Article and photo courtesy of The Greeneville Sun
BY Kristen Early Associate Editor
John Deere lawnmowers. Meco grills. American Greetings gift wrapping paper. Ford locking systems. Toyota engine mounts.
They all have one thing in common; they are all made in Greene County. Not just sold here, but actually made here. That’s a distinction John Deere Power Products Factory Manager Jeff Hollett realized some county residents aren’t making.
So as chairman of the Greene County Manufacturing Council, Hollett gathered the troops and a “Made in Greene County” idea was born.
“The Greene County Manufacturing Council, with the help and support of the Greene County Partnership, is excited to announce the first ‘Made In Greene County’ event as part of Manufacturing Month,” Hollett said in a release. “This series of events will be held at each of our local high schools during the months of October and November.”
Greeneville High School was the kick-off point for the traveling exhibit, with eight manufacturers setting up booths to display their products.
SumiRiko Tennessee Inc.’s display of engine mounts, strut mounts and various other car parts caught a lot of attention, as did BTL Industries’ display of transformer parts. Then there was American Greetings colorful display of brightly wrapped gifts and John Deere’s bright-green lawn mowers parked in the school’s cafeteria.
And among the students stopping by, some seemed intent on learning what they were seeing and how the items were made.
BTL Industries Operations Manager Tina Dugger said students quizzed her on how complex the process is, how many employees are at BTL and how those parts fit into the bigger picture of a national company.
BTL currently has 54 employees and eight temporary employees in place. Hurricane season means a boom for the industry as the housing market also kicks up, Dugger said.
Greene County Partnership Business Development Specialist Dana Wilds said it’s unprecedented how many jobs are currently available in Greene County’s market, many of which are entry-level and ideal for students just starting out.
“If someone wants a job in Greene County, there are plenty of opportunities out there,” Wilds said. “A lot of them are going to be entry-level, but our employers are recognizing the need for quality employees and are willing to work with them. So they know if they have to train them, that that’s going to be a part of what they’re looking for. And a lot of them offer good benefits and the opportunity to move up fairly quickly.”
Amairam Reyes is a senior who is nearing graduation. A native of Mexico with a United States visa, she plans to head straight to factory work while she still has her visa in place in order to help her family, she said. Reyes said she appreciated the opportunity to see the items and have a feel for how the work is done.
She said Amsee LTD caught her eye during the Made In Greene County event.
“I was thinking about leaving, but I have an opportunity that the United States gave me. So I’m actually going to use it to actually work to help support my sisters and my family,” she said. “The United States gave me my permission to work so I’m going to use it now before it’s too late.”
Wilds believes Reyes isn’t alone in being a student who wants to stay in Greene County and head straight to work.
Junior Matthew Livingston said he plans to spend time working in a factory after he graduates in order to build some savings before college. He said he has an eye to Huf-North America or Crown Tonka Walk-ins.
“I like how they explained what they did,” Livingston said. “How they make the door handles — I always wondered how they do that.”
A total of 10 manufacturers are currently signed on to participate in Made In Greene County as it travels each Wednesday through mid-November to the county’s high schools. Wilds said she would be glad to have others sign on as well.
“I think for the most part kids seem really interested to find out what’s been made in Greene County,” Wilds said. “A lot of kids want to stay here, but just don’t know what that looks like, what their future is going to be. What training and skills are required for it? I think this is going to be a good opportunity for them to learn that as well.”
In addition to GHS, the Made In Greene County exhibit will be presented at the Greene Technology Center Open House on Thursday from 5-7 p.m., the only event open to the public; South Greene High School on Oct. 25; North Greene High School on Nov. 1; West Greene High School on Nov. 8; and Chuckey-Doak High School on Nov. 15.
“It is great to live in a community like Greene County where we have numerous quality manufacturers,” Hollett said in the release. “These events will give our manufactures the ability to showcase their products, while at the same time educating students on potential careers in manufacturing.”