Amsterdam-based Mohawk Fabric CEO Dominic Wade undertook a 14,000-square-foot expansion at his Guy Park Avenue facility with the promise of nearly $50,000 in state grant funding.
The expansion was completed and three more employees were placed on the payroll, but the company is still waiting for the grant money New York state promised.
Despite these and other and other challenges, the company has grown from six workers to 14 since 2005, and Wade is in the process of establishing new, unrelated businesses.
Massive amounts of paperwork to secure benefits for business and scheduling costly safety training were among a host of issues Wade shared Thursday with U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam.
Tonko spent part of the day visiting businesses in an effort to gather ground-level insight into ways Congress can bolster U.S. manufacturing through the “Make it in America” initiative, a broad effort aimed at strengthening domestic manufacturing.
Mohawk Fabric got its start 93 years ago in apparel but now works primarily with fibrous materials like polyester, nylon and Nomex, a flame-resistant fiber. Among its products are parts such as gaskets for aerospace, automotive and other industries.
Despite the challenges, Wade hopes to take advantage of federal programs.
One such business assistance effort provides grants to major firms with hundreds of employees but does nothing for smaller employers.
Wade said he realized his time is better spent running his businesses than weaving through red tape and paperwork in hopes of getting some assistance.
“I can’t afford the time,” he said.
Meanwhile, the company is spending $100 per employee to get mandated safety training through another process he believes should be easier on local manufacturers, and perhaps coordinated at the local community college or other central location.
After taking over the business in 2007, Wade considered moving it to the Carolinas, but rejected the idea.
“I love this area,” he said, adding that land is available and affordable in upstate New York and that a workforce is equally available.
Tonko said details from the mouths of business leaders are essential elements needed to develop federal legislation that can help U.S. manufacturing flourish.
Ideas like consolidating training into one place, Tonko said, can go a long way to help strengthen employers’ capabilities, which leads to more jobs.
Successful legislation can pinpoint improvements, even if they simply help reduce volumes of paperwork business owners have to pore through just to participate in programs, Tonko said.
“This is the benefit of touring smaller manufacturers. There’s a niche there that has to be filled,” he said.
Tonko said he’ll bring back to Washington the motivation to help manufacturers, large and small, spend more time manufacturing and less time doing paperwork while seeking out ways to centralize training.
“There are programs fit for 500 employees and above. What about the 10 to 200 employees?” he said.