Cumpata: Being prepared to accept change

Published: Sunday, March 10, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

I celebrated my birthday. It was one of those special number birthdays like 21, 30, 40 and, oh, then 50!

My family celebrated my birthday with dinner at a local restaurant and before the food arrived my 11-year-old nephew played some game on his iPad Mini. When finished, we went to my sister’s for dessert and all over the kitchen were old photos of me as a baby to today. Many were cute and others I would have eliminaed if I had a match or a shredder.

One point of interest was a photo showing our living room with the TV my mother won at the Union Carnival and the record player, totally classic 1960s. As my nephew with the iPad Mini looked at the pictures, he could not imagine such archaic electronic devices. As the adults remembered how you needed to get up to change the channel, the younger group texted, emailed, shared their thoughts on Facebook, or watched YouTube. Technology has changed how we live, work and communicate.

These advancements in technology also affect how business is run. For example, let’s begin with communication which is now 24/7, instantaneous and open for interpretation. A private discussion can be public within seconds and no one needs to even leave the room. Most handheld devices can video, text or email without much effort. So there is little rethinking or reviewing before something – a comment, complaint, thought, photo or video – is posted or linked to Facebook, YouTube or a myriad of other social media sites.

Businesses used to prepare well thought out communication, ie. press releases, company announcement, etc. regarding a new product, product recall, change in ownership, etc. Today, be it good news or bad, it is out there at the speed of texting or posting. One can say what difference all this makes, well, just think about how miscommunication or interpretation can occur and how it can impact finances, stocks, personnel, etc.

Another change technology has made is on the operations side of business, specifically, manufacturing. The majority of machines operate with smaller numbers of employees, but these employees must be higher skilled in problem solving, mechanical understanding, multitasking abilities and computer programming. While technology has improved productivity, reducing the number of people needed to produce a product, individuals with skills in science, technology, engineering and math are needed and will continue to be needed to drive the technologies of today and of the future.

According to the U.S. Census Economic Statistics, the manufacturing sector in Illinois was the third largest employer in 2010. There are more than 14,210 manufacturers which account for more than 12 percent of the total output in the state. This sector employs 12.6 percent of the total Illinois workforce and is ranked ninth in terms of average annual payroll per employee at $52,787. In McHenry County alone, we have more than 500 manufacturers who will need skilled employees to produce, create and improve their products.

With the fast-paced, ever-changing technological advances that affect our businesses and our daily lives, what is important to our county, state and region is that we all become and raise lifelong learners. We must create a culture that supports personal development, continuous improvement and collaboration with a positive inclination to accept and embrace change. Partnerships between the business and the education communities must be strengthened as we work together to support lifelong learning opportunities.

Currently, McHenry County Economic Development Corp., McHenry County College, McHenry County Workforce Network and many of our local manufacturers are working on just such a collaboration to provide and develop curriculum to support our manufacturers. This region is blessed with talent, educational resources and incredible companies. With encouragement and collaboration, we can continue to grow and support our manufacturing sector which is vital for our economy.

One such MCEDC effort to support manufacturing is in its fifth year. We are hosting a Manufacturing Matchmaking Event which is basically speed dating for manufacturers. McHenry County manufacturers will have an opportunity to meet with seven manufacturing companies for preselected 10-minute appointments starting at 7:30 a.m. April 11 at the Holiday Inn in Crystal Lake. Formal matches will end at 10:30 a.m. with an opportunity for open matches and networking until 11:30 a.m. Registration is open until March 15. Visit www.mchenrycountyedc.com or www.illinoismanufacturing.net to learn more about it or to register.

Technology has changed all of our lives and our businesses and will continue to do so. We need to be ready to accept the changes, grab every opportunity to learn how to use improved technologies and to incorporate their benefits in our businesses and in our lives.

• Pam Cumpata is president of the McHenry County Economic Development Corp. She can be reached at 815-893-0895 or visit www.mcedc.com.

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