Decrying the dearth of manufacturing across the United States has become almost a sport among politicians, talking heads, and the media. At the same time, hyping the gradual comeback of the US manufacturing sector seems to be almost as popular a pastime. (Everyone, it appears, loves a homegrown manufacturing success story.) So what’s really happening?
While it would make for a great editor’s note—and an even greater cover story—to claim that manufacturing is booming here in Westchester, the reality is far more subtle. 2014 numbers (from the New York State Department of Labor) on Westchester’s manufacturing sector show roughly 630 companies employing some 13,000 people here.
There is still a contingent of devoted businesses for which it makes sense to continue proudly manufacturing products right here in Westchester. Continental Building Products, for example, manufactures enough gypsum wallboard to build an entire house every six minutes at its Buchanan plant. In Hawthorne, ABB Optical, the country’s largest distributor of optical products, runs a 280-employee Digital Eye Lab that cranks out custom-fabricated eyeglass lenses. And at its 30,000-square-foot headquarters in New Rochelle, transFORM manufactures a volume of high-end closets and storage systems that serves 1,200 customers each year.
When you expand the definition of “made” to include not only companies with manufacturing facilities here, but also those designing, conceiving, engineering, and
developing their products within our borders (even if they are manufacturing elsewhere), the contingent grows ever larger. Product innovation is definitively alive and well in Westchester; the County Office of Economic Development estimates that more than 10 percent of the nation’s patents originate from companies based here. Not too shabby.
You’ll meet some of these “Made in Westchester” products, and the companies behind them, in our cover story on page 36. Some you’re likely familiar with (I bet all of us have owned a made-in-Mount Vernon Itty Bitty Book Light at some point); others will surprise you (yes, you can make firearms in Yonkers); and still others may bewilder (we’re not entirely sure what “remyelinating antibodies” are, but we’re happy that one company developing them, in order to aid patients with multiple sclerosis, is here in Ardsley).
The innovation driving these firms is also at work in other industries throughout Westchester—and will be a big part of what drives our county forward in economic development terms. To discuss that future in detail, we convened a roundtable at our offices, in cooperation with the Westchester County Office of Economic Development, to glean insights from some of our most forward-thinking business execs. See what they have to say on page 57. We also take a look at how some local businesses are getting innovative with their team-building efforts—and how it’s paying off, on page 50.
So raise a pint of brewed-in-Westchester beer (or a glass of 287 single-malt whiskey if that’s more your style), grab a socially uplifting brownie from Greyston Bakery, loosen your Bedford-made General Knot bowtie, put down that Mamaroneck-designed Archie comic, and enjoy the issue.