Utah joins a growing national list of manufacturing hotspots

By Bart Taylor | Jul 13, 2015

Aerospace & Electronics Bioscience & Medical Built Environment Consumer & Lifestyle Energy & Enviro Food & Beverage Industrial & Equipment

Today's 'Made in America' renaissance is actually a dozen different iterations, driven by local economic realities, by regional trends and attributes. It's a hundred distinct movements, some connected, some not, though it's easy to find an important connection between a craft brewer and a medical products manufacturer. Companies that make stuff have things in common.

To its credit the U.S. Department of Commerce has recognized this diversity and designated last week an additional 12 communities as "Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership" award recipients, each aligned with opportunity distinct to the region.

Utah's emerging composite materials sector, one I've written about often in the context of cycling and recreation and the companies in particular that make Ogden home, is on the list. It's a great example of trends revitalizing U.S. manufacturing and coalescing in powerful ways where opportunity meets targeted support -- in this case the Utah Outdoor Recreation Office's purposeful push to attract lifestyle-related industry.

Public-private partnerships are at the core of the Manufacturing Community Partnership awards. Here's a summary of the new 12 from the Commerce release. (Here's the full release.)

  1. The Greater Pittsburgh Metals Manufacturing Community plans to leverage their strengths in metals manufacturing to capitalize on the confluence of advances in new materials, digital technology and energy to re-energize metals manufacturing.
  2. The Alamo Manufacturing Partnership is focused on building upon their existing strengths to create an advantage for the transportation equipment industry by benefiting from public and private investments that contribute to community prosperity.
  3. The Madison Regional Economic Partnership is comprised of a 14-county region in Wisconsin that is focused on agriculture, food, and beverage (AFB) manufacturing as their key technology sector (KTS), with a target on "local foods."
  4. The Made in the Mid-South Manufacturing Alliance supports expansion of manufacturing in the Memphis Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), with a special focus on a strong and growing medical device cluster in three states -- Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas.
  5. The Minnesota Medical Manufacturing Partnership has crafted a strategy to strengthen the ecosystem for entrepreneurship, globally brand and market Minnesota's medical and life sciences cluster, and optimize the regional talent base via training and educational programs focused on medical devices and medical manufacturing.
  6. The Utah Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Initiative: The Wasatch Front and its surrounding counties support a highly specialized manufacturing capacity in advanced composites materials and products. The region aims to strengthen its current leadership in composite manufacturing by adding to its already strong ecosystem and providing supporting infrastructure including the Utah Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Initiative (UAMMI) and a chain of Local Solution Centers.
  7. The Pacific Northwest Manufacturing Partnership (Oregon-Washington) has fashioned an exciting opportunity to build on a traditional industry -- wood products -- and modernize it for the 21st century.
  8. The Connecticut Advanced Manufacturing Communities will provide the organizational structure to lead the effort to revolutionize the AMC Region's aerospace and shipbuilding industries.
  9. California's food system is the largest agricultural economy in the U.S. and among the top ten globally. The mission of the Central Valley AgPlus Food and Beverage Manufacturing Consortium is to foster the growth and creation of food and beverage businesses and middle-skills manufacturing jobs in the Central Valley.
  10. In South-central Idaho, the food production, processing, and science industrial sector contains a significant mix of key technologies and supply chain elements, making it a regional manufacturing focus.
  11. The Greater Peoria Economic Development Council leads a five-county consortium in central Illinois that will identify and develop strategies to help strengthen and diversify the region's earthmoving supply chain.
  12. South Louisiana Chemical Manufacturing Community's mission is to develop a vibrant nationally and internationally known chemical manufacturing community that increases positive social and environmental impacts, including job growth, waste reduction and product innovation.

Colorado is absent from the list and the previous dozen, though its aerospace sector would rank alongside any of the half-dozen or so designees. With New Horizons' Pluto fly-by in the news, so are the efforts of Colorado's space initiatives, at least in local newsfeeds.

The state's Office of Economic Development and International Trade was also awarded $6.6 million to identify and retrain defense-impacted 'advanced manufacturers,' so the Feds certainly value the state's manufacturing community.

Neither Utah nor Colorado is developing a blueprint that brings all of the manufacturing economy together – a ‘manufacturing communities partnership’ on a regional scale fit to the region's unique blend of attributes, talent and history.

But future partnerships like this may be regional in scope, so even though planners at GOED view this helping competitive efforts with Colorado, as OEDIT would, both Utah and Colorado win in the long run.

Collaboration is in the offing.