February 5, 2018

CT manufacturers gain an important ear in Washington

Photo | HBJ File
Photo | HBJ File
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (left) during his April 2016 “listening” tour of GKN Aerospace's Newington plant.
Bruce Fiedorowicz, Executive Director, Aerospace Components Manufacturers (ACM)
Gregory Seay

Manufacturing holds a special place in the heart of U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy.

Largely it's because high- and low-tech production of machine tools, jet engines, submarines and related components are such an integral contributor to Connecticut's total annual output of goods and services, and jobs.

It's also partly personal. Connecticut manufacturing provided a livelihood, job security and personal satisfaction to Murphy's maternal grandfather and great-grandfather, both of whom worked at former Fafnir Manufacturing in New Britain.

Murphy's manufacturing penchant is among the reasons, he says, that he does his annual "listening tour'' of Connecticut, logging constituents' concerns, including those of the manufacturing industry.

So, Murphy, a Democrat facing re-election this year, is taking a fresh tack in an effort to harvest Connecticut manufacturers' input and ideas on issues important to them right now, namely worker training and recruitment, over-regulation and over-taxation.

On Feb. 2, the inaugural gathering of Murphy's Manufacturing and Aerospace in Connecticut Council (MACC) took place in Murphy's Hartford office, in the Colt Gateway building. The group, which lacks paid staff and a budget, included 16 Connecticut manufacturing owners, executives and policymakers.

The senator said he won't attend every MACC meeting, but that a representative from his office will be at each.

"The goal here is to have some formalized way to get feedback on issues that really matter for Connecticut manufacturing, particularly aerospace,'' Murphy said.

According to Murphy's staff spokesperson, the ad-hoc panel consists of 16 members. All are either manufacturers, involved in workforce training/education, or are elected leaders. They will meet quarterly to advise Murphy and his staff on Congressional issues the senator should be working on and what legislation he should sponsor to support Connecticut manufacturers.

Murphy so far has guarded the identities of MAAC participants. But Bruce Fiedorowicz, who recently assumed his post as executive director of the Aerospace Components Manufacturers (ACM), a Rocky Hill association of aeroparts makers in Connecticut and western Massachusetts, has identified himself as a member.

Fiedorowicz's manufacturing insights are credible. He crafted a 40-year career in manufacturing, mostly in sales, new-business development and marketing for Pratt & Whitney and Bristol's Barnes Group. Most recently, he ended eight years as sales director for British aeroparts maker GKN PLC's Newington plant, to advocate on behalf of ACM members, many of whom are small producers-finishers of custom aeroparts.

Two years ago, Murphy accepted an invitation from Fiedorowicz and GKN to tour its Newington facility, as part of the senator's regular visits to Connecticut manufacturers. Murphy says his listening tours keep him in touch with issues important to this state's and New England's manufacturing sector.

Murphy's ad-hoc panel formalizes and continues that dialogue, Fiedorowicz says.

"I'm there to first listen to the concerns and represent the Aerospace Components Manufacturers organization, to share our challenges, especially on the need for workforce development,'' Fiedorowicz said via email. "The ACM carries a big voice as we represent over 9,000 employees and over $3 billion in annual sales for our 100-plus members.

"Further, we are the 'voice of the suppliers' for [original equipment manufacturers] like [Pratt & Whitney], GE Aviation and Rolls-Royce — so we can share market information from multiple sources."

The state of Connecticut has reaffirmed its manufacturing commitment. Last month, the governor and his economic-development commissioner disclosed that, since 2014, the state has invested $43.7 million to help more than 900 manufacturers invest in equipment and develop new markets and talent.

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