The Steel Valley Authority (SVA), headquartered in Pittsburgh, with four other offices across Pennsylvania, stands out as a comparatively small organization that works to avert layoffs, save jobs and strengthen communities dependent on the manufacturing industry throughout the Commonwealth.

 “Since 1993,” emphasizes Bob Value, SVA Deputy Director, “we’ve intervened with 1,300 manufacturing businesses and averted or deferred the loss of over 30,000 jobs plus the jobs of companies that service or supply these manufacturing companies.”

Value points out that the SVA works only with manufacturing companies, because these organizations remain prime employers throughout Pennsylvania. And saving companies located in small communities may save these communities. 

To save manufacturing companies, SVA uses a program called the Strategic Early Warning Network (SEWN) which is funded under the U.S. Department of Labor Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act and administered through the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. Through this program, SEWN provides specialized, turnaround consulting services at no charge to support small to medium manufacturing companies. These services help to restructure, stabilize and rekindle growth in these firms. 

SEWN offers these five “Turnaround Services” free of charge to get a manufacturing business back on track: 

Restructuring Finances: SEWN stabilizes the immediate situation by working with creditors, investors and management to help to restructure the balance sheet, while determining new ways to generate cash from internal operations and outside sources. With cash flow stabilized, SEWN’s Regional Director works with a company to correct underlying problems by addressing cost-containment issues. The program also works with management to create a system of evaluation to track a company’s progress and to prevent future downturn.

Streamlining Operations: SEWN identifies and corrects operating issues that save businesses time and money. This includes all aspects of a company’s operations, including production, marketing, sales, financ, and human resources. The Directors help restructure operations and may utilize other private or public sector resources.

Transition Ownership: Ownership transition can turn a company around and avoid layoffs. Transition options may include management buyouts, employee ownership plans (EOPs) and third-party sales. SEWN helps initiate a transition, facilitate the process, or help find a buyer for the company.

Finding New Markets:  SEWN provides free marketing assistance to diversify a company’s product line. For example: Implementing a new use for a current product; improving a product to meet new requirements; and exploring new geographic areas, industries and demographics to market a product.

Achieving a High-Performance Workplace: SEWN opens a dialogue between a firm’s management and workers to create the most productive workplace possible. Companies achieve the highest productivity, when they promote a positive work environment and assure that all workers have the necessary knowledge, skills and motivation to do their jobs. When workplace relations deteriorate, so does productivity. SEWN is sensitive to the concerns of management and workers with extensive experience in facilitating open dialogue between the two.

“SEWN,” points out Value, “succeeds because we hire only former top executives of other companies who have experienced and succeeded with the types of challenges confronted by manufacturers.”