Manufacturing executive and HIA-LI co-chair Ron Loveland, top left, and...

Manufacturing executive and HIA-LI co-chair Ron Loveland, top left, and ice cream sandwich entrepreneur Natalia Sandor, bottom left, participated in Friday's Manufacturing Day program. Credit: Summit Safety & Efficiency Solutions

The future of Long Island’s manufacturing sector isn’t all about the aerospace industry of years’ past. For Natalia Sandor, an entrepreneur from Bayport, the future is all about ice cream.

In 2017, Sandor started Sand Bars Handcrafted, an ice cream sandwich business, as a student at Macaulay Honors College at CUNY’s College of Staten Island.

To grow her business, Sandor, 22, needed to rely on machinery that could help her mix the dough and cut the cookies that hold together her ice cream sandwiches.

"A lot of the challenges and surprises have come as you scale up and try to keep the quality," Sandor said. "The shape of the bar is challenging from a manufacturing perspective."

Sandor said she has been able to increase production to about 1,000 sandwiches a week; it used to take her weeks to fill orders of 200.

Her sandwiches, which feature five flavors of ice cream between thin chocolate chip cookies, are sold at 20 locations on Long Island, including Silly Lily Fishing Station in East Moriches, Babinski’s Farm Stand in Water Mill and Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. in Peconic.

Sandor was one of the presenters at Manufacturing Day, which was hosted Friday by a coalition of manufacturers, colleges and trade groups, including HIA-LI, Ignite Long Island and ADDAPT. The event was held in a virtual format for the second time.

The goal is to promote the region’s manufacturing sector to students while helping area companies develop a pipeline of local talent. A priority for the event organizers is developing "connections and relationships between manufacturers and schools," said Ron Loveland, president of Summit Safety & Efficiency Solutions, a manufacturing consulting firm in Miller Place, and co-chair of HIA-LI.

"Employers across New York state have jobs they can't fill because there just aren't enough workers with a specific set of skills that we need," Roberta Reardon, the state’s labor commissioner, said in a video played at the event. "Engaging all of you, from young people thinking about your career paths to our business community, educators and stakeholders, is an important part of the solution."

There were 67,500 people employed by Long Island manufacturing companies in August, making it the Island’s seventh largest industry. It grew by 2.9% compared with its size in August 2020. All of that growth was in the manufacturing of non-durable goods, such as food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Last year, average pay in the sector was $73,000. Pharmaceuticals represent the largest local segment of manufacturing.

The region’s manufacturers have jobs across engineering, accounting and marketing that require four-year degrees but also need machinists and sheet metal operators who bring technical skills.

"We need to try to break the loggerhead that everyone must go to college and no one can do anything else," said Joe Spinosa, vice president of business development at East/West Industries, which makes seating systems and emergency oxygen systems for commercial and military aircraft makers. The company recently reached a deal with Bell, the helicopter manufacturer, to build seats for its aircraft.

Spinosa sees the annual Manufacturing Day event as a chance to give local students a peek into careers in the industry — or to imagine building businesses of their own. "It’s planting the seeds and doing the watering and fertilizing to make sure our labor is continuously developed," he said. "As people retire, you want to have people to come in and be mentored."

Sandor said the entrepreneurial skills she's learning can be applied to many different disciplines. "Whether my business fails or is the next Chipwich doesn’t matter. It’s about the education I’m receiving," she said.

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