‘Jobs that Pay’ tour makes stop at Herr Foods in Nottingham
● By Steven Hoffman
A dozen economic development and labor officials, including Kathy Manderino, Pennsylvania's Secretary of Labor & Industry, toured Herr Foods in Nottingham on Aug. 25 as part of a statewide “Jobs that Pay” initiative to promote manufacturing jobs across the state.
Manderino said that there are a lot of good manufacturing companies in Pennsylvania that are offering good-paying jobs to workers. One of the purposes of the tour, she said, is to find out what issues manufacturing leaders are encountering in different areas of the state so that economic development, labor, and workforce officials at the state and county level can be responsive to those issues.
“At Labor & Industry, everything we touch is related to jobs and businesses, and helping job seekers and employers to make a connection is one of the most important aspects of our mission,” said Manderino. “Pennsylvania’s manufacturing sector is a hidden gem for successful careers, and we need to get the story out to our young people and their families that manufacturing and career and technical training are real, viable paths to jobs that pay.”
Ed Herr, the president of Herr Foods, was joined by Steve Moran, the senior vice president of manufacturing, and Randy Longo, the senior vice president of human resources for the company, as they offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Herr Foods' production process and packaging line for potato chips, pretzels, and popcorn. The company, which was founded in 1946 by James S. Herr and is still run by the Herr family, is one of the preeminent agri-businesses in the region—as well as one of the largest employers in the county.
Manderino lauded Herr Foods as a good illustration of the kind of manufacturing companies that Pennsylvania wants to have.
“Herr Foods is a great example of the local manufacturing we like to see in Pennsylvania,” said Manderino. “The company’s commitment to its employees and to fostering a good relationship with the community is evident, and should serve as an example to all Pennsylvania employers.”
Herr’s officials and Manderino sat down with Chester County workforce development professionals and education providers to talk about the company’s hiring and training needs, and how the state and local providers could work to accommodate those needs.
Ed Herr said that the company now produces about five tons of potato chips each hour. There are more than 340 different items produced by Herr Foods. One area of growth right now is kettle chips.
Moran talked about how single-serving packages now account for a larger percentage of the company's overall business than before. During the tour, Moran talked about some of the company's recent innovations and about some of the trends that are impacting the industry. He explained that new packaging technology is changing much faster than production technology.
In addition to the production of Herr's snacks, the company's popular Snack Factory Tours in Nottingham also attracts approximately 100,000 visitors each year.
As a result of the increasing business, Ed Herr said that the company recently hired 25 new employees to add a new weekend shift of production. The company could be adding another 25 employees in the near future.
In some parts of the state, manufacturers have found it difficult to find workers to fill key positions. Ed Herr said that he is very pleased with the pool of local workers, and the company has been successful in finding employees who are hard-working and whose skills and training serve the company well.
Manderino talked about the importance of making sure that people are aware of the manufacturing jobs that are available. In many cases, manufacturing jobs offer higher wages than the state average for other occupations.
“There are good-paying jobs and there are career paths available for lifelong careers without having a four-year college degree,” Manderino explained.
She added that manufacturing is vitally important to the state's economy.
Gov. Tom Wolf has made job creation one of the administration's top priorities. Manufacturing in the state accounts for approximately $79 billion in economic impact. More than 569,000 Pennsylvanians are employed in manufacturing businesses.
In addition to Manderino, the tour included Patrick Bokovitz, the Chester County Workforce Development Board director, Trish Hennessy, the program coordinator for the Chester County Workforce Development Board, Walter (Butch) Urban, the administrator with PA CareerLink-Chester County, Dr. Kirk Willard, the director of the Career Technical Customized Education of the Chester County Intermediate Unit, Karen Kozachyn, the dean, Workforce Development of Community Education for Delaware County Community College, and Marybeth DiVincenzo and Michael Grigalonis, members of the Chester County Economic Development Council.