On Manufacturing Day, I went to Acadia Windows and Doors in Eastern Baltimore County.
Acadia, a 78-person company, was one of four companies invited by the National Governor's Association to address members because of Acadia's success employing people with disabilities. (The other three were Fortune 500 companies.)
Acadia is an employee-centric company. Their company philosophy is "Never settle."
This view is evident in the people they hire.
Jessica Markle, a remarkable woman, is 100% blind and developmentally disabled. Jessica works on the factory floor in a job that no one would ever think could be done by someone without sight.
At Acadia, they challenged their assumptions, they drew on ideas from employees and they came up with new ways of thinking and working.
Don't talk to me about disruptive technologies, talk to me about disruptive thinking.”
-- Mike Galiazzo, president, Regional Manufacturing Institute of Maryland
They went beyond conventional thinking. They did not stick with the standard views of the moment. They never settled.
They went from asking, "How can we possibly hire someone blind to do this job?” and asked, "How does someone blind do this job?"
They changed the conversation based on a bigger belief.
So today, let's change the conversation.
Let's not talk about what we need to do to fix manufacturing. Let's talk about why manufacturing is important to our society.
Let's not discuss incremental change, building on what was. Let's not throw around catch phases, most of which lack a depth of understanding of what we need to do to get to where we need to be.
Yes, let's change the conversation. Let's think big, act bold and be imaginative.
Don't talk to me about disruptive technologies, talk to me about disruptive thinking.
Don't talk to me about advanced manufacturing, talk to me about advancing manufacturing.
Don't talk to me about reshoring, talk to me about assuring the future of next-generation American manufacturing.
Talk to me about creating opportunities for middle-skilled people, about finding meaningful work, hope, dignity and respect.
Talk to me not about gross domestic product, but about gross domestic well-being.
Talk to me about our human condition and how we must ensure that manufacturing remains a lifeline to happiness for millions of people.
Talk to me about sour, about spirit, about moral and social responsibility.
So today, let's celebrate and sing our song. A song that says 'Manufacturing is the pathway from poverty to prosperity. A song of love for one another.'
At a time when only 62% of working adults are working…
At a time when 45 million people, 14.5% of all Americans, live in poverty.
And, at a time when 10% of women and 13% of children in Maryland live in poverty,
How can we not sing out together for a song of hope? A song of job opportunities for all people, not just for select highly educated few.
Together, in sweet harmony, we must sing a song for next-generation manufacturing that embraces workers and the souls of our communities.
A song that takes people down the road of dignity and well being.
A song that calls out for a new conscious capitalism, growing manufacturing and our communities.
A song that believes that the next generation of manufacturing begins with the individual and achieves its significance in the community.
Maya Angelou said, "If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded."
This is the song of next-generation American manufacturing. This is our song of success.
We have a Baltimore Mayor who knows this song. We have in Stephanie Rawlings Blake a woman who knows what I am speaking about. She is a leader in transforming communities by touching souls and creating avenues of hope. Please welcome the Mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
Acadia's leadership team, Wink Mather, president and owner, and Niel Christopher, VP of marketing, describes how the company benefits by hiring disabled employees.
This commentary was originally delivered as an introduction of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake at the Baltimore Manufacturing Forum on October 7, 2014.