Broadcast sets, HVAC parts and more

Wayne County manufacturing is plowing ahead

Posted 3/30/22

REGION — “Only 70 percent of U.S. domestic demand,” write James Manyika and his colleagues at management consultants McKinsey & Company in 2021, “is met with locally …

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Broadcast sets, HVAC parts and more

Wayne County manufacturing is plowing ahead


REGION — “Only 70 percent of U.S. domestic demand,” write James Manyika and his colleagues at management consultants McKinsey & Company in 2021, “is met with locally produced goods.” In peer countries, that number is 80 to 90 percent.

The trade deficit in manufactured goods has more than doubled and we rely far more on imports, they continued.

Long story short, we need to make more stuff. Supply chains are fraying due to the pandemic and war.

Wayne County, and the Wayne Economic Development Corporation (WEDCO) is doing its share toward improving manufacturing, and balancing that with the area’s unique attractions.

Making stuff

“The state average” for the manufacturing sector, said Mary Beth Wood, executive director for WEDCO, “is that nine to 10 percent of the workforce is involved in manufacturing. We are at 4.2 percent.”

Wayne County doesn’t have as many manufacturing businesses, “but we have quality manufacturing. Boutique manufacturing.”

Boutique manufacturing is not your grandmother’s factory. It’s the production of small quantities of an item—often a high-end or specialized item—or the creation of custom-made works.

She specifically cited Wayne County furniture and fabrication company Boyce Products, which makes a variety of products, from modular walls solutions to sets for CNN; and White Mills-based New Wave Woodworking, which makes custom high-end furniture and more.

And then there’s the pre-insulated line sets for HVAC systems made by Honesdale’s PTubes.

(For more on small-scale manufacturers in the region, see Rob Campbell’s profiles of different companies here.)

Developing the manufacturing sector, Wood said, ”is one of our economic development objectives.”

Why do that?

Because the United States needs it.

Manufacturing is important. Manyika et al. write, “the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored manufacturing’s role in providing products that are critical to health, safety, national security, and the continuity of multiple industries. It has also revealed the extent to which global supply chains are exposed to shocks and disruptions. All of this has occurred at a moment when new technologies, process innovations, and demand growth are reshaping the sector worldwide.”

And despite the chatter about the demise of manufacturing, the sector still has a major effect on the economy. (See “The effect of manufacturing,” this page.)

An aging workforce and the pandemic

In 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics took a look at whether older people were still working. Back then—pre-pandemic—the agency projected that in 2024, 13 million people would be 65 or more, and that group could have faster rates of labor-force growth (55 to 86 percent depending on age; the 75+ had the higher growth rate) than any other age groups. The pandemic, of course, changed that. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that as of September 2021, people aged 65+ accounted for almost 80 percent of all COVID-19 deaths.  

The much-ballyhooed “Great Resignation” particularly applies to older workers. Younger workers are moving laterally, agreed Laura Quigley, commissioner of the county’s division of community resources. They’re finding better jobs.

Twelve percent more people over 65 have retired than would normally, the St. Louis Fed found. (Those 55-64 were about as likely to retire early as before the pandemic.)

Theories abound as to why. Older workers might be caring for a spouse or an even older relative, or caring for grandchildren. They might have survived COVID-19 but still struggle with aftereffects.

Higher-income households are less likely to have retired.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, St. Louis Fed, Kaiser Family Foundation, AARP, the Sullivan County Division of Community Resources.

Wood isn’t talking about big factories; remember, this is smaller-scale, specialty work. Sixty-five percent of county businesses have four employees at the most. Why up-end that culture?

The number-one issue

The workforce. It is, of course, the most significant problem in the country right now.

A recent spring job fair had 39 employers sign up.

“We have a stable workforce,” Wood said, “but we’re an aging population.” That affects the kinds of jobs that could open here. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found older workers driving buses, working retail, selling real estate, working as clergy or legislators, doing taxes, proofreading and in management.

Wood doesn’t see automation replacing missing workers. “We’ll always need [technically skilled] people,” she said.

What else is needed?

Infrastructure to enable these new industries. Even small manufactories need broadband. Places to relocate, she said. Building sites for the new businesses her organization wants to draw here.

What Wayne offers

There are so many positive points, Wood said. The county is located between Boston, MA and Washington, D.C. Along that corridor are trains, ports and airports.

The countryside is gorgeous. The WEDCO site lists a favorable tax climate and a lower cost of living. That could, the organization said, offset lower wages.

Even more so, there’s a general temperament. “We have an entrepreneurial community; a lot of things are happening at the grass roots.” Remember those very small businesses. That’s entrepreneurship.

For other businesses looking for a site, there’s the Sterling Business and Technology Park in Lake Ariel, which has shovel-ready property available. It’s a Keystone Innovation Zone, so businesses can get tax credits, and it’s an Opportunity Zone, eliminating state and local taxes for a specific amount of time.  

Even with the major economic changes wrought by the pandemic, Wood sees a net positive for Wayne County. After all, it’s close to a number of cities, and it’s cheaper to live here. And “there’s more positive action than we’ve ever had.”

For more. visit

The future of manufacturing

These sectors might not all be appropriate here. But James Manyika and his colleagues at McKinsey have suggested the following as where the sector needs to go:


Aircraft construction

Autos, auto parts and transport equipment

Basic and fabricated metals

Communications and electrical equipment

Electronics and semiconductors

Machinery (including special-purpose machinery) and precision tools

Medical devices and pharmaceuticals

Petrochemicals and specialty chemicals

These “industries and their supply chains are important to national security, resilience, or emergency preparedness.”

Source: McKinsey and Company


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