. Your folks, your, your grandparents, your parents. Now folks themselves are coming up through the industry, so we really hold onto that and appreciate it in versus just the culture of manufacturing.

It's fabulous. And some of those names that you are reeling off, you know, are members of Manufacture ct. In fact, they've been on this very podcast. So there really is a rich history in Bristol. So Justin, a question for you then, if I may, as the Director of Economic and Community Development, which is a very long job title by the way, what does the City of Bristol do to support local manufacturing and indeed companies who may wish to relocate or locate themselves within the


I think the first thing that we do is we ask our manufacturers, how can we help? Right? That's the biggest thing is I'm still, the title may be fairly along, but I'm just a government person looking to help. Right. So the biggest thing is we talk with our manufacturers, we meet with them, find their pain points, and then figure out if there's a way for us to help.

Great. If there's not, we get out of the way and we let our manufacturers do what they do best. So we have a suite of different incentive programs that we developed for our manufacturers, both to encourage our manufacturers to, to grow that from an equipment standpoint, from an employment standpoint. But we've even come up with newer programs that help our manufacturers obtain consulting services.

Right. You know, these certifications. We know ISO and. Are so important for our companies to grow, to hire folks to obtain new work. So we help our manufacturers with consulting. So it's an exercise for us first in, not assuming we know what manufacturers are looking for, but actually speaking with them and learning how we can help.

So we've developed that level of trust with manufacturers. They're comfortable speaking with us about their work and what they need, what they don't need, and then we just take it. Are there

any grants available or tax incentives? I know that I, I read something, I've gotta be honest, before we came online that, you know, you guys have some things in place to make life for a manufacturer stationed or located in Bristol a little bit easier.

Tell me a little bit about them.

So we have a couple of different grants and incentives. So one grant is based around manufacturers that are making improvements to their facilities, right? So we have a grant program that can help them in that way. We have a, a separate grant program that can help manufacturers purchase equipment.

We know, especially in manufacturing, a company is really driven by, its. Right. You get that new piece of equipment, for sure. All of a sudden that that opens up new revenue streams. That means you're hiring people. So we have a grant program dedicated to the purchase of new equipment. We have a, I touched on it just now, but we have a, a grant program fairly new.

That Bridges and helps manufacturers work with consulting agencies like Con Step and others to attain certifications to implement lean manufacturing, fire, their plant layout, work on employment issues. So, and then we have de. We are what's called an urban jobs community. Bristol is. So what that means is, is that if a manufacturer in Bristol is growing, they're adding square footage or they're relocating to a new location, or if a manufacturer from outside Bristol is coming into the city, they will qualify through the state of Connecticut for a five year, 80% abatement on their building taxes on the, we call 'em the real property taxes.

Wow. So, yeah, that's a program that frankly, I have to thank the state of con. For offering. What happens is, is the manufacturer saves 80% on their taxes for a period of five years, but the state actually helps the city out on what we're losing that 80%. So it's a nice collaboration between the state and the city.

So all these options are what we have at our disposal, depending on what the manufacturer's looking.

I love the fact that first and foremost, you go to the manufacturers to find out what their needs are. It's kind of a really nice consultative approach to assisting in this industry. So that's fantastic the way you do that.

So tell me a little bit about the role, Justin, if you don't mind. I mean, how does it. Tie in with manufacturing cause it's obviously a larger umbrella. You are the executive director of Economic and Community Development. Sounds like a big wide umbrella to me. How does it connect with, with manufacturing?

Well, f for me, when we're talking about manufacturing, we're talking about the foundation of Bristol's economy. It's really our backbone. We have espn, which is fantastic. We have retail folks. We. All sorts of different types of businesses, but I talked about the culture of manufacturing earlier. It it's a culture.

It's really, when you think about business in Bristol, Oftentimes my mind goes first to manufacturing and then it spreads out from there. So for me, when you talk about how does it permeate our, you know what we do here, it's ingrained with what we do. So most of the time, I don't know a high percentage of the business visits that the mayor and I make and that our projects that we're working on, it's with manufac.

We just had a visit. The mayor mentioned to Springfield Spring. Right. So that's a great company that actually was originated in the Springfield, Massachusetts area, and they found their way though down to Bristol as a second location. They're still up in that area of Massachusetts, but they found their way to Bristol several years ago and they came to Bristol for one thing, for the workforce.

They knew. And all manufacturers know this, that it's their workforce that makes the company's gonna succeed or not. And there's really limited areas in the country that have the spring and stamping talent that Bristol does. So you have to respect that if you're in my position. I do a lot of work around workforce development because I know manufacturing our manufacturing workforce, it's the reason we're here.

I'm here. And I respect that. You're

absolutely right and you know something that you've kind of. Touched on there is workforce, you know, and it is one of the most common things that come up in these podcasts that are holding many companies back across the state of Connecticut is finding well-trained people suitable for the roles that they have available within their businesses up and down the state.

How have you noticed that being an issue or a concern for your companies within.

Yeah, I think there's a great one for me to address because a year into office now, every time we show up at a manufacturing facility, we see a sign outside now hiring. And even though we are a good epicenter for a good workforce, as Justin has talked about, we know we need to keep growing that.

So recently the federal government gave American rescue. Dollars to cities and towns to spend, and I'm very proud that in Bristol we have a very unique and innovative program that we call Bristol Works, where we've taken 2.4 million of ARPA funding and are building a training development site for Underemployed or Floyd people.

it will focus on a couple other things outside of manufacturing, but the heart of it is also in the manufacturing field. We'll train people in IT healthcare, early childhood education that you know, the jobs that we know are needed in the area. And I, I think the manufacturers love the idea. We're gonna be partnering with Tunxis Community College and other state entities like c a and Capital Workforce Partners and Ready CT to make sure that we produce those job applicants that are, are ready to go, just post high school.

And it's a great career path for many people.

What a fabulous asset to your city. That's fabulous. Leads me on nicely to, another question I have is how do we make manufacturing a desirable career for youngsters at high school or people returning to the workforce? You know, are there any schools or trade colleges that you know you wanna shout about and say, this is fantastic, you know, who are breaking down barriers and myths about manufacturing and the career opportunities that the industry can


It's interesting. That's really the first step, right, is you have to capture the imagination of young folks, but it's also about older folks who are in the workforce. Now, the mayor's so correct in that when we visit manufacturers, they need help and they need, they recognize that they need help. They wanna groom younger folks for the future, but often they need help today, right?

The work is there today. So you have to kind of break down the, the marketing of manufacturing as a career to both those who are in the workforce. Now, maybe they're in. They're not in a stable position. We know that retail can be tough these days, so you have to grab a hold of that. I always use the analogy of the single mother, maybe she's a cashier, she's got two young kids at home.

Grab that person and train them up. But then also start to get, I talk about culture again. Start to get back into the high schools, the middle schools, and their parents of those kids, and start to again, create this culture around that. Manufacturing's a great career, good pay. In many cases, flexible hours, weekends off.

I personally think that some of that can and should be done by some of the younger folks that are in manufacturing now. We always meet, there's always a handful, one or two or maybe more young folks working in our manufacturing environment and they're from the neighborhood. I always say those young folks need to be the communicators back to their neighborhood to talk with the other.

That's, that's who young folks wanna hear from, not some. You know, older person like me, they wanna hear from the young person. They may know from the neighborhood who's doing well. So, That's the biggest challenge. I think with this effort. There are so many programs just to hit on your question, that are doing good things.

Of course, I'm partial to the, what the mayor had talked about. Bristol works. We're just getting off the ground. There's a lot of great programs. TSUs is doing amazing things. Just down the street, they're gonna be launching some great stuff. So the programs are there. It's about now it's about filling the.

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Claire, if I could add just one other, maybe anecdote, personal anecdote as well too. This podcast is being listened to by adults and Justin is so right.

We need to get to the children earlier. We need to get into our middle schools. But as a father of three, I grew up by raised my kids saying, you need to go to college. You need to go to college. You need to go to college. And first two were right on track for that. They loved school. They were moving along and the.

Wasn't quite on that track, and luckily we were a student enough to notice that he was struggling in that aspect and that that wasn't the right thing for him. So as a great personal story, my youngest of three who just turned 23, is working in the manufacturing industry, is gone and getting his manufacturing certificate at a trade program much like Bristol Works and bought a home here in.

And the other two are, you know, doing very well in their other fields, but they're, they're not in Bristol any longer. So that's a pretty good testament to that. At least a third of our kids should be thinking about the opportunities here in Bristol to make a good career to come out and go into a clean manufacturing space.

So a year into this job, I think we visited 22 or 23 manufacturers this year, and I was very pleasantly surprised to see how. Open, clean, technology driven, and my youngest son is all about that. He's things, sees things spatially and is just very astute with that. And quite honestly, in many ways, the smartest of the three using great skills to do great things.

That's a fabulous story to share and you're absolutely right. One in three would would be fabulous for the manufacturing workforce of Connecticut. We're gonna need to have some more children. Mayor.

Yeah. The parents are the ones that influenced the children. And the whole point of my story was that I was uneducated about the fact.

There are other alternatives because when your kids are in school, and no offense to our great school systems, they say, you gotta go to college, you gotta go to college. And that's all they're hearing. I, I think we gotta get that other story in the schools, but also in the parents' minds.

Yeah, absolutely.

It's definitely something that is more prevalent in my neck of the woods in Europe. You know, a number of options for young people who don't wish to go down an academic route. Not just that, perhaps it's not their skillset, but they actually choose a more vocation. You know, career moving forward and it's actually, it's not looked down upon.

It's often far more comprehensive than anything that you do in an academic study. So I like that. I like that a lot. It leads me on quite nicely to my next question. What is the biggest myth, I guess, that you would like to debunk about the manufacturing

industry? Again, I think the mayor touched on some of these myths.

The mayor mentioned how clean some of these facilities are, right? So just the fact that we're mentioning that means that there's probably a myth out there that they're not clean, right, or that they're dangerous, or the work is monotonous, or that there. Not as many. Again, mayor touched on it with his son.

There's not as many financial rewards in manufacturing as there may be in other careers in Bristol. That's not the case in Bristol. Financially. You can come outta high school. Well, you can go right into working with a manufacturer for sure. Or like we talked about earlier, there's training that's available, but if you have some mechanical aptitude, And just a desire to work good habits, stringing together full work weeks and sort of leaving your phone on the side when it's time.

Their sky is the limit in Bristol and, and around, obviously in the state of Connecticut on how far you can grow within a manufacturing company. That's what we hear, right? We hear from manufacturers that they're. Looking for workers. But we also hear about success stories about kids out of high school who are just good people wanna grow with the company, and truly the sky's the limit.

And it doesn't take four years, let's put it that way, to move up to a point where you're earning, you know, six figures and you can buy that house and support that family. So probably the biggest myth is the fact that there aren't as many. Opportunities with manufacturing as there are out in, you know, degreed professions.

We will say it's just not the case and it's gonna happen a lot quicker, in most cases, through manufacturing than it will through other professions.

I think that's a great myth to debunk. I really do. And that's one that actually I don't think I've, I've heard so eloquently put before, you know, and I think that could be a real driver for many young people if they happen to get their hands on this podcast.

You heard it here first, just in Mai told you so Jen's last couple of questions for you. If I may. I want you to get your crystal balls. Both of you, and give me your predictions, I guess, for the future of manufacturing, not just in the city of Bristol. You know, we've just gone through a Covid Pandemic, a worldwide Global pandemic, and.

We've got a lot of reassuring efforts happening right now. You know, we've got chip shortages all over the world. There's a lot more focus on where we buy things from, where we make things, and people who supply other suppliers of those parts. Where do those parts come from? Because supply chains become such a big issue.

So using your crystal balls, I'd like you to give me your prediction, I guess, for the future of manufacturing over the next sort of five to.

Well, I'll do my best. Like I said, I'm still just the government guy, and I do look to manufacturing for details like this, but my guess is what we're seeing is, and this won't come as a surprise, but technology is not going to stop, right?

And that's good for our economy. The analogy that I can talk about is, and this is just very applicable to Bristol, we go into local shops, spring and stamping shops, and you see two kinds of. Right. You see the, the brown and Sharps and the Bridgeport machines and some of the more, the older equipment that requires different types of setup, different types of tool making, and then right next to it, you see some of the computer controlled machines that that setup is done.

Through the interface, the computer interface. So, and that machine can run all night in an easy way. So the machinery and the technology's going to continue. And obviously folks within the industry are gonna have to adapt to using that. But then importantly, younger folks getting in, I think that, I know that younger folks are more comfortable with technology, they're not comfortable with tech, you know?

The older machinery. So that's just going to continue. I think that's okay. I think that helps attract the younger workforce. And again, it goes back to those myths. This isn't about cchu, CCHU manufacturing and black smoke and grease everywhere. It's pretty slick. As far as the work goes. We hear from our manufacturers, the work is not the issue.

Work is coming back from overseas. I think what the industry is recognizing. That again, quality, adaptability, flexibility for manufacturers, being able to turn on a dime, fill orders. You don't get that overseas. The quality of the work itself, you don't get overseas. For sure. The industry is gonna catch up and I think it already has.

So I think the work will be there. Again, it's just, I think this effort around the workforce, making sure that we have folks to complete the work is really the next frontier. I think the industry will figure out everything.

Did talk about it in a global fashion that that makes total sense. The reliance on US manufacturers obviously was highlighted post covid.

So I'm in, I came from the medical side of things before this be before my career as mayor here now, and we. Learned through Covid in particular, even just with antibiotics, things of that sort that we need to bring things back to made in the usa so that won't slow down. And here in Bristol, just the experience that I've seen over the last year is that we had certain sectors of our local manufacturers.

That supplied springs and other parts for medical equipment, things of that sort that didn't slow down at all. Our aerospace suppliers actually picked up business. But the only difference I think moving forward is that, as Justin said, manufacturers are gonna have to be very nimble and. Able to switch on a dime to make sure that they stay in tune with a global economy.

But I, I think the future is bright for manufacturing across the entire country. But I can speak very positively about Bristol in particular because we've had this base for so long and our manufacturers are very adept at changing. Yeah. We started out with barns up front. They're not making hoop skirts anymore, but they are very adept at making sure that they're supply.

Parts for other large aerospace and the sub-base contractors for ship building and, and submarine.

The future is young people and technology them. In a nutshell,

the, the one little piece I'll add on the flexibility and the adaptability is our manufacturers, the ownerships have to be forward thinking and they are forward thinking as well and having an eye on the, the industry and the technology out there in the.

And adapting themselves to that, right? We have electronic vehicles, right? Our electric vehicles that are, I mean, you can't deny that they're beginning to really become pretty soon, probably the highest percentage of vehicles on the roadways. So our manufacturers need to recognize that, sort of adapt themselves to that industry.

We have a ton of manufacturers that are in the automotive components industry, so that's just like one very sort of easy, accessible example of. Our manufacturers being forward thinking in that way as well.

You're not wrong. I think that the future of manufacturing in Connecticut is indeed bright and especially right there in Bristol, Connecticut.

I think you've got some fabulous programs and you've got a real focus on the industry that is important to so many residents of Bristol. So many residents. So guys, thank you so much for being a part of Meet the Manufacturers today. Now, if people are listening to this and they wanna continue the conversation or they wanna reach out to you and find out more about the grants or the programs that you've been talking about, how do they get in touch

with you?

The best way would be to call me, so I am in the Office of Economic and Community Development, Justin Malley. Our direct number, well, our number to the office is 8 6 0 5 8 4 6 1 8 5. That's probably the best way to start a conversation. We'll take it from how the city can help you. If we cannot help, we'll find someone who can and we'll just take it.


Are you on LinkedIn as well, Justin? I

am. I don't update my page very much, but I'm told I'm on LinkedIn. I'm not a technology guy, , but uh, should be there.

I am very much a technology guy. I am on LinkedIn, I am on Twitter, I am on in. Instagram, I am on Facebook so I can always funnel people through to Justin and we work hand in hand.

Justin is, I've been doing this for a long time and it's one of the best economic and community development within the entire state, so we're, we're ready, willing, and able to work. Anyway, that works for those out there.

Fabulous Gentlemen, thank you so much and thank you for being a part of Meat The Manufacturers.

If you are interested in any of that, get in touch with the boys at Bristol. Thank you for taking the time to listen to this episode of Meet the Manufacturers brought to you by Manufacture ct. If you would like to find out more about manufacture ct. Or you would like to join the organization, visit the website, manufacture

This podcast is sponsored by Cone Resnick Advisory Assurance Tax. Visit their website, cone If you have enjoyed listening to this episode and want to find out more about the vibrant and thriving manufacturing community in Connecticut, subscribe to and share this podcast. Meet the Manufacturers is available on all podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, and Spotify.

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