As United Lens Company (ULC) celebrates 100 years of growth and business in Southbridge, the company is also celebrating 100 years of giving back to the community. This rich tradition of contribution to the Southbridge community—initiated by ULC founder Fileno DiGregorio in 1916 and nurtured since then—is alive and well at ULC. One of the company’s most recent enrichment efforts is in the field of education.
“There is a considerable labor gap in the optics field, [both] generally and in the Central Massachusetts area [specifically],” said ULC Sales Manager, Tara King. “There are master programs in optics and photonics, and even doctorate level programs, but they’re offered by large metropolitan schools, and it is mostly students with physics degrees who enter those programs.”
“When it comes to technician and engineer-level labor, the candidate pool shrinks,” continued King. “This is due in a large part to the lack of optics and photonics education available outside of the advanced degrees offered by large universities.”
As part of its community efforts, ULC has a tradition of staff members serving on the boards of various local organizations. Most recently, King was elected to the Board of Directors at Quinsigamond Community College Foundation (QCCF), which supports QCC.
QCC, ULC, Incom of Charlton, MA, and IPG Photonics—another QCC partner and fiber laser manufacturer located in nearby Oxford, MA—are working together to build a photonics curriculum at QCC from the ground up.
“Technical education is extremely important to the future of manufacturing in the United States,” said King, “but it largely focuses on general manufacturing skills and, occasionally, engineering skills.”
“These schools focus on optics extremely rarely,” she continued. “To be able to build a curriculum and bring photonics to the community college level in Central Massachusetts is a huge accomplishment.”
King’s involvement in the QCCF Board of Directors is only the most recent board membership in a long history of ULC community outreach. Her grandfather, Albert DiGregorio, worked as President of ULC for many years and served on a wide range of boards and committees. These included roles as a member on the Board of Trustees of Nichols College, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission, President and Director of the Southbridge Chamber of Commerce, and many, many more.
ULC gives back to its community on a more intimate level, as well. ULC has always given generously to a wide variety of charitable causes, including the Tri-Community YMCA, Southbridge Food Share, Harrington Hospital Auxiliary, United Way, Old Sturbridge Village, Southbridge Police K9 Unit, Southbridge Little League, Cops & Kids of Southbridge and Southbridge Youth Soccer. The list goes on—Fileno would be proud.