DAYTONA BEACH
An estimated 1,500 people attended the VMA manufacturing alliance’s eighth annual Manufacturers Showcase on Thursday, the event’s largest-ever turnout, officials for the group reported.
“The turnout is phenomenal,” said Jayne Fifer, the alliance’s president and CEO, who said the attendance far exceeded last year’s 1,100 total.
The 95 exhibitors participating this year also was a new record high, she said.
This year’s showcase included a job fair with 26 area employers looking to fill more than 300 jobs. Some employers signed up to participate as late as Wednesday, she said.
“What’s more significant is the kind of jobs they are looking to fill,” Fifer said, pointing to a list of available jobs that included engineers, software designers and production workers.
Fifer said she also learned Thursday from Volusia County’s economic development division that the average annual wage for manufacturing jobs in the county now stands at just over $52,000, up from $48,000 a year ago.
“The state of manufacturing here is growing,” she said.
The Manufacturers Showcase, held in the ICI Center gymnasium at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, featured displays by manufacturers from throughout the Volusia-Flagler area as well as a robotics competition pitting six teams from area high schools and an art show of pieces created with computerized precision machining tools.
Those in attendance included local business leaders, government officials, students and job seekers.
Reba MacLagan, human resources manager for Performance Design, a parachute manufacturing company in DeLand, wore a button stating “I’m Hiring” as she staffed her company’s display table.
“We have 45 openings right now and we’re looking to fill them by the end of the year,” she said. The company, which employs 220 workers, just landed a large military contract, she said.
Mark Madore, director of operations for the Sparton plant in DeLeon Springs, said his company, which manufactures anti-submarine sonobouys for the U.S. Navy and employs 408 workers locally, expects to add more than 30 workers in the coming year.
Andrea Lackemacher, director of human resources for Kingspan Insulated Metal Panels, said her company, which employs 170 workers at its North America headquarters in DeLand, has added 20 workers since the beginning of the year and expects to add more in 2015.
“Part of that (hiring) was because of Daytona Rising,” she said, referring to the $400 million renovation of Daytona International Speedway, which began last year and is scheduled for completion in January 2016. Kingspan makes the insulated panels that will form the exterior “skin” of the Speedway’s renovated frontstretch.
Ed Rios, a divisional manager for Kingspan, said his company expects to complete its work for Daytona Rising by next summer. “It’s nice to deal with a local partner here in Volusia County,” he said.
Trevor Norris, a New Smyrna Beach resident who is taking machining classes at Daytona State College’s Advanced Technology College, said he attended the showcase to check out the available manufacturing jobs in the area.
“I’d like to see (even) more industry here,” he said.