Click the images below to see our Share My Story Business Feature for the Manufacturing Association of Central Florida. The MACF used this feature story to tell about how, with support from their organization, more women are being encouraged to join the manufacturing industry. Their 5.5 X 8.5 four-page brochure was also used to hand out at special events to promote both this specific story, as well as the organization as a whole.

With support from Manufacturing Association of Central Florida, women encouraged to join industry

By Michael Freeman Correspondent


ORLANDO, Florida -- Across the state of Florida, manufacturing is booming, and becoming an increasingly important part of the state’s diverse economy. That means an increasing number of jobs are being created in this field -- jobs that require the skills and talents of men and women.


Roshelle Lindsay and Donna Best, along with the Manufacturing Association of Central Florida, understand that concept well. Roshelle is the manager of the planning department for an Orlando-area manufacturer, and Donna is the president/owner of Merit Fasteners, a family/women-owned business. They both have recognized what MACF preaches -- that manufacturing is a field that offers many great opportunities for women.


Take Roshelle Lindsay. She had been working at a manufacturing company for about a year when something happened in her department that she hadn’t expected. She was promoted to lead it.


Custom Metal Designs, Inc. [Oakland, Florida], which designs and builds conveyor systems and other products, had hired Roshelle for a position in their planning department as an entry-level planner who would receive drawings from the engineers, apply data information to them, and get that information into their computer system to create work orders.


She was a fast learner who impressed her supervisors with her ability to continuously expand her knowledge of the role that planning plays within the manufacturing process.


So much so, that when her supervisor moved on, Roshelle was offered a new role as the manager of the planning department. It was a meteoric rise, indeed.


Roshelle deserves the most credit for applying herself, learning the position and demonstrating how valuable she is to the company, said Ray Aguerrevere, vice president and general manager of Custom Metal Designs.


“We put her in planning, she learned quickly, and became a very valued team player,” Aguerrevere said. His faith in Roshelle definitely paid off after she got promoted, he added.


Looking back at her five years at Custom Metal Design, Roshelle said she feels like she learned something else: that manufacturing is a strong field for women. While it’s not a career choice that many women typically make, Roshelle said she’s an example of a genuine success story in the field. And she initially had no plans to seek a career in manufacturing.


A native of Huntsville, Ala., Roshelle came to Florida with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, then got a master’s degree in business administration management. But she also admits, “When I finished school, manufacturing wasn’t on my mindset.”


Then Roshelle heard about a unique program at Valencia College that focused on Advanced Manufacturing. She was surprised to discover the highly technical skills this industry requires.


“They really opened my eyes that the industry needs skilled people, and those needs are expanding as the technical advances are expanding,” she said.  A good example was learning CNC, or Computerized Numeric Control, the use of computers to control machines and program the number of steps those machines take to quickly produce items that will be identical to one another.


Roshelle thinks there’s another reason why women entering college should give serious thought to the career paths that manufacturing offers.


“I’ve seen just within our company the potential for growth in this field,” she said. “We have tripled the number of women we have. The need is there. Manufacturers committed to growth recognize the value of having a diverse collection of employees.”


Custom Metal Designs is a member of the Manufacturing Association of Central Florida, and together they’re continuing to create new manufacturing opportunities in fast-growing Florida.

Roshelle said she owes a lot to Sherry Reeves, executive director of the Manufacturing Association, because she was “the pivotal point between gaining this industry knowledge and immediately seeing the benefits of learning it. As a part of the Advanced Manufacturing program, MACF arranged for the students to meet and interview with the decision makers in Central Florida manufacturing. I was hired from that event, and from that time Sherry and I have stayed engaged with my progress.”


“At the [MACF], we are truly honored to represent and support the men and women who are the backbone of Central Florida’s economy,” Sherry said. “One of the many ways we have helped to grow the industry locally is to encourage women into manufacturing industries and positions. I am very impressed to see the many opportunities that women now have in manufacturing careers.”


Under the guidance of Sherry and Christian Davidson [the MACF’s director of marketing and communications], the educational opportunities within MACF meetings, plant tours, and networking events foster the development of up and coming manufacturers and enable seasoned leaders to share their knowledge and connections.


Donna Best agrees. She and her sisters decided to buy the family business when their father was ready to retire. Donna began the challenge of operating Merit Fasteners [a fastener and industrial supplier that supports manufacturing through vendor managed inventory] rather than being support staff as she had been, and felt fortunate to have the assistance of the MACF.


“The MACF, from my experience, has just gotten better and better, it has honed in on what the manufacturers of Florida need to grow and to be an intricate part of the growth in manufacturing in the United States,” Donna said. “What they’ve done is gotten to know our needs and worked with local governments to support people in manufacturing.”


Like Roshelle’s, Donna’s is a success story for a woman who initially didn’t plan to go into the field of manufacturing. But thanks in part to help from the MACF, the business has continued to grow under her leadership.


This prepared her to take advantage of the rapid growth in Florida’s booming manufacturing sector.


To be sure, Donna Best initially expected to head in a different direction. She got a degree in business marketing from the University of Central Florida and worked at The Orlando Sentinel and the World Trade Center Orlando doing just that.


Her responsibilities quickly expanded once she joined Merit Fasteners.


“I started doing exporting of fasteners,” she says. “We were a very small company, but I loved the international aspect of the business world, and wanted to do something that went with it. That entailed many different things -- getting to know the markets, finding out what the incentives were for the state of Florida, and then going on trade missions overseas.”


Donna has grown to love the field of manufacturing, and as it continues to expand and become a more significant part of Florida’s economy, she believes it’s the ideal industry for job seekers -- particularly women.


“I really don’t even think of ourselves as women in manufacturing,” she says. “We all hire women in manufacturing and are successful at that. But I really think of us as a community of manufacturers. Women do all jobs here. Our sales team and our inside sales team are mostly women. We have women working in all aspects of our business, from our warehouse to drivers.


“And my experience,” she added, “has been wonderful being a woman working in manufacturing. It’s really exciting what’s happening in Central Florida with manufacturing.”


For more information about the Manufacturing Association of Central Florida, please visit or call (407) 897-3384.