Chair Emeritus Post: Manufacturing Month

by Mark Dobbins
October 1, 2015

Having been at this for longer than some of you have been on this earth, I can’t help looking at how far we have come – and just how far away our goals keep stretching before us.  Because, you see, I’m from a home where we were told your only limit is YOU.  Work hard and you’ll make it.  I always wonder, “Make it to what?”

I have a friend who was an executive in manufacturing.  He had the determination to try to start an auto parts distribution business back east.  Now, a quarter century later, he has sold that business to an even bigger company and is a retired millionaire with homes scattered from Florida to points north.  One day, he said to me, “People are always telling me how lucky I am.”  I say, “Ya, the harder I work, the luckier I get.”  So, looking forward to next month – Manufacturing Month – I reflect on just how new our jobs in manufacturing are – and how the same truth about hard work still applies today, regardless of what path you decide to take.

In today’s world, the first thing you must have is commitment.  Then, there must be a skill – training that is valued by the market economy we live in.  Many times, people ask me how I made it to where I am, and I answer that I found something I liked early on, and that was organizing people and events to achieve an outcome.  Next, I looked at what might earn me a career and a good income doing that, and discovered that Human Resources and Industrial Relations were a good fit.  Up to that point, I had never, in my tender, young life, been inside a manufacturing plant.

I knew that for what I had chosen, I needed a four-year degree.  At the same time, a lot of my friends had also chosen their career paths, some going to training schools, others to community colleges, and some straight into the workforce from high school.  One of those friends became a lineman for the power company.  He made good money and had a successful career in a satisfying, well-paying job.  I can’t name any of the other folks who did not go on for further training.  They sort of drifted from job to job, and I lost track of them.

What I learned was, “Wow.  If I work hard and get a sell-able skill, my new wife and I can maybe start a family without starving.  We might even be able to afford a TV and not have to trade secondhand cars with my parents (yes, they drove Buicks before Buicks were cool).  That’s not to say there weren’t lots of bumps in the road, but you keep learning life lessons.

So, as we get ready to celebrate Manufacturing Month in Arizona, remember this:  There are many ways to reach our goals.  Be who you are, and focus on what you are interested in as a career.  Look at the requirements to be successful in that career.  Look at the training and pre-requisites needed.  I encourage you to look at a career in manufacturing.  Like my Daddy’s Buick, manufacturing’s not the same anymore – it’s way cooler.  And if you’re under 30, ask your parents what ‘cool’ means.  LOL

Come on in – the water’s fine.

Mark Dobbins is senior vice president and secretary of SUMCO Phoenix Corporation; chair emeritus of the Arizona Manufacturers Council; co-chairman of Arizona Manufacturing Partnership; member of the board of directors for the National Association of Manufacturers; and a past chairman of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry