Herkimer County, New York, is an epicenter of economic activity. Within 300 miles of this Mohawk Valley location, you’ll find 25% of the total population of the United States and Canada – and tremendous manufacturing wealth. For John Piseck, Executive Director of the Herkimer Industrial Development Agency (HCIDA), regional economic development is part of a large and fruitful landscape.
Steve Melito: Hey, welcome to New York State Manufacturing Now, the podcast that’s powered by FuzeHub. I’m your host, Steve Melito, and today we are here with John Piseck, who is the executive director of the Herkimer County Industrial Development Agency, or IDA. John, welcome.
John Piseck: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Steve Melito: So John, a couple of years ago, you were one of the very first guests on the podcast and we were sitting in a conference room at Herkimer College. It was a beautiful June day, seems like ages ago because of Covid. So I wanted to really take this podcast and talk about this amazing event that FuzeHub, Herkimer IDA, and Herkimer College has had. So we’re now going to be in our, I think, third year of doing this. We have to take last year off because of Covid, but we’re going to be back, although in the virtual format. I was wondering if you could take us back in time to how the event got started because you were a real driving force behind this.
John Piseck: Well, thank you. I was at a event at RPI College, a day meeting that talked about warehousing and purchasing and a few things. It was a smaller event and Matt Watson was there and I went up to Matt and said, ” Back in the day, we used to have large events at RPI College. We used to have manufacturers from all over the state. We used to have distributors, purchasing people.” And I said, ” Why can’t we go back to having one of those events?” And every time I would run into Matt, I’d keep asking him, ” We should do something like this.” And then I said, ” Well, they’re a larger group. Why don’t we try to start something smaller, more regional.” And I reached out to Cory Albrecht with AIM Everton at FuzeHub and also Bill McDonald from Herkimer College. We thought that being in the center of the state, it’d be a good center to have this event. Easy on, easy off of the throughway, has a lot of room, could do the catering. So we thought everything would tie in good together.
Steve Melito: That’s perfect. And for those that don’t know, Matt Watson, he’s the vice president, senior vice president now, I think, is his title for NYSTAR, which is the division of Science Technology Innovation within Empire State Development. And AIM is the Advanced Institute for Manufacturing, local MEP Center out there in the Mohawk Valley, which is really just a fantastic part of the state. And John, let’s talk a little bit more about Herkimer County. Why Herkimer County? Why are we doing an event like this there? You talked about easy on, easy off the freeway, but there’s a lot going on in Herkimer County that I bet people in other parts of the state might not know about.
John Piseck: Well, we do a lot of manufacturing here, as well. We do have Remington Arms that had a change in ownership recently, and we see them growing again. We have a large distribution base, a large manufacturing base. Smaller manufacturers, large manufacturers, manufacturers that support other businesses. So, we have a rich history of innovation here. At one time, the first personal computer was made here with IBM and Mohawk Data Science, MDS, called the Hero 21. So, there’s a rich history here of manufacturing and we felt if we could get a good time, like in June, when the weather was good and people wanted to get out and meet with other people and just networking and how they could better develop their company and what they could do to promote their business and have an event like this and see where we could go with it. And it’s been growing ever since.
Steve Melito: And my recollection is, it was a real groundbreaking event for FuzeHub, as well. We’ve done the manufacturing forums, used to call them solutions forums, in which companies would come in and meet with New York State Resources. We still do those events, they’re great. But this was a different kind of event, almost like a trade show, because it was a business to business, a B to B event. And lots of companies from Mohawk Valley came in and set up tables at Herkimer college and we had a great event the night before and a great reception. A lot of networking and a great event, the day of. John, you’re a manufacturing guy, you’ve got some experience like on shop floors and in plans.
John Piseck: Yeah, I worked in manufacturing for about 18 years before I took over the position here as executive director and I understood what it needed to be to build parts here in the Mohawk Valley or in New York state. And when we wanted to look to see other sources, we didn’t really want to always go out of New York state. So I thought it would be a good idea if we could bring them all together, the plating houses, the powder coaters, the sheet metal, the machine turners, get everybody in a room where we could all talk and see what everybody had issues on and try to get people connected with other people. And I know from the event, business was done. We have a group in Newport area that does T- shirts and sweatshirts and things like that, and they met up with a couple companies and got that business. So, they’re a manufacturer of those. We got our local ARC involved with a couple companies to do some fabric sewing and that’s one of their manufacturing skills. So, that’s just to name a small amount, but we know there was business that happened there and we’re very excited about that.
Steve Melito: That’s great. I’m really glad that you mentioned that because this is part of this event that I hope people are listening to and we’ll get them to sign up and attend this year because business does happen. Connections are made. I know at FuzeHub, we had a couple people that got grants that came to this event. One was a company in the Mohawk Valley, Quick Cut, got a nice grant for their website. They do some great, great work out there. And then there was another company from actually outside of your region in the Southern tier that got a grant for some trade assistance. So people do get help, people do make the connections at the event. Covid seems like it’s been going on forever. I wish we could do this event in person. It’s going to be virtual. It does give us a chance to maybe attract some people from other parts of the state that might have not been willing to jump in the car and take a drive. What would you tell them about coming to this year’s event? Would you encourage them to come strongly?
John Piseck: Well, I think it’s important that we stay in touch with representatives from FuzeHub, from their MEP centers, from other manufacturers. Things are constantly changing. You mentioned some grant opportunities and yeah, we understand we all can’t get in front of each other today. And if you could visit 30 people from your desk that day, why not do that? Why not take that opportunity, find out about another grant or a service that FuzeHub offers that they might not be aware of or that they could work with their local MEP center. Maybe some of them don’t even know what that is. There’s so many smaller companies out there. We’re going to reach out as far as we can, and I think it’ll be a great event that’ll allow people to network and understand better and set up some good business amongst us all after the event.
Steve Melito: John, for the companies in your region that you serve, are there any new programs that you’re hoping to have a chance to tell them about?
John Piseck: Well, we’re always available if people are looking to expand. We do have some property that’s available. We have some new companies that have moved in the area. For example, Amazon is coming to our area in the Last Mile distribution center. So packages wouldn’t be there longer than say, an hour or two. But there’s companies here that we want everyone to know about, from the CTMs that do the machining to the Turbo Machine products, that not only do fins and blades, but also do plating as well. Same way like square one plating. So we want to let people know what’s going on and let them know that there are businesses out there that they can service within New York State.
Steve Melito: Yes, great opportunity with so much reassuring, that’s an emphasis. A lot of good companies in the Mohawk Valley that can help folks out. Sheet metal fabrication, metal fabrication, plating, you name it, you guys do it.
John Piseck: Yeah, let’s not forget about food processing too. We have so much water here. We have inexpensive power. There’s things that we learned during Covid, we want to know where our food is coming from. And we do produce a lot of things here in the state and we do grow a lot of things here in the state, so we want to keep that in mind too. Maybe we can hook up with some of those food processors or introduce them to each other or a source like a Chobani that maybe could use their products.
Steve Melito: I’m sure hoping. So FuzeHub did a nice event back in February, it was a food event really with a focus on the Long Island region. I’m hoping that those companies will also want to come upstate, albeit virtually this year, to participate in this event as well and learn about all the great stuff that’s going on there.
John Piseck: Well, you know how difficult it is to get on and off Long Island, so this’ll be a lot easier for them to come take a look at upstate.
Steve Melito: Exactly. Good. John, I think we’ll probably stop there. I know you have a lot to do. Again, I want to thank you. We’ve been talking to John Piseck who’s the executive director of the Herkimer County Industrial Development Agency, and we’ve been talking about FuzeHub’s next big event, which is scheduled for June 2nd. It’s called How the Mohawk Valley Feeds Innovation. And I hope that everybody that’s listening will sign up. Easiest way to do so is, go to our website, look at the event calendar, get on our mailing list. I can guarantee you that you’ll be getting emails about this event because it’s going to be a big one and a good one. And until we can all get together next year in person, we’re going to lay a strong groundwork for a real strong statewide event. So, on behalf of New York State Manufacturing Now, I’m Steve Melito signing off.