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story.lead_photo.caption Mitchell Larimore, national safety director of Mid-America Precast, guides the tour for local high school students interested in the manufacturing industry. Larimore put a heavy emphasis on the value of trade skills and professions throughout his tour. Photo by Quinn Wilson / Fulton Sun.

Four local manufacturers opened their doors to Callaway County students Friday.

As a part of the fourth Manufacturing Day celebrated in Callaway County, these businesses were more than glad to give tours, share their hospitality and give useful information to the group of 75 local high school students interested in the field. The four businesses were Danuser Machine Co., Henderson Truck Equipment, Mid-America Precast and PFSbrands.

"Getting people to see and understand what we do is so important," said Kelly Brace, plant manager of Henderson Truck Equipment. "The (students) that were here today are the future."

Henderson Truck Equipment is based out of Iowa and specializes in the design, manufacture and "up-fit" of multi-purpose equipment for heavy-duty work trucks specializing in snow and ice control. Throughout the tour, Brace said many of the skills needed to work there can be taught on the job, such as welding. However, he and many others in the manufacturing industry stressed the importance of basic skills like math.

"Learning math and problem solving are important, and we wanted to stress how they can come into use after you get out of school," Brace said.

Mitchell Larimore, national safety director of Mid-America Precast, put a heavy emphasis on the value of trade skills and professions throughout his tour. Mid-America Precast specializes in concrete building and utility products. They have done notable local concrete work, such as the round building at Fulton City Hall.

"It's not all about the four-year degree, in my opinion," Larimore said. "I'm here to tout the more hands-on stuff. The infrastructure of this nation has got to be rebuilt, and it's got to be rebuilt on (students') backs and with their hands."

Larimore said the largest component of working in the manufacturing industry is "wanting to work." He said many of the challenges in the industry stem from people not showing up to work, not showing up on time and calling in because "they're tired."

"The biggest requirement is, 'Do you want to work?'" Larimore said. "I'll have guys call in and say, 'I'm tired, I'll be in at 10.' I'll say, 'No you won't, stay home.'"

Larimore said while he wasn't trying to give four-year degrees a "bad name," he wanted to show students there are other options. Each of the four businesses told the students they have a variety of entry level jobs that don't require any college, though each tour guide placed importance on finishing high school.

"We have jobs that range from entry-level positions that don't require any college all the way up to ones that prefer a master's degree," said Matt Taylor, vice president operations at PFSbrands.

PFSbrands is the parent company of Champs Chicken, Cooper's Express, BluTaco and KitDel Equipment and is based out of Holts Summit. Students toured PFSbrands' warehouse and its blending facility to get an idea of the variety of jobs available in a large manufacturing facility.

"We're a very high growth company, so we don't have a lot of turnover, but what we do have as we're going is the need for more people. The warehouse is definitely a big need (for employees)," said John Atkinson, director of purchasing and forecasting at PFSbrands.

Danuser Machine Co. is a diversified manufacturer of a wide variety of products that range from ball joints to adjustment links and more. Vice President Janea Danuser said while leading tours over the years, people always expressed shock at the company's significance.

"This is our opportunity to show people what we do and how much these businesses matter. We're just one of many within the industry that keep the backbone of America strong, and we show these students why they should want to work in the manufacturing business in Callaway County," Danuser said.