The Story of the Seat: Celebrating Manufacturing Day Today with Freedman Seating Company

We all want a seat when we ride transit.  Recently, I wondered where those prized seats come from? What’s their story?

In honor of Manufacturing Day today, I recently toured a company here in Chicago that plays a big role in our mass transit system: Freedman Seating Company.

It was over 125 years ago that Hyman Freedman began making seat cushions for horse-drawn buggies. A century later, Freedman Seating Company is still a family owned-and-operated business in Chicago committed to meeting the highest standards in the industry. Today, Freedman Seating employs 900 people and is one of the world’s largest specialty seating manufacturers. Their product lines include bus, rail, marine, delivery truck, specialty and commercial vehicle seating. The family of Freedman Seating bus seats includes products for small and mid-size coaches, paratransit vans and buses, public transit buses, and private bus operators.

And that seat on the CTA bus you’re sitting on while reading this great blog? That’s a Freedman Seat.

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When I toured Freedman Seating Company, I heard the same concerns that manufacturers across the country are facing today. The most pressing issue is a gap in skilled labor; 80 percent of manufacturers cannot find the skilled workers they need, and this gap continues to widen. CNBC highlighted the shortage Freedman is facing with highly skilled workers in 2014.

Freedman is participating in Manufacturing Day throughout the month of October by hosting open houses, public tours, career workshops and other events. They are showcasing their facilities that lead to well-paid, in-demand manufacturing careers. Freedman works closely with the following community, manufacturing and education groups to find skilled workers and increase engagement.

It’s important to note how critical sufficient transit funding is to not only the RTA and Transit Agencies, but also to local companies like Freedman Seating. Capital funding for transit projects like new buses keeps Freedman Seating in business and employs more people in our region. It’s why we need to Invest in Transit. In addition to daily commuters, there are businesses in our region like Freedman that contribute to our economy when we invest in our public transportation system.

So the next time you sit down on a bus or train (thank you for riding by the way), remember there’s a lot that goes into not only your entire ride, but also that seat you’re sitting on.