Nora Harding

2020 STEP Ahead Honoree

Director of Operations
Special Products & Manufacturing, Inc.

I get passionate from seeing how manufacturing impacts people and our world. Manufacturing is the only industry that starts with an idea that turns into reality – people design and build real things that are essential for our world, driving innovation, advanced technologies and career opportunities that develop exceptional talent.

As director of operations at Special Products & Manufacturing (SPM), Nora is responsible for all departments of the manufacturing process. Her great success in the role stems from consistently encouraging the best performances possible from everyone from owners to operators. Under Nora’s leadership, on-time delivery has risen to 99.6 percent, quality rejections have fallen by 47 percent and there have been zero safety incidents this year.

People at SPM regularly turn to Nora with questions and concerns because they know she will provide expert analysis and take immediate action to resolve issues. They also respect her because she has taken the time to learn and appreciate SPM’s longstanding culture and build on that culture to strengthen the company. For instance, Nora pairs long-term employees with millennials just joining the workforce, helping to engage and motivate all generations. This strategy has improved employee engagement and led to retention levels above industry averages.

To encourage the professional growth of an even younger generation, Nora serves on the board of her local school district’s technical school, where she advises on how the district can best prepare female students for the manufacturing field. Nora leads facility tours and creates job shadowing programs and internships, as well as coaching students one-on-one. She has a special ability to make manufacturing relatable for students so that they can envision the careers they might build in the field.

Helping others is important to Nora, and her enthusiasm has been contagious at SPM. Within the company, Nora was instrumental in rolling out the Special Wish program, which has raised funds for such wish-fulfillments as donating a wheelchair to an employee’s grandchild and donating 1,000 backpacks to foster children. Another initiative, Built-2-Serve, has supplied the local food pantry, donated toiletries to women’s shelters and raised funds for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund.