This Ain’t Your Grandpa’s Factory

Dark, dingy and probably dangerous. This is the image that came to my mind any time I thought of the manufacturing industry, an image that was only reinforced by years of growing up in a small town where the dark, dingy and probably dangerous steel mill was (and still is) the largest employer of the community. Which is why upon learning that one of Bravo’s clients was an economic development organization focusing on helping small manufacturers in southwestern Pennsylvania improve their competitive performance my first thought to myself was, “why bother?” To me manufacturing in the United States was a sinking ship as the nation transitioned from blue collar to white.

Well let me just say that I stand here corrected. In 2015 alone Catalyst Connection worked with 178 companies, generating more than $200 million in additional revenue while also creating more than 982 permanent jobs. All of this is on top of the $12.9 billion in annual revenue and close to 100,000 jobs already in place just within the southwest PA region.

Catalyst is dedicated to helping reduce costs, improve throughput and increase quality within the southwestern Pennsylvania region. Their vision of manufacturing looks towards the future of the industry, a clean and efficient future that continues to provide quality jobs to the communities they serve while also acting as promoters of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education in schools.

Catalyst is able to accomplish this through partnerships with the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development , Agile Innovation in Manufacturing (AIM), Innovation Works, the Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center (IRC) Network and the Pittsburgh Technology Council.

Recently at their Annual Manufacturing Reception held at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field they kicked off their first Explore the New Manufacturing Student Video Contest. CEO Petra Mitchell sums up the contest best;

The focus of our video contest was to get young people connected around the concept of what makes manufacturing cool. This contest gave students a ‘hands-on’ experience into the world of manufacturing, showing them how important manufacturing is to nearly everyone, everywhere.

In its inaugural year the contest featured ten local middle schools, with each school partnering with a local manufacturing facility, competing for awards in Best Manufacturing Message, Most Creative, People’s Choice and Best Marketing Plan. Moving forward all signs point to this contest not only continuing but expanding as the first year was a complete success.

Moving into further detail, Catalyst offers services across several different categories; Business Growth, Operational Excellence, Organizational Development and Financial Services. Business Growth looks to bring in new customers, locate new markets and develop new products. Operational Excellence offers solutions for curbing waste, decreasing defects, solidifying uniform quality standards, managerial training and computer system implementation. Organizational Development looks to streamline administrative offices and procedures while Financial Services looks to not only provide immediate capital investment but also provides the client with the tools and connections necessary to both understand their financial standings and independently cover future costs.

It has become clear to me now that the manufacturing industry is not just here to stay but plays a crucial role in both local and national economies. Thankfully, organizations like Catalyst Connections are here bringing the industry into the 21st century.

Nick Furar, Pittsburgh Office Intern


Catalyst Connection is an economic development organization dedicated to helping small manufacturers improve their competitive performance.  Advisors, consultants and instructors offer training, consulting and administer financial programs that can provide funding for equipment, machinery or capital improvements. A nonprofit 501 (c)3 firm, the organization has supported southwestern Pennsylvania manufacturers for more than 25 years.  For more information, call 1-888-887-7472 or go to  


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