Bringing the Sexy Back to Manufacturing with Janelle Lee

In this MFG eCommerce Success show Janelle M. Lee with MAGNET: The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (the NE Ohio MEP) explains how they are helping NE Ohio Manufacturers bring the sexy back to manufacturing and attract the talent they need.

Did you know that the sexy was coming back to manufacturing?  Really, for some in manufacturing, the sexy never left.

In this MFG eCommerce Success show Janelle M. Lee with MAGNET: The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (the NE Ohio MEP) explains how they are helping NE Ohio Manufacturers bring the sexy back to manufacturing and attract the talent they need. The manufacturing industry is seeing talent shortages not experienced in decades. We are examining how Janelle helped Magnet bring the sexy back showing people why the manufacturing industry is THE place to be.

Damon welcomes warm-heartedly Janelle M. Lee to the livestream. She is not only an asset to the business community but also a recognized community builder and economic developer who loves to volunteer. She enumerates her inspirations. Her parents top the list, who did an incredible job bringing her up and giving her the right direction to follow. Secondly, she praises her teachers for their commendable job in teaching her. Lastly, she counts her whole family for being there and helping her to “become such a nice soul.”

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She owes a great deal to her family, who is deeply rooted in manufacturing. Throughout her career, she has held many positions. Soon, she realized that she always wanted to become a manufacturer. She, then, read a book on the history of Middletown, Ohio. She learned about Armco – a manufacturing steel plant. From her great grandfather to her father, each worked for 30 years in making steel and retired. She adds that Armco performed phenomenally in Middletown with consistent career opportunities. She applauds and admires President George Verdi for his exemplary generosity and kindness in what he did for African Americans in Middletown, such as building schools, community parks, and other fun activities. He gave immigrant Africans a good lifestyle and opened a whole new dimension for them.

Curt calls Janelle a powerhouse for what she is offering to the community and the way she’s channelizing her positive energy to help manufacturers.

Janelle is in a manufacturing company in Northeast Ohio and helping small to midsized manufacturing companies to grow. Furthermore, she explains how work has become different, as back then it was a lot of hard work and consecutive working days under the scorching sun for 30 years, and she never missed a workday. Now it has changed, it has rather got “sexy” because it is an attractive cluster of young folks, ready to work smartly. Now there is a demand for a skilled worker who is good at automation, information technology, and dynamics of technology. There’s been an evolutionary change from 1899 through World War I and World War II to where we are today.

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Damon admires Armco’s service towards community building, it must have built steel that constructed planes, ships, tanks, and trucks that went into construction equipment. It built our country and made us what we are today. And this contribution is sexier than anything else.

Curt lists her achievements as an enthusiast, who dedicated her energy to the community center. Humbled, Janelle gives all credit to her husband for his support. Similarly, she believes in giving back. Firstly, one has got to love it and then give it with that passion—be a mentor, teach and make things easier. Even though she’s a grandmother, the love of doing something for people was deeply rooted since she was in high school. She joined FSA, a future secretary of America, as she idealized an African American lady who worked at Armco. She aimed to be like her, to have an office, a desk, and serve people. She revealed that since her first job at Procter and Gamble, there were many women who she thought were a paradigm of excellence and inspiration that motivated her to become alike and achieve so much in life.

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She tells, she decided to become an economic developer. She thinks of it more like a part of the evolution process. She completed her two-year business degree from the University of Cincinnati and worked with two major companies—Proctor and Gamble and Chiquita Brands International—in the administration department. She then worked for a trade association called Grocery Manufacturers of America. It didn’t hit her until she worked in the manufacturing sector at Magnet.

She started her development career by revitalizing five urban neighborhoods for ten years and got them into an incredible shape from what they had become. Now it has become the second largest employment center in Greater Cincinnati. She worked with REDI Cincinnati, which stands for the Regional Economic Development Institute. She has traveled to Israel, Germany, Brazil, and Japan, to bring manufacturing companies to the Greater Cincinnati region. Now she is with Magnet, the manufacturing advocacy growth network, focusing 100% on manufacturing. Magnet is a consulting MVP. She explains MVP means being funded through NIS, with the mission of innovation, technology, and competitiveness throughout the US. They create an ecosystem to help manufacturers to be successful. She works as a consultant. She has now nine counties that she visits on any respective day of the week, to reach out to these manufacturing companies. Magnet tells its clients their objectives and strategies to help them grow.

They share with them, a set of different programs, initiatives, and services that are all geared toward small and mid-sized manufacturing companies. She shares with her business partners a lot of videos, and economic development organizations, in chambers, because they have clients that are manufacturers and they provide a lot of referrals to us. Her way of helping them is through understanding their concerns which are mainly around automation, innovation, or lack of efficiency on that plant floor. She connects them to their experts and engineers. ‘Lane operations’ is one of their main growth services to assist small to midsize companies with their website. Janelle’s company practices SMS i.e., strategy, marketing, and sales. They train leaders and help salespeople be successful, alter websites and do some research or help them find a new market. They also help with cybersecurity certification.

She encourages youths to do work. Recently she helped them make $72,000 a year working in a manufacturing company doing some automation and robotics, work boots, etc. She also discusses their major project: CNC machines to showcase technology and innovation for the community. She also talks about a huge initiative, calling it the blueprint for manufacturing, on their website at, which has videos, with content about the blueprint for manufacturing. It shares about four pillars of successful manufacturing; right leadership in place, talent, innovation, and industry 4.0, which is technology. She calls it “a beacon for success.”

Curt asks about the secret of Janelle’s success. She attributes her success to her education, grit, and inducting interns. She calls such induction “Manufacturers Making Camp.” While responding to Curt’s question that how she manages to overcome the post-Covid-19 shortage of workforce, she suggests Magnet never faced one, Magnet preferably partners with local colleges and technical schools. The outgoing students are given enough opportunities to work and receive training simultaneously. She concludes the discussion by saying so.

The discussion ends with Damon saying thanks to the viewers of this livestream in general and Janelle in particular.

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manufacturing, ohio, magnet, manufacturing companies, mep, cincinnati, damon, janelle, manufacturers, northeast ohio, talking, partner, counties, sexy, career, job, cover, built, kids, work


Damon Pistulka, Curt Anderson, Janelle M. Lee


Damon Pistulka  00:06

All right everyone Welcome once again it is Friday and it is the manufacturing ecommerce success series. I am your co host Damon Pistulka This good looking guy right over there how are we getting my finger right is Kurt Anderson brother from another mother Kurt Anderson co host take it away man we’re today we’re gonna be talking about bringing the sexy back to manufacturing


Curt Anderson  00:32

man hey guys how about this handsome devil over here Mr. Seattle so Mr. Exit your way growth and strategy specialist here so Damon Pistulka Thank you What a wonderful amazing week celebrating our country’s birthday on way back so a wonderful week here hope everybody’s having a great incredible holiday spending times with friends family maybe fireworks hot dogs you name it baseball everything Americana right? So guys today we have a blessing we have a gift we have my dear friends and now leads and now. Happy Friday.


Janelle M. Lee  01:07

Friday Kirk so glad to be here and hey Damon How you doing today?


Curt Anderson  01:11

Awesome. Awesome. Man. I just I’ve been just so as I miss static I’m just so excited since a day you and I met and they we spoke so guys to now is with magnet is the Manufacturing Extension Partnership of the MEP, if you will of Northeast Ohio. And now you have and you’ve built an amazing incredible career as a community builder, economic developer, you just your all sorts of volunteering going on. We have so much to cover. So much to unpack. I want to start with this question here.


Janelle M. Lee  01:46

Sure. Go ahead.


Curt Anderson  01:48

Jenna, when you were little girl growing up in a great state of Ohio, the wonderful Buckeye State. Who was your hero growing up? Who was your hero as a little girl growing up in Middletown, Ohio.


Janelle M. Lee  02:04

Oh, wow. As a little girl growing up, I had several heroes. Okay, so I’m gonna give you three. Can I give you three? Bring it on. Okay. First and foremost, my parents mom and dad heroes. Okay, great people had a great family. Great upbringing. They did a phenomenal job work hard. So parents number one. And I have to tell you, my teachers. My first grade teacher, Sister Rosa, Celia, he wrote, okay, absolutely. Absolutely. The nones took care of me. And so I have to say they made me do right as well as my parents. But yeah. So just family and you know, your outside family because it takes a village really, to raise you and so to two of my heroes right there, Kurt Awesome. Awesome. So


Curt Anderson  02:57

Alright, so let’s slide right into this your passion, your expertise, your you have great, wonderful, contagious enthusiasm, helping manufacturers, as just before we came on, since we’re talking about Middletown, let’s go there right now, if you don’t mind, wonderful history that you want to share from Middletown, Ohio, and kind of your manufacturing roots you shared with me your dad, in your grandfather, let’s go there right now. What’s how what brought your passion, your expertise into the world of manufacturing?


Janelle M. Lee  03:27

I’ll tell you what it took me I was a grown adult before I really realized after 30 plus years of work, and in my career, that I did a full circle right back to manufacturing. It was always there and several the jobs I had from college, to where I am now. When you look at that background and look at that history. It’s all about manufacturing. Okay, so let’s start with when you and I talked last week, we had a great conversation about this topic.

And I was actually home for the holidays, visiting my parents. I walk into a CVS and pick up a book that was very interesting to me, this book here, the history of Middletown, Ohio. So I said, Let me pick this book up. I’ve read the book in literally two hours, and I was amazed of what I learned about the history, specifically Armco, which is the manufacturing steel plant that started in Middletown, Ohio in 1899. Okay, Armco, which stands for the American rolling mill company. I tell you what, most of my life, I did not know what those acronyms stood for.

All I knew was that Armco was the big plant in the city. Everybody worked there. And that was it. A couple years later, the company I think in the late 90s was bought by 8k Still and then purchased again by Cleveland cliffs, which is a huge manufacturing company right now and are in history within R US and international as well. And so anyway about this book and about my family, my dad, my grandfather and my great grandfather all work at Armco 30 years in making steel, making steel. And all I knew as a kid, that’s where daddy work.

That’s where paw work, and that’s where my granddad worked. You know, by time i was able a little girl, you know, he had retired shortly, my grandfather retired and then my dad retired in 94, again, 30 years each of these guys worked there. And Armco did a phenomenal job with providing jobs and opportunity for the city of Middletown. Okay, that manufacturing job gave my dad an opportunity to send me to college, it gave my dad an opportunity for us to go on vacation every year, it provided a great steady job for not only my family, but hundreds of other families in Middletown, Ohio.

And what I learned in this book, guys, is what this company did for the African American community in Middletown, Ohio. I did not know that until I read this book over the Fourth of July weekend. And what I read is that the President George Verdi, back in 1900, made sure there was a African American School for the black community, as long as the blacks and you guys know this, there was the huge migration of African Americans from the South to the North. Why, because of jobs. My family was part of that. My great grandfather, and my mother’s side of the family.

Her father all came from the South to work at Armco because it was great jobs, it provided a steady income provided opportunities. And what I learned in this book is that the President in the leadership team built a school for the African Americans that were migrating from the south. They built a community center that is still there today that I’m actually volunteering through my sorority and had no idea that history of this community center, I’ve heard my parents say they used to go there in high school, they went to the dances, they had a lot of fun there after school, that community is still there, thriving for the kids and the black.

In the African American neighborhoods, there’s, there are gardens, there’s all types of activities. So again, lots of history in this book, about manufacturing and what Armco had has done for the community. I’m thankful for that. Because again, I am an offshoot of that. Many other people,


Curt Anderson  07:53

yeah, you’re Oh my god. Yeah, no. So let’s unpack so first off, Jon Burge Leno’s here with us today. Drop a note first and foremost, please, gel Janelle Lee here on LinkedIn. She as you can tell, man, she is a powerhouse. A couple of things right there. Janelle Sure. Manufacturing, look what it does. It builds a like I’m getting chills right now and think about it.

Because for a community unit to talk about the great migration from the South to the North, and it came to you know, factories, manufacturing, you know, any look at World War, you know, I’m gonna Damon, you and I are history buffs. I got my history. You’re right.

When you look at history, World War One World War Two, what we’re most you know, a lot of, you know what we call today, the rust belt, a lot of factories. And these factories, look with the provided look what they did for your families now, and I’m a product of this. You’re talking millions of Americans? Yes. Right. It built a middle class life where you went on vacation every year, your father provided a great edge, you know, loud his baby girl to go to college. And now look at what you’ve done with your career. Manufacturing, you know, operation can like build a community. That’s right, what a blessing. It was that you found that book.


Janelle M. Lee  09:17

I found that book. Yeah, it was after you and I talked and I saw that book. And I read the book. It was just destined for me to find the book. Yeah, to talk about it and really give recognition and kudos to that manufacturing company.

And guess what? There’s many other manufacturing companies doing the same thing, because that’s what I do every day. I’m in a different manufacturing company in Northeast Ohio, every day helping that small to midsize manufacturing company grow. But what’s different now, Kurt and Damon? Is that back when my dad and my grandfather and my great grandfather work, it was hard work. Not that it’s not hard work now because it is but it was dirty work.

Yeah, it was hot in the summer, cold in the winter, they’re making steel, my dad would come home, and he would drop his work clothes on the back porch. And he could not come in the house because they were filthy. And my mom watched him and he had a new set. The next day, he worked a week of three elevens another week of days, and then a week of Midnight’s, and then he had a weekend off. My dad did that for 30 years. And he never missed a day at work saying what my grandfather, so now today, it’s not that dirty. So back to our title. It’s a little sexy now.

Why? Because it’s an attractive, it’s an attractive cluster for young folk, for anyone to work in manufacturing, because we’re looking for skilled workers. We need people on robots, we need one Cobots we need people to know some information technology, because now it’s all about automation. It’s all about innovation. And it’s all about technology. And that has evolved from 1899 through World War One through the 1940s through World War Two and where we are today. So that’s how it’s changed and why I think it’s a sexy cluster to be in because we need skilled workers. You can make a lot of money and have a great lifestyle guys. Excellent.


Damon Pistulka  11:24

It is it just the history you said it was absolutely incredible, first of all, and I just have to think about Armco your family, the kinds of things that they were able to build they were building steel it was probably going into the planes and the tanks into the ships into and then after into the trucks into the construction equipment. And in all the stuff that built our country allowed us to get where we are today. That’s right and yeah, if that’s not sexy, I don’t know what people are talking about.


Curt Anderson  11:59

And Damon we have a comment here distribution manufacturing two of the sexiest industries in Janell Chris Young Chris Young. Yeah. Come at Chris, thanks for joining us boy, you need to connect with Janelle. Chris is a rock star. We’ve got Dale here today. Fail Happy Friday. Great comments here guys. Keep them coming. Right. Connect your woods now. So Janelle, you know I have so much I want to talk to you about truly I tell you what, I Googled Damon this week, I Googled selfless leadership, selfless leadership. You know, this picture popped up


Janelle M. Lee  12:31

who’s whose car please tell me.


Curt Anderson  12:32

So now we know if you guys if you go on to Natalie’s LinkedIn profile, I want you to please go on. And I want you to take a look at the volunteering that she’s done through here. Now, kudos to you and kudos. What’s dad’s name by the name?


Janelle M. Lee  12:46

I need his name Tyrone type Hey,


Curt Anderson  12:49

you know what God bless Tyrone for developing such a wonderful, courageous, young professional as yourself. But I went through your volunteering list and you met because as you were talking about the community center, you talked about volunteering as your SIR in your sorority? I think you said right, I did. But you’ve been part of the Big, Big Brothers and Big Brother and Sister program. My father is part of that. So my hat’s off to their United Way. You’re on the board of the I want to make sure I got this straight.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, the Black College Football Hall of Fame, the American Heart Association, you’ve been part of your Community Foundation’s. Janelle, how man I feel like an underachiever. How do you find so much time and passion to dedicate to yourself to your communities? And if you want to hit I know, we want to take a deeper dive in manufacturing. But I really want to take our head off to on your volunteer. How do you find so much time and energy to dedicate yourself to your community as you do?


Janelle M. Lee  13:47

Well, one thing I believe and one thing I’ve learned from my husband, Ralph and Ralph, and I’ve been together 36 years, and I’ve learned a lot. And one thing I’ve learned is you got to give back. You got to get back when you’ve been blessed with opportunity, whether it’s work, or financial, whatever that blessing is you got to give it back because then you get more blessings. So we always I’ve learned that from route, we volunteer and do a lot for the community because first of all, we love it. And it’s what you got to do.

Because you got to help others you got to be able to mentor, you got to be able to teach others. And I’m at a point in my life now and in my career. I have time I work hard and play hard. You know, my kids are grown. I have grandkids now. And I’m able to spend time and do those things because I’m not raising kids. My kids are grown. They’re out of college. They have their own families. I’m a grandmother now. And so I have time to do that.

But I’ve always volunteered from the time I was in high school. I remember going to Armco what I wanted to be in the 10th and 11th grade I was a secretary and i joined FSA A future Secretaries of America. And we were able to shadow someone in your field and I shadowed a lady African American lady who worked at Armco. And I said, I want to, I want to be like her, I want to work in the office, I want to have a desk, I want to work people.

And that was my start to where I am today was to be able to see her in that office environment. But over the years, you know, like you said, you read up a couple of things, you know, and it’s and I’m not bragging or boasting, but I just love to give back. I love to mentor and it because there were people that did that for me. From the time I was in high school and college, my first job at the Procter and Gamble Company, and through my career, I had people and guess what, I had lot of women a lot of women in my career that showed me the way and I got a list of ladies. So that’s what they did for me. And that’s what I’m doing now. It’s important we have to do that.


Curt Anderson  16:02

God bless you I’ll tell you what an inspiration what a moat You are such a motivator, I just, you know, just I my respect and admiration for what you’ve done. And again, guys connect with Janelle here on LinkedIn. If you Damon, if you take a look at some of the comments on her LinkedIn profile, she’s a get it to get the job done. Attitude, inspiration, top notch professional. So Janelle. Alright, let’s, let’s take a deep dive and what so you talked about, so we’ve got dead Tyrone grew up in South southwest Ohio. Yep, Early Career College Gail. And as you start your career, you could have gone in many different directions, what led you into economic development?


Janelle M. Lee  16:42

And I’m gonna tell you it, I didn’t wake up and I wasn’t in college and said, I’m going to be an economic developer, it just kind of evolved back to what I really wanted to do. So again, back in high school, you know, my parents, my grandparents, my great grandparents, they all worked at Armco. That’s what I want to do. I’m going to work at arco. My parents said, no, no, no, you’re going to college. So again, they’re my heroes, because they knew what was better for me. I saw what I saw in three generations on my family.

And I was going to continue that they changed that projection for me and said, You’re going to college. So I enrolled at the University of Cincinnati, and I’ve never looked back the best thing they ever could have did for me. And I got a two year business degree. And I started out at the Procter and Gamble Company. So for the first 20 years of my career, I was more in an admin role.

But with good companies, Procter and Gamble Company, Chiquita Brands International, it was interesting is that my husband got a job. And we moved to DC for a couple years, I worked for a trade association called Grocery Manufacturers of America. Again, all this didn’t hit me until I started working at magnet I’ve always been in that manufacturing sector and didn’t even know it was contributing to that, and how my background allowed me to be successful in that.

And so again, the first 20 years I was in that admin role, but with great companies with great mentors, learning a lot. And then I got a role at the University of Cincinnati in human resources, and really start learning about HR, the dynamics of you know, what’s involved with that with people with labor laws, with benefits with at the university, we’re dealing with students, we’re dealing with faculty. So I really learned a lot about human resources at the time. I have worked there at that point, about 10 years.

And the University of Cincinnati is nested right in an area that is now branded as uptown Cincinnati. But it’s in an area surrounded by five urban neighborhoods. You have the Cincinnati Zoo, and you have all the hospitals all nested in this one area around the University of Cincinnati. And that one time in the 50s 60s and 70s. It was thriving, it was vibrant. It was business districts that was economy growing, and then it turned bad, where that area became blight. It became an area for prostitutes and drugs. The schools were not good. So parents didn’t want to send their kids there. It just became a bad area.

So they hired a developer to come in to change that to do some urban revitalization. And the University of Cincinnati and some other institutions in that area got together and formed a group called uptown Consortium. I left the University of Cincinnati in 2004 and started my economic development career as in doing urban revitalization. We turn those five urban neighborhoods worked with the five institutions University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Zoo The hospitals or the community development organizations in each of those areas, the business district associations and turns it around.

It is now the second largest employment center in the Greater Cincinnati region. So I did that for about 10 years where I worked with the community of students, visitors and guests. It is now great schools is safe and clean. So all of that, I loved it. So I transition Kurt and Damon from urban revitalization, community development into now regional economic development. So I took a job with ready Cincinnati, ready stands for the Regional Economic Development Institute. It is a agency and a partner of jobs Ohio, here in the state of Ohio.

Located in southwest Ohio, we were responsible for about 15 counties, five in southwest Ohio, three in eastern Indiana, that board Ohio, in the six counties in Northern Kentucky, you add all that up. And what that is the Greater Cincinnati region about 2.2 million, okay. And what I did was international business development where I traveled to Israel, I traveled to Germany, I traveled to Brazil, to Japan, to bring in manufacturing companies to the Greater Cincinnati region.

Why? Because there were 10, fortune 500 companies to do business with why we had the talent in the workforce, why it’s a great place to live. And it’s a great place to do business. So I did that for a couple of years where I really learned about regionalism about regional economic development, what it takes to build a community to get people involved. You bring in your agencies, you bring in your schools, your colleges, your technical schools, you bring in your fortune 500 companies, you all work together to provide opportunity.

So then we left I left that my husband took a job and Canton, Ohio, I left ready Cincinnati, and I am now with magnet, the manufacturing advocacy growth network, where I’m now focusing 100% on manufacturing. And I’ve learned that guys through my many, many, many years of experience from that first job at Procter and Gamble, the University of Cincinnati, to the job in DC with Grocery Manufacturers of America, through uptown consortium ready Cincinnati, and here I am now at magnet.

So I’ve been blessed with these careers have met a lot of people along the way. And I guess you can say I am an economic development with a focus in manufacturing. I’m in small to mid sized manufacturing companies in Northeast Ohio every day. That’s what I do. I love to help them. I love to help them solve problems. And they have issues because they’re small, you know, and we have the expertise at magnet to help these companies grow. And I know that’s coming later. But yeah, that’s kind of what I’m doing and what I’ve been blessed to do. Wow.


Damon Pistulka  23:10

Oh my goodness, that’s awesome. It’s just awesome. And your history just incredible, and how you’ve been able to do that. And then you think about your experience all the way through and how that helps you today in being that magnet in Northeast Ohio there to really give these manufacturers something that they would not have access to, you know, both from an international perspective, a regional perspective. And then on top of it with all the experts that the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and magnet brings to them. It’s just got to be a ton of fun because, see, and people I don’t know what we’re going to do about this and you go, I know we can help. We’ll help you. Yeah.


Curt Anderson  23:53

Well, let’s slide it so you know what, Janelle, let’s just go there. But hey, we got to give a shout out gal I know a super gals Gail. And she was super excited about bringing sexy back. Yeah. I’d say you guys would be best friends. Gail is a fierce advocate


Janelle M. Lee  24:07

for male reach out to me. Let’s connect. Let’s connect.


Curt Anderson  24:11

She’s doing a great job. Manufacturing. We’ve got Dave here today. And we got some great comments. And I know Chris, you have some history in Northeast Ohio. So when you hear about you know, so folks in other parts of the country when they hear Rust Belt, you know, that’s kind of going around the Great Lakes, if you will, I’d say Northeast Ohio, Ohio, is just a great history, great legacy of wonderful manufacturing.

So Janelle, let’s go there right now. So what I want to unpack, just kind of recap what you’ve just said in what Damon was just saying. When you look at the passion, the expertise, this walk of life of HR, global international business, identifying regional opportunities, this is the skill set and the talent that you bring to the manufacturing extension partnership. So there’s a manufacturer out there they’re like Well, you guys keep talking about this magnet, this MEP Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Now what are we talking about? So for anybody that this is new, what is the Manufacturing Extension Partnership?


Janelle M. Lee  25:11

Sure. So let me try to explain this. So the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, they’re MEP, there’s an MVP in every state in all 50 states all 50 US states, including Puerto Rico. So MVP means that we’re federally funded through NIS, which is always have to look the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and K they are an agency of the US Department of Commerce, okay with their mission of innovation, technology, and competitiveness throughout the US.

So creating in an in an ecosystem, where manufacturers can be successful with they could learn in advance. So again, you start with NIS, which is the National Institute of Standards and Technology. They made sure that every US state has an MVP and Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

The state of Ohio, is the Ohio MEP. They’re six agencies within the state of Ohio. We’re talking specifically today with magnet, which is the northeast part of Ohio. And if you can see my map here, we cover all the yellow in the green. Yeah, all the yellow and the green are the counties that we consider our territories. So we’re out there every day, my colleague, Darla McDermott, and I, as well as another colleague, Marla burns, the three of us are business development. So we’re going out to our counties. I have nine counties that I’m in on any respective day of the week.

And I am reaching out to these manufacturing companies to tell them who we are and how we help them grow through a set of different programs, initiatives and services that are all geared for small and mid sized manufacturing companies. So again, we’re the northeast, you also have so when I worked for ready Cincinnati tech saw was a great partner to ready Cincinnati because they are the Southwest MEP, okay, they cover about six or seven counties down in southwest Ohio, Hamilton County, Butler County, Warren County, Clermont County, they have that whole southwest quarter their MVP, because every MVP is a little different.

Magnet is a consulting MVP. So we’re consultants we go in and consult, we help them solve their problems through a series of programs and services to help them grow. Tech saw on the other hand, is more of a manufacturing chamber. They have memberships. So they get together with their membership.

They have conferences, they do a lot of technical things. They’re all about research. And so that’s texel you also have other agencies. Up in the northeast, you have North West, you have stiff, which is a center for innovation and food technology. So anything any technology that MVP can help you have Fastlane and Dayton, Ohio, which is connected with the University of Dayton. So they’re doing a lot of things there. So yeah, there’s six agencies within Ohio. We’re talking today MVP, which is northeast which covers 24 counties. So hope that helps your listeners really understand the dynamics of in Ohio MEP.


Curt Anderson  28:52

Absolutely. And Emily, Emily’s here today Emily Wilkins Hey, Emily, happy Friday. Sexy Back. She you know a lot of support here. Janelle And there’s a lot of just raving fans. And I was so excited you know I don’t know what do we call this? You know what they say like do we call it a comeback? Do we call this a renaissance in Christian school


Janelle M. Lee  29:11

and all of that because right in there in maybe work has been there


Curt Anderson  29:16

right and maybe you don’t even call it a comeback if it never left but there’s a new rejuvenation citement about manufacturing and you hit it right on the head earlier. So guys if you miss it we’re here with Janelle Lee from magnet she’s with the MVP out of Northeast Ohio as she was just explaining in Chris chapter No, no more rust belt. It’s the tech belt.

When you know when you look at what’s going on in Northeast Ohio and Cleveland, Canton, Akron when you go down to Columbus, Ohio, a lot of exciting things, a lot of technology being brought into manufacture. Oh, yeah. Well now you know, like, I don’t know Daymond and my comfortable saying like, hey, we have a technology revolution. You have a manufacturing, you know, like it’s a little bit as this industrial revolution. Right. Yeah, of bringing this back to the state.

So Janelle, let’s take a deeper dive into the MEP. Okay, so that maybe there’s folks from other states and they’re like, Man, this is super exciting. A lot of things going on in Ohio. What about my state? Well, they can contact their MEP just like your, but let’s take a deep dive into your role specifically. Yeah. Okay. So your client, your director of client engagement? Yes. And that’s your superpower. And you know, we had a wonderful taste of your energy, your passion, your enthusiasm, your expertise and experience. When a manufacturer knocks on your door, let’s walk through that process. What are they? What does that look like?


Janelle M. Lee  30:34

So first of all, again, I make sure a partner with a lot of videos, economic development organizations, in chambers, because they have clients that are manufacturers and they provide a lot of referrals to us. So they may say, Hey, we got a client, a small manufacturing company that needs some help. Can you talk to him?

Absolutely. Well, I started with magnet four weeks before Governor shut it down because of COVID and the end of February of 2020. So a lot of our work was done like we’re doing today guys, we’re having a zoom call. And that still works. It was successful during COVID and is still successful. And so a lot of times those first initial meetings can be a zoom call. Hey, I’m Gianelli with magnet. You guys are Curtin.

Damon, you would Manufacturing Company X, tell me about your company telling me about your concern, what’s making you not sleep at night, and let me see if I can help you. I listen, I understand and try to get a grasp of what they’re you know what their concern is, what their pain points are. And most times it could be around automation, innovation, it could be around efficiency, the lack of efficiency on that plant floor. It could be they need to do some research. And then that’s where I come in, because I hear and then I connect them with the experts in our office, we have a ton of experts and engineers. Let me just run off a few for you, please.

So my colleague, bass quarry, He’s our director of lean operations, okay, so he’s worked all over the world, setting up plants, setting up programs and initiatives that make that plant one efficient, okay, it can be turned into machine clockwise, it could mean putting up a tack board or all the tools for that worker to grab versus walking 20 feet coming back, he could walk a plant floor and say we need to change things because this has taken too much time. This is not running right on your assemblies off. So I hear I hear a lot of that on a daily basis from our clients. I bring in bass, he talks to them, and now he’s helping them be successful.

So Lane operations is one of our main growth services that we do. Believe it or not, a lot of small to midsize companies need help with the website. You know, we have expertise in our office. We call it our SMS practice strategy, marketing and sales. We have experts that can go in and turn around a website. They do leadership training, they do sales training, they have lots of different programs and initiatives to help those salespeople be successful, or to change that website or to do some research. Maybe they’re looking to get in a new market.

How do I go about doing that we can help you do that. Another practice that we do we have experts in our office. Right now. I guess about a year ago, the DOD, the Department of Defense came out with a new set of criteria for manufacturing companies that are doing work for the military. They now have to have a certain level of certification to continue to do business and have and get contracts with the military for different levels of certification.

And so we help them and we partner with the cybersecurity group to help them get the right level of certification so they can continue to stay in business. I have clients in Medina County that do things for the military. I have clients in Richland County, that do things for military, we have helped them get that level of certification. Right now this big in u bar, you hear it every day. Your listeners hear it every day. You can’t find workers. So talent.

Now at talent is very important. And so we doing a lot of that with the sector partnerships, these manufacturing sector partnerships that we have. Just for instance, in stark County, we’ve just created the 17 sector partnership in the state of Ohio, working with OMA the Ohio Manufacturers Association, we have the stark county The manufacturing workforce development partnership, we have about 40 manufacturers in stark county that come together every month, we rotate to different companies we give tours, is all about resources, providing resources for those companies. They’re talking to their peers.

And so we’re doing a lot of work in that sector partnership was key is that we’re breaking it down with the middle school kids, the high school kids, the college kids, we really doing a lot of marketing and advertising to let these kids know that there’s jobs available, skilled jobs, these students can come out of college making $72,000 a year working in a manufacturing company doing some automation and robotics, guys on talent, sex, work boots, you’re not putting them dirty clothes in the summer and you’re not cold in the winter, you in a nice clean facility, doing work, doing technology, doing the latest innovation is so much guys, I could talk all day about it.


Damon Pistulka  36:07

This is awesome. Because even the people that want to run equipment in a manufacturing facility, when you talk about CNC machines, you talk about the big metal forming equipment that has all that has compute, it’s all computerized now computer, I have to understand how to run the tech to get the machine to do what you want, right for the setup and the and the maintenance and everything else that has to happen to keep these factories running. These are the kinds of about


Janelle M. Lee  36:36

our engineering department. Fantastic doing a fabulous job with our engineering project. So Magnus been around for years, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. Our campus right now our offices are on the Cleveland State University’s campus. But in September, we’re moving to a brand new facility that’s being transformed into the latest technology and innovation, manufacturing space, but it’s going to be a space for the community.

It’s going to be a space to build even more machines to showcase technology and innovation, classroom space. We’re bringing in some of our non partners. So we’re excited about this new space. But in the last couple of years, darlin McDermott, my colleague saw a need for magnet to really come south of Cleveland, again, they’ve been around for years.

A lot of that work was done up in Cuyahoga County as to Beulah County, Lorain County, Erie County, but we were we were kind of neglecting some of our southern counties. That’s part of our region. So Darla McDermott came on board about four or five years ago, and we now have a presence in Akron. So we have a magnet Akron office that Darla McDermott runs that she can she manages Youngstown. All right, she’s in Summit County, so she’s making sure all those counties are getting the information and the resources they need. I’ve been with them and now two years, I manage our Canton office or magnet Canton office.

So I’m really covering Stark County, Wayne County, if you think about all the counties going 30 West, all the way out to Mansfield in Richland County. Those are my counties. So between Darwin and I and Marla who runs our southern counties down at Tuscarawas. County, Harrison County, Belmont county constructing County, we got to cover guys, but our engineering department is doing a fabulous job. They are actually building robots. Our clients need a lot of automation projects. Oh, that’s done right in our Cleveland office with all of our bright engineers. But


Curt Anderson  38:46

this is absolutely wonderful. That’s how you and I connected with your partner in crime as she calls it in so she had a conflict and we connected and coming on hopefully in September. Yes. And Damon I had the honor and privilege we’ve interviewed Gina Tabasco, which is a teammate of yours. Yeah. We back in November. We interviewed Matthew Feldman. Yes. He’s a force to reckon with a lot of passion.

So again, great, incredible talent, and this is just your regional office. And when somebody knocks on your door, like you said, if a food manufacturer knocks on your door, well, you have SIFT, you know, over Leto that’s covering, you know, food expertise. If you have somebody you know, like anytime there’s a gap, you can reach out to your network and others throughout the state and or throughout on a national scale. Third party resources. So there’s so much opportunity for manufacturers with the


Janelle M. Lee  39:39

client down in Tuscarawas County, and they have an office in a plant facility in Tuscarawas County, but they also have one down in Texas. So guess what? We caught our counterparts down in Texas and said hey, you help them with some local and regional things down in Texas that we can do up Here in Ohio, and then we take care of them up here in Ohio. Yeah, so again, simple resources and referrals that we’re doing


Curt Anderson  40:09

this man, this is just so good. Like I’ve lost track of time I’ve looked at the clock wants to know, like, alright, so I want to be mindful of your time. As we come in. Man, I know we could keep going on and on. Okay, any events, anything going on at magnet that you want to promote? That’s coming up either summer in the fall.


Janelle M. Lee  40:31

Let me just talk about a huge initiative that launched earlier this year. With magnet, Ethan Karp is our president CEO. He connected with several stakeholders throughout the state of Ohio. And we launched what we’re calling the blueprint for manufacturing, go to our website at manufacturing And you will see videos, you’ll see content about the blueprint for manufacturing, we’re following that blueprint guys, because what that is going to allow our country to be in years down the road is the success in manufacturing, because it talks about four things.

It talks about four things that it’s gonna take for us to be successful in manufacturing, leadership, we got to have the right leadership in place, talent, innovation, and industry 4.0, which is technology, those four things right, there are the four pillars of manufacturing right now. And we’re supporting that in all different initiatives that we’re doing in the state of Ohio with all of our stakeholders. So I encourage all of the listeners now to take a look at that. Be as be a partner, be a sponsor jump on board to be part of this manufacturing blueprint. And another thing I want to talk about is this new initiative we’re doing around lighthouses.

So what do you what is it lighthouse? Okay, think of it as we’re going to be working with a lot of our manufacturing companies in Northeast Ohio, they’re gonna open up their doors in their plants, to showcase the latest technology on how they’re being successful. It’s a lighthouse. It’s a beacon for success. And so you’re going to be doing tours, again, all this information is on our website. But we want the community we want the state of Ohio to see what some of these companies are doing as it relates to technology and innovation. They’re lighthouses for the future.


Curt Anderson  42:33

Wow. This is just you know, when you think about the leadership that you know, you mentioned your Ethan is doing a fantastic job. And Damon you and I had the blessing of we hear this over and over and Janelle, just last Friday, we were interviewing a couple folks from iMac and counterpart of yours, he’s, you know, a research partner working or actually he’s an employee of iMac, you know, covers his area in southern Illinois. He was a private he his family had a manufacturing operation and built it up into like a really nice business and right on the program right here. His quote was, I wish I knew the MEP existed when I owned my manufacturing.

But again, you know, as we have the blessing and gift aim and of interviewing all sorts of amazing folks here like Janelle last week was no, we had Michelle from IMEC last week, we see all this skill set this passion, this talent for helping this renaissance, this whole you know, revolution for manufacturing. So Janelle, let’s take it home. Yeah, we’re bringing sexy back to manufacturing is never really laughed. But man, it’s just a whole new excitement, a lot of adrenaline coming into manufacturing. You know, I respect and admiration for you your leadership. How do you what do you see there’s a young person out there today.

Yeah. Okay. You mentioned earlier, you know, kids you have, you know, I’m certain I’m assuming, you know, younger adults that are now parents themselves. somebody starting out in their career, they’re in their 20s. And you’re looking up to someone like you like, man, now you’ve built a really wonderful career by this man. I didn’t think about manufacturing, it does sound kind of sexy. Sure, a little bit about like, your, you know, what’s been your, your key to success with your career? What would you share with that young person?


Janelle M. Lee  44:17

You know, I’ll tell that young person don’t sleep on manufacturing, okay. Manufacturing has changed. It requires a skill set. It requires some education. It requires some grit, okay. Some grit, let’s build some grit in there. You gotta be gritty. You want you got to have that grit.

Yeah, commitment and dedication, you know, in so what we do imagine, we hire a lot of interns, different colleges in the area, and we give them an opportunity to come being magnet to kind of see how our engineering department runs and give these kids opportunity to be successful and we hire a lot of those interns within different departments. I really liked them. fact that I can connect with these high school kids. I was at a camp two weeks ago with middle school kids. Sixth, seventh and eighth. We called it makers manufacturer or manufacturers making camp where they made things.

Yeah, minds together. They worked in teams, I was there to talk to them about my career exactly what I’m talking to you guys, today, I’m talking to the sixth and seventh graders about the manufacturing ecosystem, all the different things you can do, and really encouraging my young ladies, okay, encouraging my young ladies that you can be successful, you can be smart in this manufacturing field. So that’s what I’m doing right now. I’m encouraging young folk, mentoring, promoting and advertising about the success and opportunities within career within the manufacturing career.


Curt Anderson  45:53

I really, I man, I don’t want this to end. And now so I got another question for you. manufacturer out there. Okay. The workforce challenges labor shortage, boy, your supply chain is boy, if that didn’t, you know, put up the heart medicine, right. So a lot of challenges through COVID, and even coming out of COVID are still facing a lot of challenges. They are eagerly looking to diversify their workforce. What tips or advice do you have for manufacturers in your area what? Or you know, anywhere? How do you help manufacturers better equip themselves to diversify their workforce. So


Janelle M. Lee  46:29

one of the partners that I love working with is our local colleges and technical schools. So let me just give you an example in stark County where our magnet office is located where I work from, we work a lot with RG drag, which is a high school technical school. They have programs around manufacturing, automotive, food technology. I like working with our two year program at Stark State. We’re those kids and those that program is teaching robotics, automation.

So I encourage our small to mid size manufacturing companies that may have an issue with getting the right people looking for people. Let’s connect with these with the schools. Yeah, he is coming out of that technical school, they’re ready to work. They didn’t got trained, they didn’t have some online experience. With internships, they’re ready to work, you got these kids coming out of Stark State College that are ready to work with a two year program. So I encourage and talk about workforce and talent with my small to midsize manufacturing companies, because that’s a resource for them to go to.

And we work very well with, with our community colleges. Again, this community colleges and all of our counties up in Lorraine, you got Lorraine community college, you got Cuyahoga Community College, you got all the Cleveland State University, all the universities there magazine is a partner with these higher education institutions, because it’s key that we partner to get the word out to get the right training, that these mandates we hear, we hear what our manufacturers saying we need, we need our students to know this.

So when they come work for us, they got the training, but a lot of manufacturers are doing on the job training as well. So that is something that we need to do and we’ll continue to do is to continue to strengthen those partnerships with our education partners.


Curt Anderson  48:30

Perfect. All right. Oh, juicy. So last question on our whole little conversation on bringing sexy back to manufacturing. Who and What inspires you today? Janelle, you know, you’ve had such a wonderful, amazing, illustrious career.

Sounds like you and Ralph. Right. I have that right. Ralph has been absolutely crushing it together for 36 years, you’ve been crushing it for over 30 years. Kids are wonderful, successful grown, you now have, you know, they have children of their own. You could sit back, maybe take your foot off the pedal boy, you are does full you’re going full steam ahead. Who and What inspires you today as you keep your adrenaline your excitement, your experience, your expertise in manufacturing? What’s your inspiration today?


Janelle M. Lee  49:17

You know, what inspires me and I mentioned it early in the program is that you have to give back. You have to give. And I want to give back. So let me change that you have to give back. I think it’s the right thing to do. But I want to give back because if it wasn’t for the people that mentored me, the folks that gave me an opportunity and I’m gonna tell one example.

When I started with reading Cincinnati, I didn’t know anything about international business development. To be honest, I had not traveled anywhere other than the Caribbean. I had not been to Germany, I had not been to Japan. And the CEO at the time, John reader said you have the skill set, you have the personality. I know you can do it all that you can learn. And so it’s people like that, that gave me an opportunity to be successful.

So it is my moral duty, it is my passion to give back to young folk and, and be that mentor and provide an opportunity for them. So that’s what inspires me because I’ve been blessed to be able to have the career and learn a lot. And I want to do that for others. And it brings me joy when I can go talk to a manufacturer that’s been struggling and tell them about something that can help them grow. That’s, that’s, that’s what makes me happy. That’s sets right there. Yeah,


Curt Anderson  50:40

you know what awesome. And again, when you look at your nose career, like you’ve just walked the walk your entire career. So I and one last thing you mentioned going global, I just received an email this meet week from your partner, Matthew Feldman. Yes. Looks like they’re doing a program for folks within MEP network to go to Germany three different occasions. So again, that’s another wonderful opportunity that you guys offer to folks have seen things on a global stats, right,


Janelle M. Lee  51:09

Matt? Matt is doing a great job. And I love working with him. Were part of the magnet book club every month. So she asked to see him and hear about all the wonderful opportunity he’s doing with grants and providing opportunity through his program. So yes, it’s magnets a great place to work. I think we just got voted the third bless best workplaces in the state of Ohio.

Did you really think we did I know we voted third? I think it was an Ohio thing. Yeah. And so Ethan does a great job with all 50 plus the blessed employees where, you know, culture, opportunity, professional development, all that is included in our values. And it’s a great place to work and I’m glad and fortunate to be there. Well, God bless


Curt Anderson  52:00

you, Janelle. So we’ll wind down on this. First off, thank you Thank you. This was such an honor and blessing just to hear your enthusiasm. spend his time with you today. And just what a blessing you are to the whole state of Ohio, what you’ve done in southwest Ohio, now what you’re doing crushing it in Northeast Ohio. I’m a fellow buckeye. So I salute you for what you’re doing in this in the great state of Ohio. Wonderful you guys.

First off connect with Janelle here on LinkedIn. Secondly, if you’re a manufacturer and just you know, Damon our message week in week out, it’s challenging out there. It gets lonely at times, but boy, you are not alone. You have all sorts of incredible resources. You have trusted resources, like MEP network like summit and Janelle is, you know, man, she is top notch. All sorts of folks throughout the MEP network bring this passion and enthusiasm to help you on your entrepreneurial journey. So, guys, we’ll wind down today. Janelle, thank you. Thank you. Thank


Janelle M. Lee  53:00

you. Pleasure. It’s been a pleasure talking to you guys. Getting to know you. Big kudos and success on your podcast. I’ll be checking in from time to time. Awesome. Yeah, you guys are doing and feel free to invite me back to be a guest speaker anytime.


Curt Anderson  53:17

You’re kidding. Awesome. Daymond if I was you, I would fire me and bring it back. Or we might have to talk about Hey, everybody. How about that big round of applause. Yeah. Thanks so much. Man innovation here guys. Comment to Janelle reach out to her I’d magnet so go out and have an amazing incredible weekend. And you know, boy, if you aren’t fired up after this conversation, spread the Good News and manufacturing is on fire. This is


Janelle M. Lee  53:46

not as a tunity


Curt Anderson  53:49

This is not


Janelle M. Lee  53:50

goes back to yet manufacturing is sexy


Curt Anderson  53:53

manufacturing is and it goes all the way back to Juno’s great grandfather. So, Damon, thank you for your time today. Brother. Go ahead and take it away, man.


Damon Pistulka  54:03

All right. Well, thanks everyone for being here today. We got you know, Emily, Gail, Dave, Valerie, awesome. And John, everybody else that was listening and didn’t comment. Thanks so much for being here today. Thanks, Chanel for coming and sharing your passionate story about manufacturing and how you’re helping how you have helped all these people in Ohio now how you’re helping the manufacturing in Northeast Ohio through magnet. And as Kurt said, if you’re a manufacturing, you got some questions, need some help reach out to your local MEP, they are there for you.

They have trusted partners that can help you get what you need, get the help you need, get the resources and figure things out because manufacturing is sexy. Let’s be let’s just face that right there. We make some cool stuff in the US. That’s right. It’s a great place great careers. If that doesn’t fire you up. You must be dead because it’s a place to be. So thanks everyone for being here. We’ll be back again next week with another awesome guest talking about the manufacturing ecommerce success.


Janelle M. Lee  55:07

All right thanks so much it was Michael

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