Joe Melroy, Commissioner

Port Applauds Clark College’s Exploration of Advanced Manufacturing Center

By Joe Melroy, Commissioner 

At a recent port commission meeting, I had the pleasure of hearing the outstanding presentation made by our invited speaker, Clark College’s Vice President of Economic and Community Development, Kevin Witte.

Kevin told the story of the town of Sheffield, England, which is considered to be where the industrial revolution was born. With dependence on coal production and steel-making, it was doing great until the 1980s, when its mills and mines all shut down, and unemployment reached 90%. (See Thought Leadership, page 4).

But that’s not the end of this story. What happened next is a blue print for any city looking to expand its living-wage jobs base. A few people in Sheffield came up with the idea of providing skills training through apprenticeships in businesses in what’s called “advanced manufacturing.” Advanced manufacturing jobs require smarts and human input.

Clark College is exploring the possibility of establishing an advanced manufacturing center here in Ridgefield – with an associated apprenticeship program similar to that of Sheffield.

Let’s face it – automation is going to displace jobs. And while things are going well now in the Discovery Corridor, we can’t put our heads in the sand and pretend things will always be good. We need to pay attention to what’s coming.

With my fellow port directors, I commend Clark College’s forward-thinking and exploration of this important project. We also pledge to support the college’s effort in any way we can. The survival of our community depends on keeping our citizens educated and gainfully employed. If the port can help Ridgefield do that in partnership with Clark College, then as your community port, we’ll be doing our job.