Sher Valenzuela, co-owner of First State Manufacturing in Milford, was recognized at the Science Technology Engineering and Production (STEP) Awards dinner and ceremony sponsored by The Manufacturing Institute on Thursday, February 6. The Washington, DC-based organization is dedicated to improving and expanding manufacturing in the United States through research of critical issues facing manufacturing and application of solutions through companies, schools, governments and organizations across the country.
The STEP Awards honored over 150 women this year throughout the United States in manufacturing who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in their careers. Sher was the only woman manufacturer in Delaware to be recognized at the event.
“To be around those women that have manufacturing in their blood like me was exciting,” commented Valenzuela. “It is unusual for women to be in love with manufacturing, and to be surrounded by so many talented women was the highlight of the evening.”
Personal circumstances drove Sher Valenzuela and her husband, Eli to start their company in 1998. Taking the expertise gained from a simple mail-order upholstery course and starting with nothing more than a second-hand sewing machine in their garage, they built a multi-million dollar company that today employs seventy indivduals. Sher is passionate about growing a business economically and with forethought, and has been instrumental in helping others to understand the ways they too can connect with and leverage local, state and federal no-cost and low-cost resources.
“We have a lot of catching up to do in the manufacturing industry,” commented Valenzuela. “First State Manufacturing faces concerns just like other business across the nation including the regulatory environment, energy costs and availability of resources.”
Sher has achieved numerous honors over the years, including the Lockheed Martin Minority Small Business of the Year, Department of Defense Supplier of Choice, U.S. Small Business Administration Minority Business of the Year and U.S. Small Business Administration Small Business Person of the Year, 2012.
The Manufacturing Institute hopes that by telling the real stories of leading women in manufacturing, such as Valenzuela’s, they will inspire the next generation of talent to pursue careers in the industry and support current female talent within the manufacturing industry. 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.
“We need to fuel the pipeline of talent in this industry,” commented Valenzuela. “We need to engage the young women and men with today’s manufacturing and show them that this is not their grandfather’s manufacturing anymore. They can work in engineering, design, research and development; this is all a part of today’s manufacturing industry.”