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Laid-off Nevada workers sought to fill much-needed manufacturing jobs

Ventilators like these are manufactured in the main Hamilton Medical AG headquarters in Switzerland, and then shipped to and distributed from the Hamilton Medical Inc. warehouse in Reno.
Photo: Courtesy Hamilton Medical AG

RENO, Nev. — For the past 25 years, Nevada Industry Excellence has been helping manufacturing companies in the Silver State improve their efficiency, increase their productivity and boost their profitability.

Now, with much of the state’s businesses temporarily shuttered and more than 245,000 Nevadans (and counting) out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic, NVIE is adding a new duty to its already-full plate.

The organization is looking to help place laid-off industrial workers with other manufacturers that have immediate or imminent hiring needs.

“We’re not a placement agency, but right now, I think the swim lanes are being blurred a lot between organizations,” Mark Anderson, director of NVIE, said in an interview with the NNBW. “I actually find the crisis is breaking down a lot of invisible barriers between organizations to work a lot more nimbly with each other.

“The one thing we have at NVIE that’s a real advantage is we have a direct line to manufacturers and know the needs,” he continued. “There are companies that are looking for toolmakers and mold makers and CNC (computer numerical control) machinists and programmers.”

NVIE’s Mark Anderson says his organization is looking to help place laid-off industrial workers with other manufacturers that have immediate or imminent hiring needs.
Mark Anderson

Some Nevada manufacturers have pivoted their production lines to making personal protective equipment (PPE) — such as face shields, masks and gloves — to help meet the rising demand for products used to fight COVID-19.

In response, NVIE is trying to help the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development identify which manufacturers are interested or have the capabilities to produce PPE or have materials that can contribute to the shortage.

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“Sometimes you have two or three manufacturers you have to link together for materials and components for final assembly,” Anderson said. “So a role we’re playing right now is to help pull that supply chain into something that can be mobilized and called upon by the state government, if necessary.”

In addition, NVIE is tracking which manufacturing lines need more workers to meet the production demand, Anderson said.

To help coordinate the effort, GOED is seeking feedback via an online survey for manufacturers, which can be found via NVIE’s website.

“Instead of being a passive role and sending out an e-blast and saying ‘please fill this out,’” Anderson said, “we’re following up with a real strong ask of our manufacturing and tech community and saying, this is something the state really needs right now.

“Let’s step up and get this done.”

Perhaps no Nevada manufacturer is stepping up more than Reno’s Hamilton Medical Inc., which serves as an importer and distributor for its parent company, Hamilton Medical AG.

Based in Switzerland, Hamilton AG designs and manufactures ventilators for global customers. The company has increased capacity for producing ventilators by 50% compared to last year and is aiming to double production by the end of April, according to a message Hamilton Inc. CEO Bob Hamilton (who’s also a Hamilton AG board member) wrote on the company website.

In the process, Hamilton AG’s production has “continued through the weekends” as well as “added a second shift to ensure the highest possible output of ventilators in a short space of time,” according to an FAQ the company posted on its website. As a result, the company says it’s delivered “thousands of ventilators to the countries most affected.”

Tom Simpkins, project manager at NVIE, said he’s working closely with Hamilton Inc. on hiring needs at the company’s warehouse and distribution center at 4655 Aircenter Circle in Reno.

“With Hamilton and all these jobs they need to fill, it’s a matter of getting the right candidates into their HR pipeline so that they can actually fill those positions,” Simpkins said. “It’s just a massive effort. It’s a steep hill to climb, but our manufacturing community in the state is coming together to help them get what they need in order to make ventilators that we need as a country.”

As of April 9, Hamilton Inc. had 11 job openings for its Reno facility posted on its website — from manufacturing project manager to quality technician to warehouse associate.

Though one might assume there’s a big pool of candidates due to the state’s spike in unemployment claims, Simpkins said that’s not the case.

“It’s not like everybody can jump into manufacturing,” he said, pointing to the region’s lack of skilled workers. “The struggles we’ve had in the past of filling manufacturing jobs are still there.”