North Dakota Focuses on Accelerating Growth of Emerging Companies

May 24th, 2017

The last week of April, I visited the Fargo, North Dakota region as the guest of the North Dakota Department of Commerce’s Economic Development & Finance Division, which is charged with coordinating the state’s economic development resources to attract, retain and expand wealth. My host was Paul Lucy, former director of the Economic Development & Finance Division, and we visited several companies and met with heads of organizations working to accelerate the growth of emerging companies and retain successful existing companies.

For many people, the only impression they have of Fargo is based on the movie and subsequent TV series of the same name. I never saw the movie and haven’t watched the TV series, but have a cousin in Fargo who is always bragging about what is happening, especially what celerity is coming to perform. I learned that the Red River is the boundary between North Dakota and Minnesota, and about 230,000 people live in the greater Fargo/Moorhead region. It has one private and two public four-year universities, along with several community, technical, and business schools. With nearly 30,000 college students, it is a college town that rivals any in the nation.

As we began our first day of appointments, Paul said, “There are development projects in motion that have  a vision of making downtown Fargo a more vibrant place to live and work, which could lessen urban sprawl and result in more efficient investment in city infrastructure and services. An added bonus would be the preservation of more of North Dakota’s fertile farmland for agriculture production.”

Our first appointment was a breakfast meeting at Emerging Prairie, a co-working space in downtown Fargo. We met with Greg Tehven, Executive Director of Emerging Prairie. He said he grew up on a farm and is a 5th generation North Dakotan. When he was attending the University of Minnesota, he remembers that one of his professors recommended that North Dakota be turned back to the prairie because from 1930 – 2000 there was a “brain drain,” when the best and brightest left the state.

Greg said, “I never intended to go back to North Dakota when I graduated, but while I was an undergrad at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota in 2003, I co-founded Students Today, Leaders Forever. After graduating, I joined the Kilbourne Group and worked on a variety of projects to stimulate growth and entrepreneurship in downtown Fargo.

He explained, “I burned out and worked my way around the world in 2010. I had a Rotary Ambassador scholarship and got accepted to the University of Manchester to study social change in 2011. I had a year before I started school, so I worked for Doug Burgum for a year and discovered “urbanism.” When I gave a TEDx Talk in Minneapolis, I made a conscious choice that instead of studying social change, I wanted to practice social change.”

He said, “Three of my friends and I founded Emerging Prairie in 2013 to turn Fargo into a vibrant startup community. Our mission is to connect and celebrate the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Fargo-Moorhead. We do so by operating a wide variety of events and initiatives, such as the Drone Focus Monthly, the Prairie Den co-working and event space Hackathon, Meetup groups, and the Intern Experience. We have TEDx Fargo, an independently organized TED event, and 1 Million Cups Fargo, the largest and most active 1 Million Cups program in the country.

We support tech-based entrepreneurs. We are not very involved with manufacturing – most of our entrepreneurs are in software. We provide entrepreneurs: (1) a founders-only retreat (2) a platform to share their work and investment opportunities, and (3) access to consultants. I believe in transfer of information, but not a formal mentor relationship. We have to make it a “cool” climate for college students. We host midnight brunches and do a lot of weird and strange things. We have 144 members of our co-working space, modeled like a student union. We have no desire to maximize profits, but to maximize impact. Millennials are wired to maximize impact rather than maximize profits.”

He expanded, “We host the Ted Ex Fargo and will have about 2,000 people at the event this summer where the CEO of the Kauffman Foundation will speak. We host an Ecommerce conference in Moorhead. We support the drone industry and run a drone conference that started two years ago with 240 attendees the first year and 330 the second year. We expect about 600 people this year on May 31st. We host different other events and also operate an online publication that highlights the regions entrepreneurs and innovators that are turning Fargo into a flourishing tech hub. In 2016, we became a 501(c) 3 non-profit.”

Our next visit put what Greg has said into perspective. We visited the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation (GFMEDC) where we met with James Gartin, President, Mark Vaux, Executive V.P, Business Development, and Lisa Gulland Nelson, V. P., Marketing and Public Relations. Mr. Gartin said, “Our goal is to be a key catalyst for business growth and prosperity for the region. As far back as five years ago, we felt that we had a difficult situation because of our workforce and ability to attract new companies with our extremely low unemployment rate that is currently3.4%. Every time we get a RFQ, the first thing we get asked is:  Do you have enough employees? We made a commitment early on that we weren’t going to take away employees from our existing employers. While we still work to attract companies to our region, we realized that if we need to work with our two universities to change the philosophy from ‘research for papers’ to ‘research for commercialization’ to facilitate start-up companies.”

He explained, “We have funded Emerging Prairie since its inception and are helping them to support entrepreneurism. We attend and support 1 Million Cups, where the entrepreneurial community meets with K-12 superintendants, organizes manufacturing tours for high schoolers, and recruits companies to our community.

He added, “Governor Doug Burgum’s son, Joe Burgum, is committed to making Fargo the best place on earth to live. He founded Folkways that is a community-building collective dedicated to supporting the region’s culture creators. He created the Red River Market,  successfully lobbied to bring the ride-sharing service Uber to North Dakota, and puts on a course to help entrepreneurs launch local businesses.”

He said, “At North Dakota State University’s Research and Technology Park, there is great collaboration to make it a leader in developing Intellectual Property. Entrepreneur magazine ranked Fargo in the top 10 for entrepreneurism. We have a number of ‘0-60’ speed companies in operation, and a lot more that are on the cusp. The most important thing is that our senior leaders are seeing a difference in the growth of business. We modeled our approach after Brad Feld’s book, Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, based on Boulder, Colorado. The start-up phase is ten years, and we are only 4-5 years into the program. Cities can’t push entrepreneurism. You can’t make people start companies, but you can help to build the ecosystem.”

The supplemental material I was provided revealed that the costs of doing business in North Dakota are around 15 percent less than the national average because of the following:

* Research and development tax credits

* Corporate income tax exemption

* Property tax exemptions for new or improved buildings

* No personal property or gross receipts taxes

* No sales tax on eligible services, manufacturing or computer/ telecommunications equipment

* Seed and angel capital investment tax credits

* Early-stage financing resources

* State-sponsored workforce training grants

The GFMEDC website states, “Some of our largest employers include divisional, regional, national and global headquarters & facilities for Microsoft Business Solutions, Bobcat Co., John Deere Electronic Solutions, Border States Electric Supply, RDO Equipment Co., Tech Mahindra, Titan Machinery, Nokia HERE and American Crystal Sugar.” The Microsoft campus came about when Great Plains Software, Inc. was acquired in 2001. There doesn’t seem to be a dominant manufacturing industry in Fargo, as the list of top manufacturers includes farm and construction equipment, power equipment, windows/doors, metal fabrication, steel, and composites.

We also discussed the challenges of solving the skills gap and attracting the next generation of manufacturing workers. Mr. Gartin said, “Tip Strategies out of Austin, TX did an economic development strategy study for us on how to grow economy and our workforce. We have funded the plan and are implementing it. We have some of the most unique workforce strategies in the country. Industry and education mesh. We have a very robust manufacturing Day that we handle. We have funded a Maker Space in Moorhead and helped NDSU create a Maker Space, job shadowing and internships. We have a Tri-College University consortium. Students can take classes and get credit at any of the colleges and pay the same rate. Last year, the two-year technical schools collaborated so that students can take classes at any one for the same rate.”

Tri-College University is a unique consortium that allows students enrolled at any one of its five member institutions to take courses at the others at no extra charge, and to apply the credits toward graduation requirements at the home campus. The five member colleges are:

  • Concordia College – Moorhead
  • Minnesota State University Moorhead
  • North Dakota State University – Fargo
  • Minnesota State Community & Technical College – Moorhead
  • North Dakota State College of Science – Wahpeton & Fargo

When I mentioned The Playbook for Teens program I have written about that mentors middle school girls to get them interested in STEM careers, he said, “We think it needs to start in elementary school in the second or third grade when students are starting to learn math. At NDSU, there is an Engineers in the Classroom program where engineering students work in classrooms to teach math. They matched first and second graders with an engineering student to work with them on project based learning. It was tested in an 8-week program, and every student jumped up two levels. This year, there is an engineering student in every classroom, and the students are about to be tested. This could be the opportunity to show that this works, so that we can apply for a Pew grant to fund the program.”

Mark Vaux said, “Our business development program is based on attraction, business retention, and expansion. We visit at least 150 companies on an annual basis looking for opportunities and challenges, so we can help them through the challenges and barriers to growth and recommend actions to take. If companies are buying new equipment or adding workers, there are state programs that will help them.”

Lisa Gulland Nelson described some of the Workforce programs they have:

  • Operation Intern – primary sector business are eligible for matching funds of up to $30,000 per legislative biennium or $3,000 per intern for hiring North Dakota college students or high school juniors or seniors.
  • New Jobs Training Program – matching grants to assist qualified North Dakota employers in training or upgrading their employees’ skills.

Overall, I was impressed with North Dakota’s policies to provide a favorable business climate for its businesses and wish that California would adopt some of these same policies. The Fargo region is smart to focus on emerging businesses to retain their college graduates and keep them from going to other states for jobs. My next article will cover the incubator at the NDSU Research & Technology Park.

Workshops for Warriors Holds Successful Inaugural Gala

May 18th, 2017

On April 20, 2017, over 300 people attended the Workshops for Warriors Inaugural Gala that was held on the USS Midway Carrier Museum in San Diego, California. Former California Assembly member Nathan Fletcher, now a Professor of Practice in Political Science at the University of California, San Diego, was the Master of Ceremonies.

The WWII tribute trio, the American Bombshells, sang the opening national anthem and provided the entertainment later in the program. Founder and CEO of Workshops for Warriors, Hernán Luis y Prado, gave the welcoming remarks and showed the latest short video featuring testimonials by students on how WFW gives them a sense of potential again.

He said, “This evening’s celebration is in honor of the 388 Workshops for Warriors’ veterans, wounded warriors, and transitioning service members who have earned over 1,500 national recognized certifications. Our graduates work in advanced manufacturing centers throughout the U.S.A. and contribute $27 million to America’s economy every year. This number continues to grow. We are proud of their successes and contributions to our community, the manufacturing industry, and our nation as a whole.”

He briefly described how he and his wife, Rachel, had self-financed the training they began providing in their own garage in 2008 while Hernán was still in the service. He said that he heartsick at seeing too many veterans unable to transition successfully into civilian life and even commit suicide. When he ran into one of his buddies from his service in Iraq confined to a wheel chair after losing both his legs from an IED, he and his wife decided to invest all of their assets to expand into their first small building in early 2011. He had previously told me that they got their first outside funding from Goodrich Aerostructures, so that they were able to move into a building twice the size in October 2011.

Hernán said, “Many of you understand our Double Funnel dilemma…a waiting list of over 500 students but over 2,500 jobs available nationwide for each one of our graduates…The Challenge? There is only funding for 50 students every semester. Now is the time to take action to expand Workshops for Warriors with our $21 million capital campaign. This expansion would allow us to train ten times as many veterans and provide them with opportunities to serve America in a new role as they provide for their families and take part in the American dream.”

He extended his heartfelt thanks to Reliance Steel& Aluminum Company, and the Harriet E. Pfleger Foundation for being the Red, White and Blue sponsors for the evening. He said, “These contributors have been our “Champions,” whose dedication and continued support have made a meaningful and profound impact in helping Workshops for Warriors grow while changing the lives of veterans. For example, Reliance Steel provided funding to add 18 welding stations and add a new Computer Aided Design laboratory that allows an additional 18 CAD/CAM students every semester to receive our life changing training and certifications add several stations for CAD/CAM software training.”

He concluded his remarks saying, “I am extremely grateful to those of you who have chosen to take action. I am humbled by your commitment to our nation’s veterans and America’s manufacturing industry. In 150 years, people will look back on Workshops for Warriors as the birthplace of American’s advanced manufacturing renaissance. Thank you for supporting Workshops for Warriors.”

MC Fletcher then introduced Jim Hoffman, Executive V. P. and COO of Reliance Steel & Aluminum Company. He relayed the comments of President and CEO Gregg Mullins, who was unable to attend the event. He said, “Reliance Steel is a proud supporter of Workshops for Warriors, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing fee training in welding, fabrication, CAD/CAM programming, and advanced machining to Veterans, Wounded Warriors and Active Duty personnel. Their mission is to equip the students with marketable skills and nationally recognized credentials so they can secure careers in manufacturing and achieve success in their civilian lives.”

He continued, “Workshops for Warriors is funded through private donations from individuals and companies like Reliance, and 83% of every dollar donated goes directly to the training programs. Over the years, Reliance has supported Workshops for Warriors by funding equipment purchases, forging partnerships with our industry peers, making donations, and hiring Workshops for Warriors graduate. We have held events among our employees to not only raise funds but increase awareness about the important work being done by Workshops for Warriors to serve a population that has so faithfully served our country. As they transition into the manufacturing sector careers, Workshops alumni continue to serve by contributing to our country’s economy.”

He concluded, “Workshops for Warriors’ Capital Campaign is underway, with a goal of raising $21 million to build a new facility that can accommodate ten times as many students as are currently enrolled. As the Capital Campaign Committee Chairman, President Gregg Mullins is personally calling on you for support. A great opportunity is here for us to give back to those who have gone above and beyond to protect us. Let’s do our part to help our men and women in uniform succeed and thrive.”

Next, Darnisha Hunter, Active Duty and Veterans Family Advocate from the Office of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office, read a proclamation in which April 20, 2017 was declared Workshops for Warriors’ Day in the City of San Diego.

This was followed by a short speech by alumnus Scott Leoncini, who had been a Marine. He said, “When I got out I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I met my amazing wife Michelle… [who] told me that I should go to school. Determined not to lose her, I did just that.” He worked in gun shops while going to college and finished college with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

He said, “I went on a ride along one night with a local police department and decided that I needed to become a police officer…. I applied to almost all the agencies near my home, but only to end up with a stack of denial letters…I hit a huge wall, I was depressed, looking for any better paying job as I was making 10/hr as a security officer. ”

Then, he heard that a Marine friend of his was killed in a helicopter crash in Florida after just coming back from receiving the Silver Star for his actions in Afghanistan. Scott said, “It took me 6 years of struggle and Andy dying to realize that I needed to change my path, I needed to identify with something else…”

A few days later, he reconnected with some Marine friends, and one of them, Josh Garcia, “was enrolled at Workshops for Warriors at the time, and he told me about how Workshops helped him get into a welding career. Josh told me that they had a Machining program too. The only thing knew about machining is that it was the process used to make guns. I decided that’s what I would do because honestly, I didn’t know what else to do, this was my last effort. Not sure how I would end up, I took a leap of faith.”

Scott went to school in the day and worked nights at a local gun store as he had to work to support his family. He said, “We had a small class of about 10 students, a few of us were vets, and the rest were active duty. I loved working with vets and active duty marines again… All the guys in class had somehow found their way to Workshops… we all were struggling with transition but had the same goal…create a new identity…”

He graduated in spring 2015 with eight certifications in Mill, Lathe, Solidworks, and Mastercam and was offered a job as a Workshops for Warriors Teaching Assistant and be a part of the train-the-trainer program.

Scott said, “I found that I loved teaching and helping students get through the program…I love to come up with new ways of teaching material, and motivating students to push through when it gets hard. I am grateful for the Train-the-trainer program, and opportunity to help students. I am thankful to Hernan and Rachel for helping me discover my passion. To further my abilities, and to ensure that Workshops continues to be the greatest Advanced Manufacturing  school in America, I recently enrolled at Point Loma Nazarene University School of Education where I am earning a Master’s in Education Teaching and Learning  which will allow me to grow even more within Workshops for Warriors. The train-the-trainer program has given me a new path and allowed me to connect with the veteran community. I am helping other veterans not go through what I did when I got out of the military.”

After this inspiring testimonial, the American Bombshells performed while guests were invited to view and bid on the many silent auction items on display.

Afterward, Special Guest Speaker Donald “Doc” Ballard, Metal of Honor Recipient, gave his remarks. After a brief description of how he earned the Medal of Honor during the Korean War, I took note of the fact that he said, “Too many times, we preach to the choir of those who have served in the military and already have an appreciation for what veterans have done to serve their country. We are missing the mark; only 1% has served our country…The military is a family-owned business that we hand down from generation to generation. Not everyone can serve in the military, but we do have an obligation to this country to thank veterans for the freedom they fought for…We thank a teacher for our ability to read, but we can thank a veteran that we can read and write in English. We can thank veterans by supporting Workshops for Warriors so they can expand to other states. Everyone can serve the military by taking care of the people who are doing the job they can do or won’t do for whatever reason…”

The event closed with more entertainment from the American Bombshells while the guests whose bids won were notified and presented with their auction item.

During dinner, I asked the man sitting next to me why he supported WFW. Doug Davis, General Manager at Kearny Mesa Ford & KIA, said, “Workshops For Warriors is simply an amazing program that is helping Veterans make a living for the rest of their lives. All of us know when we have a skill in the work place, our individual self-esteem improves greatly, and we can go home to our families with a sense of accomplishment. Workshops teaches the manufacturing trade to our Veterans, and when they graduate with a welding or machinist certification, a job is waiting for them 100% of the time! That’s exactly what Workshops for Warriors does for our Veterans. I am lucky enough to support Workshops for Warriors through three channels:  personally, my dealership, Kearny Pearson Ford & KIA, and finally through the Ford Motor Company as Chairman of the San Diego Ford Dealers Ad Association Board in selecting recipients of charitable donations.”

Whether or not you have served in a branch of the military, you can help change the life of veterans and Wounded Warriors by support their training in manufacturing skills by donating to the Workshops for Warriors Capital Campaign.

MEPs are Essential to Rebuilding American Manufacturing Competitiveness

April 18th, 2017

Last month, President Trump submitted a “Skinny Budget” with the goal of removing some of the “fat” within Washington DC. Unfortunately, one of the programs eliminated in his budget is not “fat.” The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) is the only federally funded national network dedicated to serving small and medium-sized U. S. manufacturers. The MEP program was re-authorized by both Houses of Congress by unanimous consent earlier in January when the MEP program went back to 1:1 cost matching. The reality is that the MEP network is essential to helping manufacturers be competitive in the global marketplace and rebuilding American manufacturing. Eliminating the MEP program seems contradictory to President Trump’s focus on manufacturing.

The MEP website states, “Since 1988, the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) has worked to strengthen U.S. manufacturing. MEP is part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a U.S. Department of Commerce agency…MEP is built on a national system of centers located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. “Each center is a partnership between the federal government and a variety of public or private entities, including state, university, and nonprofit organizations. This diverse network, with nearly 600 service locations, has close to 1,300 field staff serving as trusted business advisors and technical experts to assist manufacturers in communities across the country.”

This public-private partnership provides a high return on investment to taxpayers. “For every one dollar of federal investment, the MEP national network generates $17.9 in new sales growth for manufacturers and $27.0 in new client investment. This translates into $2.3 billion in new sales annually. And, for every $1,501 of federal investment, MEP creates or retains one manufacturing job.”

The top challenges reported to MEP by manufacturers are:

  • Cost Reduction 70%
  • Growth 54%
  • Employee Recruitment 47%
  • Product Development 45%

In FY 2016, the MEP national network interacted with 25,445 manufacturers and achieved these results through their wide range of services:

  • $9.3 Billion New and Retained Sales
  • 86,602 New and Retained Jobs
  • $3.5 Billion New Client Investments
  • $1.4 Billion $1.4 Billion Cost Savings

I have long been aware of the work of the California MEP, California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC), headed up by Jim Watson, but when I visited Cincinnati, Ohio last fall, I had the pleasure of meeting with Scott Broughton, Director of the Advantage Kentucky Alliance (Kentucky’s  MEP), and David Linger, President & CEO of TechSolve, one of the Ohio MEP affiliates.

I contacted all three for input for this article, and Scott Broughton was the first to respond. He said, “AKA has generated over $88 million in impacts with 50 clients working with over 1,300 employees in the past 12 months alone. We are currently working with small manufacturers in Eastern Kentucky, who used to work in the coal industry to identify, vet, and implement change allowing them to work in non-coal industries and helping them to be sustainable in the future. These companies have worked with other entities with mixed results. AKA’s programs are centered on AKA facilitators mentoring and training employees, allowing them to be the driver of change with continued support. This allows the employees to ‘learn by doing’ with the support and assistance of AKA’s specialists. AKA’s average engagements are over 12 months with monthly interactions allowing for sustainable support, change, and implementation.”

He added, “For every federal dollar spent, it has resulted in $170K in impacts in Kentucky! Specific impacts in the past 12 months are below and that does not include the 762 new jobs created/retained:

  • $9.9 million in new sales
  • $21.6 million in retained sales
  • $10.8 million in cost savings
  • $40.3 million in investments made”

Broughton provided me with case studies for six clients, which are too lengthy to cite in detail in this article. Three of the six received training in Lean manufacturing through AKA, two were helped to find new markets, and two were helped with new product development. Highlights of the results are:

  • Skillcraft Sheetmetal, Inc. – “a reduction in labor equating $27,000 in 2014 alone”
  • Post Glover Resistors – ” 12% reduction unnecessary Labor”
  • Outdoor Venture Corporation – “Increased sales by $500,000 and increased cost savings by $1 million”
  • Cumberland Mine Service, Inc. – “Uncovered 17 potential industries/business opportunities and 21 potential future customers”
  • RT Welding & Fabrication, Inc. – “Uncovered 21 potential industries/business opportunities other than mining and identified 13 potential revenue streams”
  • Taper Roller Bearings – “$10 Million in retained sales, $200,000 in cost savings, and $20,000 in new product development”

David Linger responded, “The Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership, located in Columbus, OH, provides technical services for small and medium-sized manufacturers to drive productivity, growth and global competitiveness; and can ultimately help Ohio’s manufacturers become more profitable and competitive. From October 2015 – September 2016, the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership served 439 Manufacturers resulting in new and retained sales of   $277,900,000, created and retained 2,399 jobs, facilitated cost savings of over $41,700,000, and created new investments of $132,600,000.”

He commented, “An often overseen benefit of the relationship of a MEP and their regional clients is the two-way information exchange. That is, the MEP receives constant Voice Of the Customer information from the regional clients throughout the year. This allows the MEP to proactively develop new solution packages that meet those needs,  needs that are often unique to small and midsized manufacturing firms. This feedback loop drives the MEP to be current with the latest technology or methods and be an ongoing subject matter expert to push this new know-how back out to the manufacturing community. A few great examples of this are the work MEP’s are doing in regards to Cyber Security as it relates to manufacturing, Additive Manufacturing or 3D Printing, Data Analytics, and System Integration (Industrial Internet of Things, IIOT).”

Jim Watson responded, “Last year, CMTC was awarded a five-year agreement to be the California MEP. In 2016 CMTC served 1,065 small and medium-sized manufacturers, creating or retaining 8,575 high paying jobs statewide resulting in $169 million in cost savings, $647 million in total sales, and $305 million in total investment. For every manufacturing job, there are 3-4 full-time jobs created elsewhere in the United States to support manufacturers. Manufacturing is critical to the California economy, employing more than 1.2 million workers at more than 39,000 companies.”

He added, “CMTC’s services provide innovation, growth, technology and operational solutions that foster profitable growth for small manufacturers impacting personal income, tax revenues and the California economy. A study by the LAEDC Institute for Applied Economics indicated that the annual economic contribution from California MEP projects with customers surveyed in 2014 was an estimated $1.8 billion to California’s GDP and more than $450 million in federal, state and local tax revenues. The California MEP program is a valuable partner for manufacturers and generates a significant dividend for the State of California.”

There were four client case studies mentioned in their 2016 end of year report, which I have briefly summarized below:

Amflex Plastics – a woman-owned company making polyolefin co-polymer formulated plastic hoses and spiral hose equipment. Amflex needed help getting prepared to get their ISO 9001:2008 certification to retain current business and get new customers. After CMTC coaching, they passed their audit and got their certification, resulting in $675,000 in projected increased sales, $300,000 in retained sales, three new jobs, 10 jobs retained, and $209,000 in cost savings.

Summertree Interiors is a minority owned business that builds finely crafted baby and children’s furniture. The company needed help reducing lead times and improving on-time delivery. CMTC provided them with Lean manufacturing training, which resulted in:

  • $400,000 in increased sales
  • 1,000,000 in retained sales
  • 6 jobs created
  • 12 jobs retained
  • $250,000 in cost savings
  • $115,000 in capital investments

Space Systems Loral is a manufacturer of communications satellites and satellite systems. Because former customers are now making their own satellites, “SSL needed programs to reduce costs and lead times as well as provide an in-house team to lead and implement their continuous improvement philosophy. CMTC provided Yellow Belt Lean training and a “Train the Trainer” program, which resulted in $7,500,000 in retained sales, 17 jobs retained, $1,861,000 of cost savings, and $500,000 in capital investment.

OHIO Design is a builder of custom, made-to-order, modern furniture and interiors. The company needed help with their manufacturing processes, finding qualified workers, and access to capital. CEO coaching helped OHIO to understand and implement business metrics a cost structure to track their manufacturing expenses, and a continuous improvement program to focus on solutions to fix problems. As a result, they experienced $500,000 in increased sales, retained 7 jobs, achieved $150,000 in cost savings, and made $55,999 in capital investment.

One of the companies I represent as a manufacturers’ sales rep has been a repeat client of CMTC. President Steve Cozzetto of Century Rubber Company wrote me, “As the business climate has become more demanding, CMTC has been instrumental in providing the training that we need to remain competitive. In the past 10 years, we have used their resources and expertise to develop our Lean Manufacturing procedures, to upgrade our marketing methods, and most recently to take our quality program from ISO: 9001 and prepare us for our AS9100D certification which should occur this year. As a small company, the variety of programs offered by CMTC makes it possible to accomplish goals that would otherwise be difficult to achieve.”

These success stories illustrate why the nationwide Manufacturing Extension Partnership network is essential to the growth of the United States economy. When the President submits his budget, it is the first step in the long process that results in a federal budget. No President’s budget ever gets approved without substantial amendment by Congress, and Congress has the final say on governmental spending. To support the MEP program, you should contact your Congressional Representative to urge them to keep funding for the MEP program in the federal budget.

SME and NASA’s HUNCH Partner to Engage Youth in Advanced Manufacturing

April 11th, 2017

With thousands of “Baby Boomers” retiring in the next decade and few new employees getting into manufacturing, manufacturers are worried about their futures. The industry is dealing with a severe shortage of workers equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to function in advanced manufacturing workplaces. Thankfully, schools are finally catching on that they are the first step to showing students the opportunities in advanced manufacturing.

SME has been working for years to bring back manufacturing education during a time when there is a big shortage of in-demand skilled talent in positions, such as mechatronics, programming, welding, CNC machining, metrology and more.

To help close the skills gap the “SME Education Foundation announced a new partnership with NASA’s agency-wide HUNCH (High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware) program, to get more youth engaged in advanced manufacturing and ultimately encourage them to consider and pursue long-term careers in the industry.” This collaboration between HUNCH and the Foundation’s Partnership Response In Manufacturing Education (PRIME) initiative will give high school students an opportunity to build actual hardware that NASA astronauts, scientists, and engineers would use in their training programs and at the International Space Station (ISS).

Today, we have an estimated 600,000 jobs going unfilled because of the skills gap, but this could grow to two million by 2025 as “Baby Boomers” retire. This new collaboration will attract and introduce more high school students to career opportunities in the industry and prepare them to become the next generation workforce for jobs that are in high demand.

“By combining our PRIME network with NASA’s HUNCH program and working together to further expand the number of schools in the combined network, we can provide more students with access to a STEM and manufacturing focused education using hands-on learning experiences,” said Brian Glowiak, vice president of the SME Education Foundation. “Through this partnership we are motivating youth to consider careers in manufacturing and preparing them with the skill sets and knowledge to succeed.”

When I interviewed Brian last week to find out more about the partnership, he said, “PRIME connects regional manufacturers with local high schools to establish or build exemplary manufacturing education programs that prepare students for skilled careers in their communities. We work with schools to provide industry-driven training for teachers as well as curriculum for the students, while giving teachers and students access to real-world manufacturing equipment and resources.

This process begins by meeting with local manufacturers to gain an understanding of the current and future skills needed by their technical workforce and then working with the administrators and educators of the local school system to help develop a robust and sustainable hands-on training program for students. This program also provides students with opportunities to acquire industry recognized credentials and to benefit from job shadowing, internship and apprenticeship experiences.”

He explained, “Through the HUNCH program, PRIME students will have the opportunity to design and build actual hardware for in-flight astronaut training or for use aboard the International Space Station, bringing real-world project based learning experiences to the classroom. Alternately, HUNCH schools will now be part of the PRIME network, having access to SME student memberships, mentoring programs, and additional technical resources.”

When I asked when the SME Prime schools would start the program, he said, “We presently have 15 of our PRIME schools signed up for projects and eight have already received assignments and materials from NASA. In addition, SME is working with two HUNCH schools in Houston to start to integrate NASA’s HUNCH schools into our PRIME program. Ultimately, we have an opportunity to integrate 105 schools in this collaborative program, with 41 PRIME schools and 64 HUNCH schools. Simultaneously, we are working together to expand this network by adding more schools to the combined PRIME and HUNCH program in order to recruit and prepare more students for careers in engineering and manufacturing.”

He explained, “Manufacturing offers incredible and rewarding career opportunities with strong potential for advancement. Through HUNCH and PRIME we are not only building students’ awareness of these opportunities but also providing them with the skills and hands-on training needed for their future success. Moreover, giving students a chance to design and fabricate hardware for NASA and the potential opportunity to physically attach their signature to an item that could be used aboard the International Space Station is truly inspiring, both to the students and their teachers.”

I learned more about HUNCH from their website, which states that “the idea of HUNCH started when Stacy Hale, the JSC HUNCH project manager, had the innovative idea that maybe high school students could build cost-effective hardware that was needed to help train the ISS astronauts. Bob Zeek at MSFC [Marshall Space Flight Center] and Hale decided to test the feasibility of this idea. Many were skeptical about this idea, but because of the hard work and dedication of Hale and Zeek, HUNCH quickly expanded from 3 schools to numerous schools, in various states; the unique idea of HUNCH was quickly producing extremely positive results to all involved.”

In addition, the website states, “The NASA HUNCH team at JSC [Johnson Space Center]consists of four individuals who visit schools in a four state area that produce training hardware, software, videos and flight hardware and software for NASA. The HUNCH team at Marshall Space Flight Center consists of Bob Zeek, Kriss Hougland and others that visit schools within a five state area.

Under the mentorship of HUNCH personnel last year, “the schools produced stowage lockers, cargo transfer bags, 3 minute educational videos, and experiments proposed to fly on the ISS. They have designed and fabricated a disposable, collapsible, glove box, an organizer for crew quarters on the ISS, as well as black boxes and an EPM Rack. Over the past 8 years, since the beginning of HUNCH in 2003, hundreds of items for NASA have been produced by hundreds of students.”

When I interviewed Blake Ratcliff, NASA’s HUNCH Program Manager, last week, he said that he has been with the program about two years at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. He said, “Stacy Hale is still a Project Manager, and Bob Zeek is a mentor for schools in Huntsville, AL.”

Ratcliff said, “We have gone from making training mock ups to making actual tools and other hardware items that the astronauts use at the International Space Station and when they go on space walks. The students have also made metal lockers in which the scientific payloads are put for the research the astronauts and scientists conduct on the space station.”

He explained, “It is a project based program. We give schools real NASA projects that meet the needs and provide them the materials and instructions they need to complete the work. Quality is the most important aspect of the work, and the schools have done an outstanding job. Every year in April and May, we have Recognition Ceremonies for all the students and teachers that have participated in HUNCH at MSFC and JSC. The students present their projects during the HUNCH Ceremony where some projects are selected to be used in NASA systems and on board the ISS. Every year the number of participants continues to grow as well as the quality, quantity, and diversity of the products that students fabricate.”

When I asked if every school has a project, he said, “There is a wide range of build-to-print, design and prototype projects, but they also have software, communications, and culinary projects. We have a competition every year where students can come up with a new food for the astronauts. This year it is for a new dessert. The winner’s food gets flown up to the space station.”

I told him that I am surprised I had not heard about their program previously because I keep up with news about STEM education programs to attract the next generation of manufacturing workers. He said, “While we get a fair amount of press, it is mostly in local news outlets for the cities where our HUNCH schools are located.”

He added, “There are a couple of people working to do a documentary on HUNCH. We are growing so fast that we don’t need a lot of attention. It is good to publicize what we are doing, but we have been growing by word of mouth and don’t need to advertise for growth. It’s going to take a couple of years to integrate all of the PRIME schools into our program, so we won’t be actively seeking new schools for awhile.”

I asked if they have any schools in California. He said, “We just started in the Bay area and are about to sign up several schools. I asked how a school could get involved, and he said. “Go to the website and apply for a project. Then, one of our mentors will visit the school and determine if it would be a good fit and if they have the facilities to complete a project.”

Both the SME PRIME initiative and NASA’s HUNCH program are promoting student interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.) Another benefit is that while students are building hardware and doing other projects for NASA, they are also building their interest as engineers, researchers, scientists and maybe even astronauts, as well as their self-esteem. HUNCH is a win-win innovative solution for inspiring the next generation of researchers, scientists, engineers, and manufacturing workers while providing cost-effective hardware for NASA.

“Eliminate the Trade Deficit” Resonates in Halls of Congress

March 21st, 2017

 “You were ahead of the curve on trade.” This was the common refrain heard last week by members of the Coalition for a Prosperous America who attended our annual fly-in to Washington, D. C. We had eight teams of members visiting Congressional Representatives and Senators on March 14th and 15th. As Chair of our developing California chapter, it was my fifth year attending the CPA fly-in, and our simple message of eliminating the trade deficit resonated well in the halls of Congress.

No one could deny that we have a huge deficit as shown on the chart below:

 

The annual trade deficit has reduced our U. S. GDP by some 3% to 5.5% each year, and those reductions compound over time.

There is no historical record of any other country in history running 41 years of consecutive trade deficits. Why is this important? Because every billion dollars of net imports costs 4,500 American jobs according to conservative estimates. So last year’s $502 billion deficit equates to 2.25 million jobs lost.

As a result, our Labor Force Participation is in serious decline. The U. S. is the only G7 nation with a DECLINE in LFPR since 1998 for workers ages 15-64. It peaked at 77.4% in 1998 and dropped down five points to 72.6% in 2015, meaning that over 7 million people dropped out of labor force since 1998.

The remedy recommended by the Coalition for a Prosperous America is simple: Congress should establish a national goal to eliminate the trade deficit.

Balanced trade over time is the goal of free trade and of fair trade. Balanced trade will re-industrialize our country, enable massive job creation, grow our wealth and effectively neutralize foreign mercantilism. Trade policy must address true drivers of deficit, these countries and their practices. Many of these countries have export-oriented growth strategies in which they rely upon the US market to consume their exports rather than increasing their internal consumption. China, Germany, Japan and other countries pursue net exports through strategic mercantilism, not free trade. Currency manipulation, value added taxes, state influenced enterprises, and other
tactics are used.

The following top 10 countries account for 90% of America’s 2016 goods trade deficit:

Rank Country 1992 Deficit 2016 Deficit Change 1992-2016
1 China -$18B -$355B -$337B
2 Mexico -$6B -$115B -$121B
3 Japan -$50B -$75B -$25B
4 Germany -$8B -$70B -$62B
5 Canada -$15B -$58B -$53B
6 Ireland +5B -$36B -$37B
7 Vietnam $0B -$34B -$34B
8 South Korea -$2B -$30B -$30B
9 Italy -$4B -$30B -$26B
10 India -$2B -$30B -$28B

Note: These figures are based on U.S. Commerce Dept. data subtracting Imports for Consumption from Domestic Exports which are intended to strip out goods that enter and leave the U.S. simply for re-export, without having any significant value added to them inside the U.S.

Currency manipulation and misalignment are key tactics that the above countries use to gain an advantage in trade. Currency manipulation is trade cheating, because it is both an illegal tariff and a subsidy.

Foreign governments intervene in foreign exchange markets by buying dollars. More than 20 countries have intervened in foreign exchange markets to undervalue their currencies in the past ten years. These countries account for one-third of the world economy and two-thirds of the world’s current account surpluses. Gagnon has calculated that “A country’s current account balance increases between 60 and 100 cents for each dollar spent on intervention.”

“The largest loser is the United States, whose trade and current account deficits have been $200 billion to $500 billion per year larger as a result. The United States has thus suffered 1 million to 5 million job losses.” (Bergsten, 2012) The U. S. economy cannot produce jobs and wealth without addressing this problem. The Coalition for a Prosperous America proposes the following solutions:

• U.S. trade enforcement law should treat currency undervaluation as a countervailable subsidy
• Tariffs should be applied against currency manipulators to neutralize their unearned advantage
• Government policy should pursue a dollar priced at equilibrium rather than accept a persistently overvalued dollar
• Trade agreements should include effective controls on currency manipulation and misalignment

Border Adjustable Consumption Taxes (aka VATs) are a tariff by another name. They are allowed under WTO rules and range from 12% to 24% with the average being 17% globally. This means that virtually all foreign countries tax our exports at this average 17% VAT. They subsidize domestic shipments abroad with rebating the VAT to their manufacturers. The U.S. does not have a VAT to offset this advantage.

Consumption taxes are a tax on consumption as opposed to income, wealth, property, or wages. A Goods and Service Tax (GST) and a Value Added Tax (VAT) are consumption taxes. They are usually a tax only on the “value added” to a product, material, or service. Over 150 countries have such taxes, but the U. S. does not.

The U. S. negotiated tariff reductions or elimination in good faith with our trading partners under NAFTA and the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA, but Mexico instituted a 15% VAT, and Central America established a 12% VAT.

After 40 years of tariff reduction under various trade agreements, other countries replaced tariffs with VATs, but the U. S. did not. Thus, American exporters face nearly the same border taxes as they did in the early 1970s.

To solve this problem, the Coalition for a Prosperous America proposes that Congress implement a border adjustable consumption tax (VAT) and use the proceeds to credit against the payroll taxes paid by all workers and businesses. The benefits would be:

• Reduce the cost of labor in the U.S.
• Give every worker a raise
• Lower the price of U.S. exports
• Levy a tax on imports

In President Obama’s 2016 budget, Payroll Taxes were projected to be 31% of the revenue or $1.11 trillion. If a 12.9% VAT were set, it would produce approximately $1.45 trillion in tax revenue, completely offsetting the revenue from Payroll Taxes. All Payroll Taxes could be eliminated with a credit. With a 15% VAT, other tax reform or domestic production cost reduction could be funded. European Union countries use their VATs to provide another revenue stream to allow them to reduce their corporate taxes to be more globally competitive.

The benefit of giving a Payroll Tax credit out of VAT funds is that it would offset the regressiveness of a VAT by elimination of the regressive Payroll Tax. There would be no impact on prices of domestic goods and services, but prices of imported goods and services would increase. This would incentivize consumers to buy Made in USA products instead of imports. In addition, it would reduce the cost of production for U. S. producers enabling them to be more competitive in the global marketplace.

Our Coalition members also encouraged Congress to reinstate the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) that was struck down by an unelected foreign tribunal of the World Trade Organization. Congress caved in to the WTO ruling and passed repeal legislation that exceeded the WTO ruling eliminating COOL for beef and pork, as well as for ground beef and ground pork.

Canada and Mexico want to export their cattle, hogs, beef, and pork to the U. S. without informational labeling that reveals where the cattle and hogs were born, raised, and slaughtered. Right now, meat packers are able to import cattle and hogs and slaughter them to get the USDA stamp. Consumers want to know where cattle and hogs were born and raised, not just slaughtered for reasons of food safety.

Congressional Representatives and Senators need to have the courage to reinstate COOL and vigorously defend our national sovereignty and consumer choice against international interference. COOL legislation enables consumers to Buy American in the grocery store. It prevents consumer deception and empowers consumers to buy food produced under the safety regime of their choosing. It would help to jumpstart America’s ailing rural economy through supporting domestic producers and preventing industry consolidation.

The final message that is critical is that the U. S. must modernize its foreign investment rules to protect American companies that are critical to our national security and economic security. Investors from countries like China, Japan, and South Korea are making strategic acquisitions of U. S. companies and land that threaten our security and future prosperity. These same countries either severely restrict or do not allow 100% acquisition of companies in their country. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) can block incoming investment based upon national security concerns, but not for economic strategy reasons as other countries do.

Congress must update the laws governing foreign investment to include economic security and allow longer review periods, beyond 30 days, for CFIUS to review proposed investments. This would allow more time to gauge systemic threats to U. S. interests in addition to individual cases. The legislation should include a “net benefit” test to encompass American economic interests where proposed acquisitions of companies that are important to future U. S. technology and employment are concerned (both civilian and defense related).

The question now is – Will Congress have the courage to take the bold action needed to eliminate the trade deficit, address currency manipulation, reinstate COOL and control foreign investments? Time will tell.

 

Why Universities are Important to Rebuilding U.S. Manufacturing

March 8th, 2017

The fact that more and more manufacturers are returning manufacturing to the U. S. or keeping manufacturing here instead of moving to Mexico or Asia is good news, but on February 23, 2017, President Trump met with two dozen manufacturing CEOs at the White House.

While they “declared their collective commitment to restoring factory jobs lost to foreign competition,” some of the CEOs “suggested that there were still plenty of openings for U.S. factory jobs but too few qualified people to fill them. They urged the White House to support vocational training for the high-tech skills that today’s manufacturers increasingly require…The jobs are there, but the skills are not,” one executive said during meetings with White House officials that preceded a session with the president.”

“We were challenged by the president to … come up with a program to make sure the American worker is trained for the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow,” Reed Cordish, a White House official, said after Thursday’s meetings.”

Training today’s workers in the skills they will need for the jobs of the future in manufacturing is important, but we also need to educate the next generation of manufacturing workers. We need more engineers to rebuild American manufacturing, and universities play a key role in providing this education.

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. David B. Williams, Executive Dean of the Professional Colleges and Dean of The College of Engineering at The Ohio State University, located in Columbus, Ohio, to discuss the role universities are playing in rebuilding manufacturing and educating the next generation of manufacturing workers.

His official biography on the University website states, “Williams is involved in many university-industry economic development partnerships. He serves on the boards of ASM International, the State of Ohio’s Third Frontier Advisory Board, Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (formerly American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute), Columbus 2020, Metro Early College STEM School, EWI, Ohio Aerospace & Aviation Council, and the Transportation Research Center.”

Dean Williams said, “Ohio State University is a manufacturing R&D and training Powerhouse. Manufacturing is a critical part of the state of Ohio’s economy and accounts for 17 percent of the state’s GPD. It is also the state’s largest industry sector. We have partnered with over two hundred manufacturers in developing and funding research that can be used in their industries. It is a very important part of the college. We use the talent of our professors, graduate, and undergrad students and technology. OSU is committed to innovating applied research for product design, technology commercialization, and manufacturing for industry through its programs.”

Dean Williams mentioned that on October 1, 2016 the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME) was designated as a new Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) affiliate organization, and that Ohio State’s MEP program will work directly with manufacturers to identify and execute growth strategies. Afterward, I was provided with information that states: “The Ohio State University’s Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME) will receive up to $8.6 million in federal, state and industry funding over the next five years to lead a program facilitating growth of small- and mid-sized manufacturing companies in the 15 county central Ohio region. The program is funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technologies, with matching funds provided by the Ohio Development Services Agency, which administers operations through seven regional affiliates.”

I found the information about Central Ohio’s manufacturing interesting very interesting: “The central Ohio manufacturing economy is comprised of approximately 3,350 self-identified manufacturing companies across the 15 Central Ohio counties. More than 90 percent of them have 50 or fewer employees. Many small and medium-sized manufacturing companies are aware of the growth challenges they face, but still require assistance to overcome them.” The size of companies is similar to San Diego County, in which 97% have fewer than 50 employees.

Dean Williams told me that the Center’s Executive Director, John Bair, is a successful entrepreneur, not an academic, and added that they had invited him to head up the Center after he had sold his company and semi-retired.”

He added, “We invite manufacturers to bring their problems to us, and then we put together teams of experts to work with them to solve these problems. The company gets to keep any of the Intellectual Property developed in the process of working together.

Dean Williams also said that Ohio State is home to the Ohio Manufacturing Institute, which “serves as a public policy mechanism for manufacturing within the state and nationally that facilitates the use of available technical resources for economic development.” He said, “OMI acts like a clearinghouse for Ohio to provide manufacturers with the tools they need to collaborate with a statewide network of technical resources. Its state and national policy recommendations reflect a thoughtful response to industry problems and issues OMI also engages in outreach programs that support manufacturers—from small to medium-size firms to original equipment manufacturers—by aligning with industries, academic institutions, technology support organizations and government.”

As an example, Dean Williams said, “We have had a long relationship with Honda since they moved to Marysville in 1978, which is about 45 miles northwest of here. About five years ago, we started partnering with Honda to help them develop solutions to some of their manufacturing problems. Their high-end NSX brand is currently made with advanced engineered materials and is produced at only a rate of 7-8 vehicles per day. They want to produce the Accord using the same materials and technology. At the Center, we have put together teams of experts to solve this problem.”

Dean Williams said, “Hundreds of students study abroad for part of the education. Their experience abroad strengthens their performance and helps train the people necessary to maintain and repair the machines. They are still lots of manufacturers in Ohio. We graduate about 2,000 engineers per year and about half of them stay in Ohio. There are 14 engineering colleges in Ohio, and we have the educational base to drive the 21st Century manufacturing.” Since the U.S. is only graduating about 50,000 engineers a year compared to the estimated 500,000 per year in China, Ohio State University is doing more than their fair share.

With regard to the next generation of manufacturing workers, he said, “A big part of the problem is that parents think manufacturing is like what it was in the past, so they don’t want their children to get involved in manufacturing. I was at SpaceX recently and met the chief welding engineer, and she was a graduate of Ohio State with a degree in welding. Young men and women can even get a Masters Degree in ‘joining’ through Ohio State’s online welding engineering master’s program: https://online.osu.edu/program/mswe. This discipline includes a deep understanding of the properties and testing of materials that can be welded.”

He said, “We are part of seven of the National Networks of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMIs). One of them is LIFT, which I looked up and found that it is “an industry-led, government funded consortium. By reimagining processes and procedures, the highly linked and leveraged network is facilitating technology transfer into supply chain companies and empowering the lightweight metals workforce.” Ohio State University, the University of Michigan in Detroit and EWI are the founding members of this NNMI consortium that was established February 25, 2014 following a competitive process led by the U.S. Department of Defense under the Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation (LM3I).

Dean Williams stated, “We also partner with the community colleges under an economic grant program to develop the existing workforce through continuing education. Overall, through a variety of programs and camps, we interact with 70-80 high schools on a semi-regular basis. One program is Hometown Ambassadors, where students talk to younger students at their High School alma maters to help them understand the opportunities in manufacturing today.”

Since Dean Williams is on the board of ASM International, it was fitting that Ohio State University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering hosted the ASM Education Foundation’s Materials Camps for two years (2013 and 2015). These one-week training camps provide the opportunity for high-school teachers to work hands-on with metals, ceramics, polymers and composites and learn how to incorporate these activities and demos into their science classes.

The Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT) was a partner with ASM International and the ASM Educational Foundation for the 2015 camp. “Curriculum content on the use of lightweight metals and new technologies [were] integrated into the programs at 45 camps around the nation…designed to enrich, stimulate and enhance the technical competence and teaching skills of middle and high school STEM teachers.”

Summer camps for teachers and students are important to attracting the next generation of manufacturing workers. More universities need to get involved with the summer camps and other programs of ASM International, the National Association of Manufacturers’ Manufacturing Institute “Dream it. Do it” program, and Project Lead the Way.

Advanced Technologies being developed at Carlsbad Gateway Center

March 1st, 2017

For the last couple of years, I have been the guest of several economic and Chamber of Commerce organizations to visit their region to tour manufacturing plants and write articles about their region’s industries, but two weeks ago, I was invited to visit an industrial park right in my back yard ? the Carlsbad Gateway Center, a Makers’ place with over 80 businesses in a 16.5 acres business park (Carlsbad is 25 miles north of the City of San Diego).

Courtney Rose of Olive PR introduced me to Toni Adamopoulos, Property Mgr. of the business park. She said, “The tenant mix includes innovation, food production, health and wellness, new technology, in addition to standard and warehouse uses. The park’s small spaces, affordable rents, flexible zoning, and wide array of  allowed permitting makes it a perfect location for small, start up, and incubator businesses to get started on their road to success in a welcoming park-like setting. Besides technology companies, the zoning permits storefront businesses such as a bakery, coffee shop, craft beer, and Kombucha beverage.”

We first visited Emcraft Systems founded by Kent Meyer and colleagues in Moscow, Russia in 2012. Kent said, “We started the company six years ago to design, build, sell, and support ARM Cortex-A and Cortex-M System-On-Modules (SOMs), which are micro controller systems programmed with Linux.” Emcraft is a California LLC headquartered in Carlsbad, and with an engineering office in Moscow, near Moscow State University. Emcraft partners met in Silicon Valley in 1998 while working on a Posix real-time operating system, and the relationship has lasted across several companies and cities. Kent continued, “We have about 6,000 customers in 36 countries, all using our system on modules or Linux/uClinux kits. All of our manufacturing is done in the U.S. We use independent contractors instead of having employees, and we form teams to handle different projects for customers.”

He explained, “We are working to highly automate the effort of embedding Linux and ARM microcontrollers for the coming wave of intelligent systems. Our customers use our system on modules to speed their time to market, and we are optimizing the design and manufacturing processes to meet the pricing needs of the market. We have found a way to be very productive with our team of 20 local and remotely cooperating engineering contractors, with our main office and manufacturing based in the US.”

In addition to Emcraft Systems, Kent is involved in local STEAM education. He has worked with local schools and the Carlsbad Education Foundation (CEF) to teach robotics and programming to youth. CEF is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization that provides private support for public education programs throughout the Carlsbad Unified School District. The Foundation is also located in the Carlsbad Gateway Center.

We got into a discussion about attracting the next generation of engineers that is too long to cover in this article, but Meyer called the next generation the “Minecraft” generation because of the technological skills and interest learned through the online collaboration and building in that game. He started as a robotics coach over six years ago when his own kids were doing LEGO robotics with the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) for fourth to sixth graders, which was funded by the Carlsbad Ed Foundation. After doing that, he said, “We came up with our own little curriculum where the robotics could be used to teach interested kids in a very productive way, while also trying to find entrepreneurial ways to improve the ratio of students to technology to get as close to a one-to-one ratio with tech as possible.”

He said that they recently developed an “IoT Educational Platform” using Chromebooks, Linux, MQTT and Node-Red to see what kids might come up with when taught IoT concepts. The effort culminated in a presentation to the Carnegie Mellon SATURN conference in San Diego, where the kids showed a highly interactive MQTT platform of over 60 nodes all communicating and collaborating (robots, drones, lights, toys, etc) and connected to Skype and email over Node-Red. The effort won Kent and the team the distinction of “2016 Top Embedded Innovator” by Embedded Computing Design magazine. Click on this link to read the interview with Mr. Meyer after the award.

Next we met with Dr. Robert Boock, CEO/CTO and Co-Founder, of Glucovation. Dr. Boock previously served as the Senior Technical Director of Research and Development at Dexcom where he was responsible for managing the research and development of Dexcom’s CGM membranes and biotechnologies. He was part of the group that developed materials for Dexcom’s SEVEN PLUS. He was a co-inventor of G4 PLATINUM sensor and was a key player in its development and commercialization. He holds more than 44 patents and over 100 pending patents as well as having more than 25 peer reviewed journal articles.

Dr. Boock said, “Our company was formed to develop the most advanced Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) that will be affordable to those desiring to monitor their diabetes.” I have several partners, and we are now up to 12 people. They will realize development and work on licensing Agreements. We have signed a deal with a Chinese company and are negotiating a deal with another Chinese company.

He explained, “We are creating a technology that doesn’t require finger sticking. We are trying to develop a simpler but just as accurate method that doesn’t require any action by the user. We want to penetrate the Type II market, which is reaching epidemic proportions. Our product will prevent its escalation. We think that we will have the right product at the right time. Type I is 2% of the population, and Type II has escalated to an estimated 13% of the population. We would rather increase the breadth of our reach rather than make more profit. Outside the U.S., this epidemic of diabetes has the potential to bankrupt countries.”

He continued, “Dexcom and Medtronic are the two biggest players in the continuous monitoring field, which takes a reading every five minutes. They have only penetrated 15% of the Type I population. The future of Type I treatment will be the artificial pancreas (sensors within a pump).

He added, “We can also measure lactate which is a precursor to septic shock, and we could also monitor burning of ketones to know if a person is burning fat when exercising. We are developing a suite of sensors that will monitor five to six of the active metabolites.”

Finally, he said, “We are doing development in cooperation with our licensees, but we are the owner of the core technology. We should be moving into the Chinese market in 2018. The U. S. is more difficult because there is a PMA one-year review cycle after clinical trials, but in China it is only a six-month review cycle. We are doing trials in China, but haven’t started in the U. S. yet.”

Since I am aware of how long it takes to develop any biotech or medical device product before it finally gets to market, I found his last comment very apropos:  “We don’t do it for the money; it’s a calling.”

Our last meeting was with Martin Bouliane, founder and President of R&3D Engineering. He is a mechanical engineer who started his career in 1993 involved in product development. He worked with Cirque du Soleil for a while as a product designer. He was previously the owner of R&3D Engineering in Canada, where the company was primarily focused on consumer product design from 2000-2007. He moved from Quebec, Canada to California in 2007.

Bouliane said, “After moving to California, I worked for two medical device companies before re-launching R&3D Engineering as a U.S. company in 2012. The company was originally focused on medical device design, but some of my customers turned to me to help them get into production. I started working with robots that they purchased from Fanuc. A team from Fanuc visited our company and invited me to become an authorized Fanuc robot integrator. We now focus on custom robotic automation design and fabrication for about 75% of our business, and we have grown to a dozen employees.”

He added, “One of our biggest problems is finding skilled people as we need people who can make things work. We have a customer who makes desalination filters, and we started working with them two years ago and have designed a robot system to move the filters, which were heavy for workers to move around. Some of our local customers have been in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry for high volume production of disposables. We are creating a system for one company that dispenses oil, and are building machines to produce the blister pack for the oil.”

He explained, “One of the big reasons for advances in automation is that machine vision has become more and more advanced, so we can program the robots to do inline inspection. We also design and build the peripheral systems to surround the robots. The robot might be only 10% of the system, and we can configure the robot to do multiple tasks. More and more companies are benefiting from integrating robotics and automation into their manufacturing operations.”

This interview was eye opening to me because I had seen very little automation or use of robotics in local companies with which I do business. The main reason is that 97% of San Diego County Advanced Manufacturing businesses are companies with fewer than 50 employees. Another reason is that I do not do business with biotech companies as they do not buy the type of fabrication services I represent. I recruited Mr. Bouliane to speak at our upcoming March Tech San Diego Operations Roundtable event on the subject of the advances in robots, automation, Artificial Intelligence, and machine vision. He will also discuss the future of automation and robotics and give his opinion on whether jobs will be lost or created. There is a wide divergence of opinions on the answer to this question, so it will be interesting to hear his opinion.

EPI Report Claims U.S.-China Trade Deficit Cost 3.4 Million Jobs

February 14th, 2017

On January 31, 2017, the Economic Policy Institute released a report, “Growth in U.S.–China trade deficit between 2001 and 2015 cost 3.4 million jobs,” written by Robert Scott.

Scott explained that when China entered into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, “it was supposed to bring it into compliance with an enforceable, rules-based regime that would require China to open its markets to imports from the United States and other nations by reducing Chinese tariffs and addressing nontariff barriers to trade.”

However, Scott wrote, “China both subsidizes and dumps massive quantities of exports. Specifically it blocks imports, pirates software and technology from foreign producers, manipulates its currency, invests in massive amounts of excess production capacity in a range of basic industries, often through state owned enterprises (SOEs) (investments that lead to dumping), and operates as a refuse lot for carbon and other industrial pollutants. China has also engaged in extensive and sustained currency manipulation over the past two decades, resulting in persistent currency misalignments.”

As a result, “China’s trade-distorting practices, aided by China’s currency manipulation and misalignment, and its suppression of wages and labor rights, resulted in a flood of dumped and subsidized imports that greatly exceed the growth of U.S. exports to China.”

He added, “the WTO agreement spurred foreign direct investment (FDI) in Chinese enterprises and the outsourcing of U.S. manufacturing plants, which has expanded China’s manufacturing sector at the expense of the United States, thereby affecting the trade balance between the two countries. Finally, the core of the agreement failed to include any protections to maintain or improve labor or environmental standards or to prohibit currency manipulation.”

These trade policies have resulted in an enormous trade deficit with China. Scott, stated, “From 2001 to 2015, imports from China increased dramatically, rising from $102.3 billion in 2001 to $483.2 billion in 2015… U.S. exports to China rose at a rapid rate from 2001 to 2015, but from a much smaller base, from $19.2 billion in 2001 to $116.1 billion in 2015. As a result, China’s exports to the United States in 2015 were more than four times greater than U.S. exports to China. These trade figures make the China trade relationship the United States’ most imbalanced trade relationship by far…”

He explained, “Overall, the U.S. goods trade deficit with China rose from $83.0 billion in 2001 to $367.2 billion in 2015, an increase of $284.1 billion. Put another way, since China entered the WTO in 2001, the U.S. trade deficit with China has increased annually by $20.3 billion, or 11.2 percent, on average.

Between 2008 and 2015, the U.S. goods trade deficit with China increased $100.8 billion. This 37.9 percent increase occurred despite the collapse in world trade between 2008 and 2009 caused by the Great Recession and a decline in the U.S. trade deficit with the rest of the world of 30.2 percent between 2008 and 2015. As a result, China’s share of the overall U.S. goods trade deficit increased from 32.0 percent in 2008 to 48.2 percent in 2015.” Scott notes that the figures in this paragraph derive from his analysis of USITC 2016 data.”

Previously, the U. S. had a trade surplus in advanced technology products, but now we have lost that comparative advantage. Scott stated, “Global trade in advanced technology products… is instead dominated by China. This broad category of high-end technology products includes the more advanced elements of the computer and electronic parts industry as well as other sectors such as biotechnology, life sciences, aerospace, and nuclear technology. In 2015, the United States had a $120.7 billion deficit in advanced technology products with China, and this deficit was responsible for 32.9 percent of the total U.S.–China goods trade deficit. In contrast, the United States had a $28.9 billion surplus in advanced technology products with the rest of the world in 2015.”

Scott stated, “Due to the trade deficit with China 3.4 million jobs were lost between 2001 and 2015, including 1.3 million jobs lost since the first year of the Great Recession in 2008. Nearly three-fourths (74.3 percent) of the jobs lost between 2001 and 2015 were in manufacturing (2.6 million manufacturing jobs displaced).

After explaining how EPI calculated the loss of jobs due to the U.S.-China trade deficit, he wrote, “U.S. exports to China in 2001 supported 171,900 jobs, but U.S. imports displaced production that would have supported 1,129,600 jobs. Therefore, the $83.0 billion trade deficit in 2001 displaced 957,700 jobs in that year. Net job displacement rose to 3,077,000 jobs in 2008 and 4,401,000 jobs in 2015.
That means that since China’s entry into the WTO in 2001 and through 2015, the increase in the U.S.–China trade deficit eliminated or displaced 3,443,300 U.S. jobs…the U.S. trade deficit with China increased by $100.8 billion (or 37.9 percent) between 2008 and 2015. During that period, the number of jobs displaced increased by 43.0 percent.”

Scott states, “The growing trade deficit with China has cost jobs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and in every congressional district in the United States.” The report calculates job loss by state and Congressional District, stating that “The trade deficit in the computer and electronic parts industry grew the most, and 1,238,300 jobs were lost or displaced, 36.0 percent of the 2001–2015 total. As a result, many of the hardest-hit congressional districts (in terms of the share of jobs lost) were in California, Texas, Oregon, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Arizona, where jobs in that industry are concentrated. Some districts in Georgia, Illinois, New York, and North Carolina were also especially hard-hit by trade-related job displacement in a variety of manufacturing industries, including computer and electronic parts, textiles and apparel, and furniture. In addition, surging imports of steel, aluminum, and other capital intensive products threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs in these key industries as well.”

It was interesting to note that of the top 20 hardest-hit districts, eight were in California, four were in Texas, and there was one district each in Oregon, Georgia, Massachusetts, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, and Arizona.

The three hardest-hit congressional districts were all located in Silicon Valley in California. The 17th District lost 60,900 jobs, the 18th lost 49,500 jobs, and the 19th lost 39,400 jobs for a total loss of 149,800 jobs. His explanation for why this occurred is “Although the San Francisco Bay Area has experienced rapid growth over the past decade in software and related industries, this growth has come at the expense of direct employment in the production of computer and electronic parts.”

In summarizing the lost wages from the increasing trade deficit with China, Scott stated, “U.S. workers who were directly displaced by trade with China between 2001 and 2011 lost a collective $37.0 billion in wages as a result of accepting lower-paying jobs in nontraded industries or industries that export to China assuming, conservatively, that those workers are re-employed in nontraded goods industries…”
In addition, Scott wrote, “According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics survey covering displaced workers (BLS 2016b), more than one-third (36.7 percent) of manufacturing workers displaced from January 2013 to December 2015 were still not working, including 21.7 percent who were not in the labor force, i.e., no longer even looking for work.”

As I have written in previous articles, Scott concludes, “The rapid growth of U.S. imports of computer and electronic parts from China also represents a threat to national security because it is connected to the outsourcing of U.S. defense products, as explained by Brigadier General John Adams (2015). The outsourcing of the defense industry makes the United States vulnerable to disruption of supply chains for key missile and communications components. Outsourcing has also reduced the quality of military equipment: a congressional report found nearly 1 million counterfeit components in the supply chain for “critical” defense systems (Senate Armed Services Committee 2012). And outsourcing has eroded the capacity of the defense industrial base for cost innovation, knowledge generation, and support for domestic employment (Alliance for American Manufacturing 2016).

Foreign Direct Investment by American companies in factories in China has also played a key role in the growth of China’s manufacturing sector and “the shift of manufacturing production and jobs from the United States to China since China entered the WTO in 2001.” Scott notes that “China is the largest recipient of FDI of all developing countries (Xing 2010) and is the third-largest recipient of FDI over the past three decades, trailing only the United States and the United Kingdom.” He wrote, “For many years, foreign-invested enterprises (both joint ventures and wholly owned subsidiaries) were responsible for roughly two-thirds of China’s global trade surplus…However, due to China’s indigenous innovation policies and other measures that have pushed out foreign investors, often through forced takeovers and illegal theft of intellectual property, this share has fallen sharply to only one-third in 2015…”

However, the most serious consequences of the U.S.-China trade deficit are:
• The United States net international investment position (NIIP) declined from -$2.3 trillion in 2001, before China joined the WTO, to $-7.2 trillion in 2015 (BEA 2016b).
• Each year that the United States runs a trade deficit is a year that it must borrow from abroad to finance this excess of consumption over domestic production.
• The United States ran a trade surplus in nearly every year between 1946 and 1975, and by 1975 had become the largest net lender in the world.
• The United States has run increasingly large trade deficits in every year since 1976, and has become the world’s largest net debtor.

In summary, Scott stated, “The U.S.–China trade relationship needs to undergo a fundamental change. Addressing unfair trade, weak labor, and environmental standards in China, and ending currency manipulation and misalignment should be our top trade and economic priorities with China. It is time for the United States to respond to the growing chorus of calls from economists, workers, businesses, and Congress (Scott 2014b) and take action to stop unfair trade and illegal currency manipulation by China and other countries.”

According to my calculations, our trade deficit with China and other countries since 1994 when NAFTA went into effect has added up to nearly $11 trillion dollars. President Trump has set the goal of reducing the trade deficit. I say we need to eliminate the trade deficit by implementing the smart trade policies recommended by the Coalition for a Prosperous America that address all of the trade misalignment issues mentioned in the EPI report.

San Diego Tackles Housing Affordability and Skills Gap for STEM Careers

January 31st, 2017

Workforce development is critical to San Diego’s economy, so this topic was featured at the 33rd Annual San Diego County Economic Roundtable I attended on January 19, 2017. After the two presentations by the two economists covered in my last article, the next presenter was Tina Ngo Bartel, Director of Business Programs and Research for the San Diego Workforce Partnership, which has about a $40 million budget. She said, “My department does the research for new programs and then implements them. We did research on small business and found that 95% have fewer than 50 employees. We collaborate with the San Diego Employers Association to provide H.R. services for small businesses and have set up a free hotline for help on such topics as Workers Compensation, changes to labor law and wages, termination, employee discipline issues, etc.”

She described a new program they have to connect employers with job seekers instead of doing all day job fairs. They are doing Hiring Happy Hours at a local brewery where job seekers and employers can connect in a more informal, fun atmosphere. They are customized and targeted to specific industries, such as health care and manufacturing.

Next, she described their Connect2Careers program, which is “a summer employment program that addresses San Diego’s ongoing skills gap by providing meaningful work experiences that prepare young adults ages 16–24 for in-demand jobs. By aligning the career aspirations and educational backgrounds of young adults with businesses committed to developing our emerging workforce, C2C creates a positive experience for both employers and youth.”

Ms. Ngo Bartel said that they had released a report on Apprenticeship programs in November 2016. San Diego County has employers in a variety of industries that sponsor or participate in apprenticeship programs. According to the report, specialty trade contractors and local government provide the most apprenticeship opportunities. SDWP is working with the building industry on an apprenticeship career pathway in which there is no cost to the participants for the training and employment. At the end of the apprenticeship, there is guaranteed employment. She also said that the Urban Corps has a pre-apprenticeship program for youth without a high school diploma.

She stated that Able-Disabled Advocacy (A-DA) received a federal grant in November 2015 to develop apprenticeship programs for occupations that do not traditionally have registered apprenticeships in the region: project managers, computer support specialists–networking, and computer support specialists–cyber security (i.e., project management, ICT). The Able-disabled Academy offers an ICT program training in ICT skills.

She added, “San Diego has the first life science apprenticeship program in the nation created by Miramar College in partnership with Rx Research Services.” The press release of January 29, 2016, stated, “San Diego Miramar College will receive a $600,000 Innovative Apprentices for the Life Sciences Industry grant to grow the number of apprenticeships in nine areas: microbiology quality control technician; chemistry quality control technician; regulatory compliance associate; regulatory affairs specialist; clinical research coordinator; quality assurance associate/GXP auditor; clinical trial assistant; drug safety advocate; and clinical data coordinator. Miramar College, home of the Southern California Biotechnology Center, will be the lead education agency in partnership with Rx Research Services Inc., the apprenticeship sponsor.”

She concluded by saying that the SDWP will be doing an update on San Diego’s priority sectors of Advanced Manufacturing, Clean Energy, Health Care, Information and Communication Technologies, and Life Sciences and will release the report at their Workforce Conference in November 2017.

The lack of affordable housing in California’s metropolitan areas of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego has reached crisis status. Historically, San Diego salaries have been substantially lower than the other two regions, so it has become even more critical. The median home price hit $507,500 in November 2016, up 11 percent from a year ago. Rents have been escalating due to the high demand and limited supply of affordable homes. Both of these factors are impacting employers being able to recruit skilled workers from other parts of the country and impacting our region’s ability to keep new college graduates in the region.

This is why the next speaker was Deborah Ruane, Executive V. P. and Chief Strategy Officer of the San Diego Housing Commission, whose mission is “To provide affordable, safe and quality homes for low-and moderate-income families and individuals in the City of San Diego and to provide opportunities to improve the quality of life for the families that the San Diego Housing Commission serves.” The SDHC website includes this statement as part of its mission: “Become a national model in initiating and implementing new, progressive ideas to address affordable housing needs across the country.”

Ms. Ruane said, “Our Board of Directors asked me to find out why it was so expensive to build affordable housing. It costs $300,000 per unit.” She said that one problem is that they have constraints from many of their funders for housing, such as must have solar, must be near a school, near public transit, look as nice as neighborhood, all of which add to the cost. Economist Lynn Reaser of Point Loma Nazarene College estimates the costs related to government are $40 billion. This impacts our regional GDP in the amount of $2.4 billion.

She explained, “We started with the McKinsey Global Institute report, ‘Tackling the Affordable Housing Challenge” and came up 60 factors that affect cost, most of which are related to local, state, and Federal government. We narrowed the list down to the top 11. The first eight are within San Diego’s purview to change. One is related to state government, and two to the Federal government.” The list is:

  1. Set annual production goals
  2. Incentivize more 80/20 development
  3. Defer development fees
  4. Reduce parking requirement
  5. Reduce commerce space requirements
  6. Unlock land and increase ground leases
  7. Approve community plans with Master Environmental Impact Report
  8. Support California Environmental Quality Act reform
  9. Increase state and Federal resources
  10. Align state oversight
  11. Increase State and Federal resources

She said that McKinsey was so impressed with the work they were doing that they issued a subsequent report in October 2016 on “Closing California’s Housing Gap,” which “provides a tool kit for fixing a chronic housing shortage in the world’s sixth biggest economy.”

She concluded saying, “If we can make these changes, the City could reduce the costs of market rate housing by $54 million and by $23 million for affordable housing. We have made movement on nine of the issues, and we will issue a year-end report next month.”

The next speaker was Gina Campion-Cain, CEO of American National Investments. Her presentation was focused on the commercial real estate market. The most interesting points of her presentation with regard to my focus on manufacturing is that corporate campuses are being developed with rich amenities for employees, such as fitness centers, restaurants, coffee stops, and “grab and go” marketplaces. She also touched on the changes in the design of open office floor plans instead of cubicles to facilitate more collaboration among workers.

The last speaker was Matt Doyle, Ed.D, Assistant Superintendent of the Vista Unified School District who spoke on “Innovation in Education – Addressing Student Engagement and Lifelong Success.” Dr. Doyle said the Vista school district has 22,000 students of which 10% are homeless, some since kindergarten, who are now getting “full-ride” scholarships. (Vista is located about 30 miles northeast of the City of San Diego.)

Highlighting the most important points of his presentation, he stated, “The biggest education issue is student engagement. In our school district, student engagement drops from 76% in elementary school down to 44% in high school. When I started four years ago, I had conversations with about 2,000 students. I took all of the words students had to say about school and put them in a program called ‘Wordle’ and the one that came up was ‘irrelevant.’ It is a similar trend around the country.”

He stated, “To resolve the engagement issue, we need to re-imagine education and develop work-ready talent using a Strengths-based Education Model. It’s not about preparing for college, but more about preparing students for careers. We are using tools used by industry and work with business partners of the Vista Innovation Center. We use technology as an infrastructure and are one-to-one in devices for students.”

He explained, “The goal is to be a self-regulated learner. We create a personal learning pathway for students and develop a student profile. We have developed a competency-based program so as soon as student demonstrates their knowledge in a subject, they can move on. What we are finding is many of our students are able to move into college classes as a junior or senior. The goal is to prepare the student or the pathway…not the path for the student.”

Continuing, he said, “Students are working alongside teachers. We are creating opportunities for students to learn. Our learning environment is different. A teacher is no longer at the front of a class with rows of student desks. At the center of student success is the concept of collaboration. It’s a brave new world. We are trying to move beyond the traditional mindset.” Dr. Doyle stated, “The results in our super school have been a  99% reduction in disciplinary incidents, a 50% reduction in absenteeism, 62% of increasing GPA by one percentage point in half a year, a 27% reduction in ‘Ds’ and a 33% reduction in ‘Fs’.”

He concluded saying, “We are reaching out to business and having meaningful conversations about essential skills. Clean energy is one of the priority sectors in north San Diego County along with advanced manufacturing. This is part of a project called the Talent Cities Solution to narrow the talent gap and feed the talent pipeline. We are working with Solatube in the clean technology field, and middle school students are having conversations about what skills are needed in that industry. We are trying to ‘marry’ companies with students so they students can be employable when they finish their education. We want to help companies “on-board” students. We are creating learners that are flexible and nimble because that is what industry needs.”

Public/private collaborations that incorporate new ideas and innovative  programs for solving the housing affordability crisis, solving the skills gap in workforce development, and educating the next generation of youth for STEM careers make San Diego a role model for other regions.

 

Workshops for Warriors Aims to go National

January 10th, 2017

On December 9, 2016, I revisited Workshops for Warriors to find out what had been accomplished in the past four years since I had toured the facility during their first Manufacturing Day on October 5, 2012 and met retired naval officer Hernán Luis y Prado, founder and president of Workshops for Warriors (WFW).

The article  I wrote in 2012 described how Hernán and his wife had self-financed the training they began providing in their own garage while Hernán was still in the service and how they moved into their first small building in 2011. Their first outside funding came from Goodrich Aerostructures, in Chula Vista, California, and they moved into a building twice the size in October 2011. Over the years, Goodrich Aerostructures has donated nearly $1 million in equipment and materials to help WFW build out its class offerings.

Hernán spent over an hour with me on this visit and told me that in January 2016, WFW became approved as a licensed school in California and is the only accredited school training veterans in the manufacturing skills of machining and welding. He said, “Workshops for Warriors (WFW) is a Board-governed 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization that provides quality hands-on training, accredited STEM educational programs, and opportunities to earn third party nationally recognized credentials to enable Veterans, Wounded Warriors, and Transitioning Service Members to be successfully trained and placed in their chosen advanced manufacturing career field. Through the generosity of private and corporate donations, WFW is able to provide training at no cost to the Veterans, so that they can focus on school and not survival.”

The WFW website states that they address two challenges: “The need for lifelong employment among Veterans transitioning from the service, and the limited pipeline of skilled workers in the advanced manufacturing industry. According to a 2015 Ford Foundation report, more than 2.3 million advanced manufacturing jobs in the United States are unfilled due to lack of skilled labor.” Their current 10,000 square feet building has 11 CNC machines, 18 welding booths, capable of handling 120 graduates per year. Their goal is to have 45,000 square feet with 40 CNC machines and 40 welding booths, capable of handling 450+ graduates per year.

I asked if their curriculum has expanded since 2012, and he said that WFW teaches:

  • Computer-Aided Design
  • Computer-Aided Manufacturing
  • Machinery Repair and Maintenance
  • CNC and manual Machining and Turning
  • Welding and Fabrication

He said that students are now able to earn nationally recognized portable credentials from The American Welding Society (AWS), the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS), Mastercam University,

SolidWorks, Immerse2Learn, and the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3).

According to the website, Workshops for Warriors graduates are now employed by such companies as:  BAE Systems, Barrett, Benchmade, Cubic Corporation, Fox Fury Lighting Solutions, Gates Underwater Products, Gehring, General Dynamics NASSCO, Rogue Fitness, SpaceX, SPAWAR, and UTC Aerospace Systems.

Hernán said, “Workshops for Warriors is already making significant, lasting improvements, and we are building a better, stronger future for veterans, their families, and the U.S. economy by:

  • Reducing unemployment for veterans.
  • Meeting U.S. market demand for more trained, certified manufacturing workers.
  • Enhancing economic stability in the San Diego region.
  • Supporting growth of the U.S. manufacturing sector.
  • Helping more veterans successfully transition to civilian life—with hope and a renewed purpose through a secure civilian career path.”

When I asked what his biggest challenge is, he said reliable funding is number one because:

  • Students cannot use GI bill benefits
  • Classes are free to Veterans
  • Facility costs are $200,000 per month
  • Average cost per student per semester is $20,268
  • With a needs based living stipend provided, student cost per semester is $30,268

He said it is a five step process to receive Federal funding, and they are in the middle of step 4 (Operate as a licensed school for 2 years and pass BPPE audit). They hope to be able to accept Federal funding by April 2019.

I asked how they are funded now, and he responded, “We keep costs and overhead low so that 83% of our donations go straight to training veterans. We have machinery donated or on loan to us. We receive donated or discounted materials (computers, software, metals, tools), and we have time donated by some of our instructors and staff. We collaborate with other nonprofits, and we receive private donations from manufacturing industry leaders and foundations, as well as individual financial donations. We have seven members on our Board of Directors and twenty-seven on our Board of Advisors.”

The list of donors and sponsors has grown to such a long list of companies and organizations that I would not do justice to all of the partners to provide only a partial list. It would take up a whole page to list just the companies and organizations that have donated over $10,000 since 2014.

I asked Hernán what his plans for expansion are, and he said, “Workshops for Warriors is a nationally viable advanced manufacturing training pipeline that is ready to be scaled and replicated across America. Once the GI Bill is accepted at WFW, we will be self-sustaining and ready for expansion.” He added, “WFW has proven metrics and data for investors since 2011. We have audited financials since 2012 that are available on our website.”

Hernán introduced me to some of their new staff:  Amanda DiSilvestro, Marketing Manager, and John Jones, the new Director of Development. Hernán said, “John served with me in Iraq, and when I saw him years later in a wheel chair and learned that he lost both legs after I had returned home from Iraq, John was one of the reasons that I started Workshops for Warriors. We are honored to have him on our team.”

John said, “I had to retire from military service due to the injuries that I sustained during my second deployment. I worked in the nonprofit arena for ten years, ranging from Major Gifts Officer, Executive Director, and National Spokesperson for various military charities.  I wanted to work with an organization that had a more direct impact on the lives of veterans and chose to join Workshops for Warriors.”

John explained that they have begun a two year Capital Campaign to raise $21 million to expand nationally. He said, “We have raised 18% of our goal. Phase 1 of building our first of three buildings is scheduled to be completed by fall 2017. Our current San Diego headquarters will become a Train-the-Trainer and Veteran Incubator facility. Our plan is to create 103 WFW facilities across the USA located in areas with high military transition populations and advanced manufacturing training nodes. Our formal Capital Campaign will be launched at a special gala on April 20th on the U.S.S. Midway.”

He said, “Our program is called Rebuilding America’s Advanced Manufacturing Force. The purpose is to eliminate Veteran unemployment and underemployment, replenish the lack of talent pipeline for the manufacturing industry, and make a social and economic impact (individual to family to community to the Nation.)”

The national program will include:

  • Train-the-Trainer Blueprint
  • Sustainable Model Development
  • Strategic Partnership for National Footprint
  • Tuition/Scholarships
  • Staff & Top-Tier Teachers
  • Job Counseling & Placement
  • Land acquisition
  • Equipment, furniture & fixtures
  • New and renovated construction

Hernán told me that they have several short testimonials on their website from some of their graduates, but he showed me a video by Scott Leoncini and his wife about the impact on their family from graduating from WFW and becoming an instructor, which can be viewed here.

Before I left, I was invited to attend their Fall Graduation Ceremony event for machinists and welders the next week on Friday, December 16, 2016, which I did.

At the ceremony, Hernán said that they had 36 Veterans, Wounded Warriors, and Transitioning Service Members graduate from with nationally recognized credentials from the above-mentioned organizations. Each of the graduates was introduced as they came forward to receive their certificates. After this ceremony, Workshops for Warriors has now trained 338 with a combined 1,400 credentials. A video of the graduation ceremony is available here.

At the graduation ceremony, Summer Jamison, Market Director Executive Director of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., announced that they were donating $75,000 to WFW toward their Capital Campaign.

Also, Tiffany Rau, Public and Government Relations Manager, Southern California, presented Workshops for Warriors with a $40,000 grant from the Tesoro Foundation at the graduation ceremony. The funds will be used to help the school purchase a new Haas Automation Computer Numeric Controlled (CNC) Mill VF-2, a piece of equipment that supports hands-on learning of CNC machining.

The featured speaker at the ceremony was Ira E Friedman, Education Manager, Precision Tools, for The L.S. Starrett Company, a long-time sponsor and donor to WFW. I was so inspired by his speech that I requested a written transcription and feel compelled to quote a few excerpts. Mr. Friedman said, “Suffice it to say that you will be honored all the days of your life for your service. This investment that you have made in yourselves at Workshop for Warriors will change your lives and the lives of your families and friends forever. I would like to ask you all one question today. What contributions will you make to humanity and how will you help to change this world as a result of your experiences at Workshops for Warriors? To reach your full potential, you will need to have good friends, mentors and especially teachers. This select group of people will prove to be your gyroscopes, your guidance system and when you look back over your shoulder, your life’s treasures!”

After giving good advice about being a mentor, a friend, and contributing member of society, he shared his personal story of how his elementary school teacher mentored him and changed his life. He was nearsighted, had a lisp, and was severely behind in reading and writing. Instead of having to write a story about a canoe, his teacher instructed him and helped him build a 1/4 model of a canoe as his assignment. When it was a success, he realized that he wasn’t “dumb” after all. His teacher helped him get his eyes tested to get glasses and therapy to eliminate his lisp. He went on to being successful in Junior High and High School, even captaining the Wrestling Team. He went on to college and was one of 28 students selected for a full ride to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

In conclusion, he said, “Mr. Jenkins saved my life! This one individual invested in me and was the catalytic ingredient to my success in life. I have gone on to become a productive member of society, (married my childhood sweetheart 50 years ago) and most of all started to give back the precious gift that was given to me so many years ago, that of becoming a Mentor and Teacher. As I fade into the twilight of my career in Metrology some 64 years later, I owe the magic ingredient to Mr. Jenkins.

You see I had the fuel within me all along, he found the spark to ignite it. Finally, I will charge you all today with this one request. Whether you become business owners, NASCAR builders or a Metrology nerd like me; Teach Someone, Mentor Someone-Anyone. Do what Hernán and Workshops for Warriors has done for you and what Mr. Jenkins did for me – change the world!”

 

You can help change the world by donating to the Workshops for Warriors Capital Campaign.