AMSTERDAM — The Executive Group was already experiencing rapid growth before the pandemic saw order volumes for the millworking company reach their highest ever level. The company recently purchased another warehouse building in the city to start a new residential furniture line, but owners say their biggest challenge to continued growth is finding workers.
President Lance Orcutt and CEO Roland Mann co-founded the Executive Group in 2007 as the sole employees of what was then a millwork installation company. The business has grown into a high-end millwork manufacturing and installation operation with over 150 employees locally and downstate.
While providing a tour of the company’s manufacturing headquarters at 5 Shuler St. for local leaders on Friday, Orcutt estimated the Executive Group currently has around 50 openings company wide with around 20 vacant positions the business has been trying to fill in Amsterdam.
“We need to hire more people,” Orcutt said.
Positions at the Executive Group run the gamut from entry level jobs requiring only a high school diploma up to highly trained positions involving engineering and drafting design work. Skilled positions on the manufacturing end are held by a mix of experienced millworkers and former novices who were trained on the job and worked their way up from entry level posts.
“At the end of the day every job here is trained. You don’t need to have this major underlying skill of woodworking,” Orcutt said. “We want someone who is reliable, that is respectful with coworkers and has a willingness to want to do better for themselves and their family.”
“We have great room for growth,” Mann agreed.
The company struggled to find new workers since before the pandemic exacerbated conditions. The Executive Group is trying new recruiting methods and looking to attract entry level workers graduating from local high schools and community colleges. Orcutt indicated the company offers strong benefits in the form of matching 401(k) plans and company healthcare along with competitive wages.
Whereas the company would once temporarily shift its Amsterdam staff to assist downstate operations, the reverse is now happening with the Executive Group routinely housing downstate employees in the Microtel Inn and Suites to support local manufacturing.
Sorting out the workforce situation is critical for the company that is experiencing a dramatic increase in order volumes and is about to begin a new residential furniture line in a recently acquired building on Willow Street.
“We’ve been busier than ever. We’ve never had more requests for proposals in the history of the company,” Orcutt said. “There are over 100 projects we’re involved in currently.”
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, and Amsterdam Mayor Michael Cinquanti each pledged to do what they can to support the business they pointed to as contributing to the city’s revival by investing in shuttered former industrial buildings and converting them into economic drivers.
“Modern manufacturing is a dynamic and rapidly growing industry, one that is essential to the economic success of our state,” said Santabarbara. “The city of Amsterdam has a long, rich history as a manufacturing hub and today’s tour is a testament to that revival – and the success secured by Executive Group is a true inspiration to our community.”
“I am so thankful Lance and Roland came to our city and looked at all of these empty mills and saw what I see; affordable space, solid public infrastructure and amenities and location, location, location,” Cinquanti said. “We have to find labor for these people, we have to train labor for these peoples and I am going to be focused on that and trying to help in the next few months.”
The Executive Group’s operations were originally based out of warehouse space in Yonkers and New Jersey, but high costs and limited space inhibited the company’s ability to grow. Originally from Gloversville and Canajoharie respectively, Orcutt and Mann looked to the former industrial buildings in the Mohawk Valley to relocate manufacturing and warehouse operations.
Orcutt pointed to Amsterdam as the ideal location with ample space available in relatively close proximity to the downstate area and Boston where the majority of the Executive Group’s high end commercial customer base is located. He estimated the company has invested over $10 million into properties in the city.
From humble beginnings the Executive Group has painstakingly converted the Shuler Street building from one of the city’s biggest eyesores into a sophisticated manufacturing site. The once unsightly exterior of the building has been repainted and many of the hazy windows of the former industrial site have been replaced with clear new panes of glass.
The first several floors of the building have been completely renovated and are filled with state of the art millworking equipment where custom fixtures, furniture, cabinetry and more are manufactured.
Despite the high volume of woodworking that goes on at the site, the facility is kept free of sawdust and dirt through a high tech filtering system that collects manufacturing byproducts as they are created.
The Executive Group is eyeing the upcoming renovation of the fourth floor of the Shuler Street building while planning for another building rehabilitation project.
The company owns another warehouse building on Park Street and two additional buildings on Willow Street. After closing on the purchase of the second Willow Street building about two weeks ago, the business now owns roughly 1 million square feet of warehouse space in the city combined between its four facilities.
The business is preparing to launch its first ever residential retail line next spring with a flagship showroom expected to open in Manhattan in May to begin building the brand. The merchandise will initially be manufactured at the Shuler Street facility before production is relocated to the lower levels of the Willow Street buildings with warehousing to continue on the upper floors.
Mann acknowledged major interior renovations will be required before manufacturing can move to Willow Street. The Executive Group is targeting a roughly 18 month timeline for renovations, hoping sales of the new line will be catching on by the time that work is complete.
“That’s why it’s so important to try to get this labor and get people interested in the Executive Group now, because over the next five years as we expand we’re going to double the workforce that we have now,” Mann said.
Santabarbara has co-sponsored a bill in the Assembly aimed at helping to create new opportunities for students while providing employers with a trained workforce through the creation of a career and technical education diploma in the state.
The diploma would be awarded based on a curriculum designed to provide students with technical skills and would involve work-based learning demonstrating students are ready for a career. Santabarbara said the diploma would create a new pathway for students to earn a diploma while working toward a career directly out of high school.
Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.
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