As a recent TV commercial notes about Michigan, "We are makers." That's why Prima Civitas is working with The Makers Coalition, the private sector and educational institutions in an effort to re-establish the industrial cut and sew industry in Michigan. The goal is to revive that type of manufacturing in Michigan, and to create businesses and jobs in an era when most of those jobs have gone overseas.
The Maker's Coalition (TMC) was established to build a trained cut and sew workforce and industry. In order to spark new companies and create jobs, economic development catalyst Prima Civitas of East Lansing is working with TMC to help it find and leverage opportunities in Michigan.
"The biggest question is how to bring this industry back to the US," said Tatjana Hutnyak, TMC leader and Director of Business Development at Lifetrack Resources. "We simply don't have enough industrial sewing capacity here. We hear from companies that they cannot grow here because the workforce does not exist."
For that reason, TMC developed a curriculum to train students to use industrial sewing equipment, and to cut and sew a variety of materials. Henry Ford College (HFC) in Dearborn is the first institution to implement the curriculum, and its first cohort of students is now enrolled.
To explore more ideas to grow the industry in Michigan, Prima Civitas recently coordinated a visit for TMC's Hutnyak at The Runway, a fashion design incubator launched in Lansing this fall. She and Prima Civitas CEO Arnold Weinfeld met with The Runway Business Consultant Jeff Henry to see firsthand the new businesses and garments emanating from the incubator.
Hutnyak, who has been involved in workforce development in the Midwest for some time, observed that Michigan is the ideal place to rebuild the industry. "Michigan has a competitive advantage, the energy, the cohesion," she said. She credited Prima Civitas with coordinating makers through the TMC and helping to create that advantage.
"The potential to grow the industrial sewing industry in Michigan, and to create new companies and jobs is enormous," said Weinfeld of Prima Civitas.
"It's been really eye-opening to see all the players making things happen here," said Henry. "The timing is perfect-we could take hold of an industry and be competitive. We just need the workforce."
Henry said that he'd like to see Greater Lansing become another hub for makers, following Detroit's initial effort with homegrown design and manufacturing firms like Shinola, which creates a line of leather goods, among other products.
The career opportunity is real. "We have companies call us, asking if we have any potential employees," said Janette Artushin, the Workforce Program Administrator at Henry Ford College in Dearborn. "Getting the word out that we have a program like this is really helping to connect students to employers."
"We'd like to see this program become a leading edge into the field of industrial sewing," Artushin said."Hopefully from here, students will branch out into other parts of the industry."
Industrial sewers can work on various materials and projects, making everything from clothing, to tarps, to automotive upholstery, to name a few examples. The goal is for the training program to become "the start of a career path," Artushin said.
The Makers Coalition and Prima Civitas would like to see the industrial sewing curriculum implemented in colleges around the state. The initial course at Henry Ford College is "a good start," Artushin says. "We could tell other schools what things work and don't work. So far, it's been a success."
The academic team at HFC worked hard, she said, to develop its first sewing lab where students learn and work on projects, and where they can return later to study up on a particular machine or technique. Artushin said she hopes to develop an advanced class at HFC, expanding to pattern-making and further cut-and-sew lessons.
Prima Civitas, launched by Michigan State University and supported by other key partners including the CS Mott Foundation, is focused on returning Michigan to economic prosperity through talent and workforce development, innovation and emerging markets, regional development and global connectivity. Prima Civitas is on the web at www.primacivitas.org.