Applauding the long years of service of Voith Hydro employees, Gov. Tom Corbett on Tuesday playfully told an attentive audience that he never held the same job for 10 years.
While Pennsylvania's first-term Republican governor mentions that he hopes to hold the state's highest post for eight years, the focus Tuesday afternoon was a West Manchester Township hydropower company celebrating its 135th anniversary.
Voith has manufactured hydropower turbines and generation equipment since 1877, operating previously as Allis-Chalmers and S. Morgan Smith. It supports 550 jobs in York County, where employees include hourly workers, union machinists, engineers and management.
A handful of those employees have worked there for 45 years, and several have held onto their Voith jobs for more than 10 years.
"That tells me you have a great company here," Corbett said.
And Voith is a growing company, he said.
"In the economy we've had, that's very important," Corbett said.
Pennsylvania manufacturers have helped keep the commonwealth's unemployment rate below the national average, he said.
"Every manufacturing job in the state creates an additional seven or eight jobs in Pennsylvania," Corbett said.
By the governor's estimation, Pennsylvania is the larget energy state in the union, he said. That's largely due to the commonwealth's manufacturers making things people need.
"Voith survived World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Great Depression and ... the Great Recession. America needs energy," Corbett said.
Longtime employee: Thomas Crooks, project manager for after-market business at Voith, started working during the Vietnam War in 1967 when the company was owned by Allis-Chalmers.
There were ups and downs, he said, and Allis-Chalmers issued some layoffs. But the company survived because it builds machines that make power.
"You can't do anything without power," Crooks said.
The Heidelberg Township resident said he's thankful to have spent so many years at Voith.
"It goes faster than you think. One day you wake up and you're old," Crooks said jokingly.
Corbett said he'd like to see more Pennsylvanians spend 25, 35 or 45 years at one job.
Helping manufacturers: To make that a reality, he's created the Governor's Manufacturing Advisory Council, which is tasked with creating a roadmap to building a strong manufacturing sector in the state.
There are 8,000 jobs open in Pennsylvania's manufacturing sector, Corbett said.
In August, one of the findings of his advisory council revealed a skills gap, according to a state report.
Locally, there's a growing concern among manufacturers that hands-on skills are being lost, according to Michael Smeltzer, executive director of the Manufacturers' Association of South Central Pennsylvania.
"In our business, those skills are critical," he said.
Despite a local unemployment rate of 8 percent, manufacturers are having a tough time finding skilled workers. Open positions listed by association members include machinists, welders, maintenance mechanics, electrical technicians, automation workers, professional engineers and more, he said.
"We're trying to fill those positions, but there's a severe skills gap in the world of manufacturing," Smeltzer said. "The technology has increased significantly, but the skill of the workforce has not."
Corbett said he knows Pennsylvanians want to work and he hopes his Keystone Works initiative, which aims to better match potential employees with open jobs, will help fill that gap.
By closing the state's budget deficit without raising taxes, the governor said he has also put some employment-friendly policies in place.
"We closed the deficit gap without raising taxes. You pay enough already," he said. "I believe a job is better than a tax."
- Candy Woodall can also be reached at email@example.com.