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Urban Sustainability:Role of Small Manufacturers

2012 July 30

By Natalie Hummel

Recently, I attended an urban manufacturing tour in Philadelphia with a dedicated group from Philadelphia’s Department of Labor, Commerce and Water, University of Penn, Drexel University, Peoples Emergency Center and the Pratt Center (NY). It was an exciting opportunity to step outside my busy cubicle and experience a world where products are designed and crafted locally —which provided real meaning to the logo “Made in the U.S.A.”

Our initial stop was a small family owned textile company that produced ergonomically enhanced military gear to protect the lives of our military members. Military apparel carrying grenades and high end equipment were redesigned to improve effectiveness. Our group heard how “lean manufacturing” improved operational efficiencies to eliminate or reduce waste while reducing costs.

The open conversation between management and employees enhanced productivity and team incentives and provided employees with an opportunity to enhance skills and knowledge. More importantly, the President of the company, a graduate of the University of Penn’s Wharton School of Business recognized the importance of keeping jobs in Philadelphia.

Along with many creative solutions, we highlighted E3: Economy, Energy, and the Environment, a collaborative framework by local, state, and federal partners to address manufacturing sustainability and profitability. E3 companies that have participated received technical expertise to improve processes, energy use, environmental stewardship, worker safety and competitiveness. Technical assistance through E3 can help companies make more money, retain and hire new workers, and protect public health and the environment, all at the same time.

As a result of the work that this company had done, lives will be saved, product life will be extended and operational costs will be reduced.

This is only one company and many other small and medium sized urban manufacturers are making an enormous impact promoting regional sustainability, livability, and economic competitiveness. Through collaborative programs such as E3, economic, energy and environmental improvements will benefit many.

About the author: Natalie Hummel holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and has been with the EPA for over 9 years.   Natalie joined the Agency as a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF) , and completed rotational assignments at the Chesapeake Bay Program and the National Park Service working on urban stormwater and coastal estuary environmental issues.  She has extensive experience in budgeting, performance measurement, policy, and planning.   Currently, Natalie is in the Pollution Prevention Division managing E3 efforts in NY, PA, WV, VA, and MT.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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5 Responses leave one →
  1. Arman.- permalink
    July 30, 2012

    Hopefully : Processing of Manufacture Agricultural…..

    I hope E3 could remember agricultural and do not use its soil to become industrial product. perfectly, urban sustainability has land-use for human-life, autonomious, and sustainable……!

  2. July 30, 2012

    This is a great read, thanks for sharing!!!

  3. July 31, 2012

    The Good Force be with you!

    Well done, Natalie! Urban living needs to be enhanced and must have a comfortable ecosystem that is agreeable to people’s senses.

    Live forever and prosper!

  4. August 3, 2012

    I have learnt something new. E3: Economy, Energy, and the Environment. Thanks :)

  5. Mike permalink
    February 20, 2014

    +1 for Melvin – balancing public health and productivity is never an easy feat. It’s nice to know small business is having a hand in working to improve life for our military. I think back to the gear we were issued in the Marine Corps and I wonder how I’ve got a strong back now. ALICE packs are not what I think of when I hear the word “ergonomics”. Great article Natalie.

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