Manufacturers building excitement in BG students

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Decades ago, parents warned their children to get college degrees so they could avoid the dirty, repetitive work of manufacturing. That is no longer the case. “Our grandparents said, ‘Get your degree. Don’t go into manufacturing,’” said Lisa Wojtkowiak, senior talent learning and development manager at Betco. But on Friday, Wojtkowiak and other Bowling Green manufacturers were telling students just the opposite. “We make bubbles,” she said. “It’s not the old steel mills of the 1950s.” Bowling Green Middle School students got a glimpse of modern manufacturing Friday during the annual manufacturing day. The event included representatives from Vehtek, Rosenboom, Lubrizol, Betco, Regal, GKN, Phoenix and Penta Career Center. The students got to do learn about robots, virtual reality, heart dissections, density of liquids, helicopter designs and cleaning products. “This is to show our students what modern manufacturing looks like,” said Jodi Anderson, secondary curriculum coordinator for Bowling Green City Schools. “We want to spark their interest in manufacturing as a career option.” Today’s manufacturing uses robotics not back-breaking labor. “They may have had a grandparent who had a different experience with manufacturing,” Anderson said. The annual manufacturing day at Bowling Green City Schools was introduced a couple years ago, when local plants started having trouble finding skilled workers. “Manufacturers are in need of qualified workers,” Anderson said. The event allows local manufacturers to introduce themselves to students before they’ve already chosen a career path. “I think it’s important for manufacturers to introduce themselves to younger populations,” Wojtkowiak said. “The sooner we’re in their schools, the better.” College is no longer the only path to good-paying jobs, said Carol Espen, senior human resources manager with Regal. “I hope that they recognize manufacturing is an exciting industry” for jobs in areas such as engineering and finance, Espen said. At the Regal display, students were making modifications to paper helicopter designs, then testing them to see which stayed airborne longer. At the Lubrizol display, students learned about different liquid densities, by dropping items such as eggs, ping pong balls, bolts and dice into tap water and salt water. “We’re hoping they leave with a little bit of excitement about STEM,” science, technology, engineering and math, said Lubrizol plant manager Matt Paquette. Nearby at the Rosenboom display, students were putting together hydraulic cylinders. “They are learning how raw materials are turned into finished products,” said Sherry Hintz, head of Rosenboom human resources.”They are learning how to go into a real work environment.” That hands-on work struck a chord with seventh grader Bradley Palmer, who said he was interested in building hydraulics. “This is showing people about engineering in Bowling Green,” Palmer said. Another seventh grader, Lydia Mullins, was eyeing the robotics. “We’re learning about a different career instead of going to college,” Mullins said. “I love a lot of the tech things and being able to code the robots.”

One manufacturer expanding, another one moving to BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials approved the sale of acreage to one local industry looking to expand and to another looking to move here from Cincinnati. The Board of Public Utilities on Monday evening voted to support the transfer of 1.56 acres to Vehtek, located on the east side of the city in the Woodbridge Industrial Park. “They have a large amount of racking to store items in the parking lot,” said Brian O’Connell, director of the city’s public utilities. “This is going to be a big help to solve a parking problem.” Vehtek, with approximately 700 employees, is one of Bowling Green’s largest employers. The company has plans to add another 50 employees. The company wants to buy two parcels west of the plant. Several employees already have to park in the grass during their shifts. “They definitely have a need for additional parking,” O’Connell said. The fire chief has had continuing concerns about employee and plant safety. Plans call for an improved right-of-way on East Poe Road, with the addition of a culvert crossing over the Poe Road ditch, along with widening a portion of Poe Road. These improvements will allow better truck access into and out of the facility. For the right-of-way widening, Sue Clark, director of Bowling Green’s economic development office, has been working with the state to secure Ohio Department of Transportation funds for 75 percent of the improvements. Normally the city would fund the other 25 percent of the project, O’Connell said. However, the city is proposing that Vehtek pay $60,000 to the city for a strip of city property adjacent to the company’s northern property line. This will improve Vehtek’s ability to expand its site and make parking/storage improvements. “That parcel really has little value to anyone else besides Vehtek,” O’Connell said. On the southeast corner of the city, three acres will be sold to a new company moving from Cincinnati to the John Quinn Innovative Tech Park off Napoleon Road. The property will be sold for $26,000 per acre. According to Clark, the company plans to build an 18,000-square-foot manufacturing building. It currently has 10 employees, and plans on hiring 10 more by 2022. Also at Monday’s meeting, the public utilities board approved a solar project easement and lease agreement with the Wood County Commissioners and Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The city has been looking for more property for another solar array – this one for a community solar project. City officials are interested in the 70 acres sitting at the northeast corner of East Gypsy Lane Road and Interstate 75. The county commissioners office owns 50, and Wood Lane owns 20 acres. The board approved a land lease agreement for a solar development on the county property. The agreement is for a three-year lease option and does not commit the city to taking any action or spending any funds. O’Connell explained that having the property under a lease option would allow the city to have more detailed discussions with solar developers. The county currently leases the land for farming, and does not want to lose the revenue. So the solar agreement provides the county with a $300 per acre annual payment. “The county is agreeable to this three-year option lease,” O’Connell said.