First State Celebrates Manufacturing Day

Eli Valenzuela sharing his success story with MHS business students.
Eli Valenzuela sharing his success story with MHS business students.

On Thursday, October 3 First State Manufacturing in Milford hosted a National Manufacturing Day (MFG DAY) celebration alongside several local manufacturing companies including Mohawk Electrical Systems of Milford, ILC Dover of Frederica and Miller Metals Fabrication of Bridgeville. One of 170 events taking place across the nation on Thursday, First State Manufacturing hosted Milford High School business students as they toured the facility on SE 4th Street.

According to the U.S. Manufacturing Institute, there is currently a skilled labor shortage in the United States which many believe may be a product of the misconception that many have regarding the industry. MFG DAY is a national movement that aims to address common misperceptions about manufacturing by giving manufacturers an opportunity to open their doors and show what manufacturing is and what it is not. National Manufacturing Day gives local manufacturing companies the opportunity to “connect with future generations, take charge of the public image of manufacturing, and ensure the ongoing prosperity of the whole industry.”

After Milford High School students took a tour of the facility, Eli Valenzuela, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of First State Manufacturing, shared his success story with the business students. Eliseo Valenzuela, a second generation Mexican-American, grew up dirt-poor in the projects of Corpus Christi, Texas. He was what his people called a “pachuco,” which means “hood.”

In 1998 with one sewing machine and a lot of determination, Eli & Sher Valenzuela began what is now known as First State Manufacturing out of their garage. As an Army communications technician, Eli took a correspondence course on upholstery while serving with the Second Armored Division in Germany. This course ultimately led him towards developing a career that has been not only financially successful but personally fulfilling. While working at Dover Air Force Base Eli worked upholstering C-5 Galaxy aircrafts for the United States Air Force.

As they looked for a more cost effective, efficient way to create upholstery products and services, Sher and Eli decided to start a private business that would aim to do just that. Today, First State Manufacturing has been in business for over 15 years and is currently employing more than 40 technicians at their new 66,000 square foot facility in Milford.

“The government may be shut down but manufacturing is open for business,” commented Sher Valenzuela, Vice President of First State Manufacturing. “We are reconnecting the importance of manufacturing in the US economy by giving the next generation a chance to learn about the manufacturing industry and how it affects them.”

Guest speakers from Mohawk Electrical Systems, ILC Dover and Miller Metals Fabrication shared their success stories and stressed the importance of manufacturing jobs in the United States. They highlighted that manufacturing careers offer good salaries and exciting opportunities to be on the cutting edge of new technology and pointed out that “every $1 spent in manufacturing returns $1.48 to the economy.”