Williamsport, Pa. — A year ago, Spartronics LLC introduced themselves to Williamsport when they purchased Primus Industries on Reach Road. The high tech company manufactures highly complex circuit card assemblies and electromechanical products for the aerospace and defense industry, medical devices, and more.
Spartronics acquired 162,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space and made Williamsport the company’s headquarters.
Overall, Spartronics employs 1,700 employees across the country, in Vietnam, and Mexico. More than 330 employees are here in Lycoming County. They report earnings of more than $500 million in annual revenue.
On Wednesday, the company invited state and local elected officials and others to tour the facility with a direct message to convey: We’re hiring, we pay (really) well, we’re rooted, successful, and we’ll invest in this community.
Businesses everywhere are experiencing worker shortages. While Spartronics is no exception, President and CEO Paul Fraipont knows that the jobs offered at Spartronics are desirable, and the positions can be filled.
It just takes a spark of creativity to get the message out, he said.
First, a tour. The manufacturing floor is bright and clean. It’s populated with high tech equipment, in which in the last two years alone the company has invested $3.2 million.
The people who operate the equipment design, build, test, and finalize parts that are shipped to customers to be used in fighter jets, missile defense equipment, commercial aerospace technology, biomedical equipment, and other applications.
The work is precise. It’s “mission-critical” to national defense, to advancements in healthcare, and to safety in air travel.
Second, a presentation on the dynamics of the business and the workforce. Currently, Spartronics employs a range of people, from just out of high school to near retirement–but the workforce is rapidly aging.
“We’re on the brink of losing tribal knowledge,” Fraipont said. As the long-standing employees look to retire, the company is actively standardizing and recording their “tribal knowledge”–decades of best practices and hands-on experience–creating systems to reduce the risk of losing that history.
“We need the next group of people to carry this on,” Fraipont said.
The plan is to engage with area technical schools like Penn College and high schools with pre-apprenticeship programs to show the incoming workforce what kind of jobs are available, and what compensation is out there.
Above and beyond a “living” wage
Starting wages at Spartronics are $17. 47 an hour. The benefits package is “robust,” and the company is community minded, said Fraipont. “People want to see their organization get involved in the community in positive ways, and we intend to do that.”
Lycoming County Commissioners Scott Metzger and Rick Mirabito participated in Wednesday’s event. “There’s this image of manufacturing from old movies,” Mirabito said, referring to dark, factory-like settings, a world away from the cutting-edge feel of the Spartronics facility.
In reality, this work is anything but factory. Spartronics employs more women than men, (179 female, 129 male employees), partly because many of the tasks requires dexterity and precision suited to smaller hands.
“We especially want to reach girls in high school,” said Jason Fink, president and CEO of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce. “Strengthening the workforce is a top priority for the Chamber. It took 20 years to get here,” he said, referring to the labor shortage crisis we’re currently facing.
“It’s not going to be fixed in one year,” he noted, but exposing students to the opportunities of well paying, skilled jobs in the area is a strong start.
According to Commissioner Metzger, to fill the needs in the local job market, we would need everyone from the current third grade class all the way through graduating seniors to make up the shortage. But the county’s population has seen a decline in the last 10 years, both because families are smaller, and because college graduates get their education here, but leave the area.
“What’s attractive about our area, especially now with Covid, is the opportunity to escape larger city lockdowns, to relocate closer to family,” Metzger said.
Spartronics operates similar-sized manufacturing facilities in Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Utah, California. “The scalability of our operations facilitates redundancy,” said Fraipont, meaning that if a natural disaster or other problem affects one plant, other locations can quickly adapt to absorb the workload.
Williamsport, Fraipont said, was strategically attractive to Spartronics because of the workforce. He described a “rooted community,” one that appreciates the opportunity for quality jobs, is stable, and dedicated to customer service.
While the industry awaits the reopening of the supply chain (like literally everyone who is waiting for something to show up in the mail), they aren’t suffering for contracts; rather the growth they were experiencing before the pandemic is merely “throttled.”
“When things open up, it’ll be a flood of backlog work our customers are waiting for,” Fraipont said.
What they most need now are the employees to do it.
Visit Spartronics Careers for a list of current job openings.