Food processors meeting Thursday in Modesto heard concerns about water supplies, the complex rules on air pollution, and the need to improve trucking routes.
But never mind that – those were some cool robots that high school students demonstrated at the front of the banquet hall.
The Manufacturers Council of the Central Valley, mainly representing food and beverage companies from San Joaquin through Merced counties, held its 25th annual meeting.
The DoubleTree Hotel gathering dealt with the usual topics affecting canneries, poultry plants, nut processors, dairy companies, wineries and other handlers of the region’s farm bounty.
The mood lightened when the Beyer High School robotics team showed its skill with a technology already in wide use among food processors. Members built and programmed remote-controlled vehicles that have shined in contests involving shooting a basketball, storming a fake castle and other feats.
“It gave me something to look forward to in my career,” member Hayden Ricklick told the audience. “It gave me a passion. It gave me a drive.”
Despite these shining stars, a shortage of skilled labor besets the industries. They need electricians, welders, electronic troubleshooters and other people in the food plants and in places, such as can-making plants and freight railroads, that serve them.
We plant the seed and spread the message about the wonderful opportunities available in a career in manufacturing.
Jennifer Carlson Shipman, executive director
The council has been bringing employers to high schools to show what jobs are out there and to convey that it’s not the “grimy” work of old, Executive Director Jennifer Carlson Shipman said.
“We plant the seed and spread the message about the wonderful opportunities available in a career in manufacturing,” she said.
Shipman noted the council’s work to streamline air quality rules at the regional, state and federal level. One proposal from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, she said, could mean an end to combustion engines.
The council is monitoring a possible November ballot measure that would increase the sales tax for transportation projects in Stanislaus County. And it worries that customers of the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts could face high costs for new hydropower licenses on the Tuolumne River, as well as reduced water.
“All of our members have to deal with a roller coaster of environmental compliance,” Shipman said. “You never know where that ride is going to take you.”
John Holland: 209-578-2385