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Getting involved with community opens doors for manufacturing’s future

If you want to teach young people the role of manufacturing in their communities - and open the door for manufacturing's future employees - get involved at the local level. Xten Industries, a Kenosha, WI-based injection molder and full-service product fabricator, began its formal association with Kenosha Unified School Ddistrict (KUSD) in the winter of 2008, when the company volunteered five acres of land next to the facility to be used by Harborside Academy as its Community Urban Garden.

Since its first planting of 13 raised beds in 2010, the Garden has grown to contain 60 beds and nine rows of trellises. It has given approximately 500 Harborside students a real and meaningful experience in growing their own food. To date, the Garden has produced over 10,000 pounds of produce, a portion of which is sold at the local Kenosha HarborMarket to raise funds for KUSD and another that makes its way into KUSD cafeterias.

Last month, Xten was the recipient of the 2014 Business in Education Award from the Kenosha Unified School District. The award acknowledges exceptional efforts of nominated local businesses who are devoted to helping KUSD students and staff.

"The industrial park garden is a living dynamic example of experimental learning at its best, allowing students to put into practice the Expeditionary Learning Design principles of success and failure, service and compassion," said Mary Bohning, M. Ed., Harborside Environmental Science teacher and leader of the Urban Garden project in her letter nominating Xtex for the award."

Xten has also provided area students, in addition to Harborside, with a working example of how businesses can incorporate environmental responsibility into their company culture. The company sponsors facility tours for students, showing them the steps they've taken to reduce the company's carbon footprint, limit waste and increase recycling.

Too often manufacturing - especially plastics manufacturing - gets a bad rap. It never ceases to amaze me how the mainstream media depicts manufacturing when it does an environmental story: a huge, tall smoke stack with white smoke billowing out of the top that is supposed to be "pollution." In reality, most of that white "smoke" coming from plants is steam and the stacks are equipped with scrubbers to reduce the pollution; which is why the U.S. has the some of the lowest pollutions levels of any country in the industrialized world.

 By participating in the community to this extent, Xten has been able to put a good face on manufacturing and plastics, showing the students the benefits of having a plastics manufacturing plant in their community. 

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