Archive for the ‘Economic Development’ Category

High-Performing Port and Workforce Training Drive Global Manufacturing in South Carolina

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Last week I had the opportunity to spend two days visiting the Charleston, South Carolina metro area as the guest of the Charleston Regional Development Alliance (CRDA).  Claire Gibbons, Director of Global Marketing & Communications, was my hostess, and told me that if you drew a line along the 32nd parallel across the U. S. from San Diego, you would wind up at Charleston.  Like San Diego, Charleston is a major port, being the deepest port along the south Atlantic coast, able to handle ships with up to 48 ft. draft, depending on tides. Charleston is about 50% lower in population than San Diego (761,000 vs. 1.407 million (2016), but is growing 3X faster than the U.S. average (14.5% vs. 4.7%).

Charleston is a military town like San Diego and is home to Joint Base Charleston, one of twelve joint facilities operated by the Department of Defense; the U.S. Space & Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic (SPAWAR), one of the Navy’s only two cyber mission engineering centers; and nearly all U.S. Dept. of Defense and Dept. of Homeland Security agencies. These facilities represent more than 23,000 active duty, civilian and contract civilian personnel.

Our first stop on my visit was the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCSPA), where we met with James Newsome, III, President and CEO.  He said “Charleston meets the needs of today’s global shipping industry, particularly as large vessels are deployed to East Coast trade routes. Our South Atlantic location is a significant driver of the Port of Charleston’s above-market average cargo volume growth, offering proximity to the fastest growing population in the U.S., as well as a booming manufacturing economy.”

He said, “We just received approval to dredge to 52 ft. depth to be able to handle the new, larger container ships that are coming online.  Two new taller cranes just came online (155 ft. vs. 115 ft.), and we have two more on order to install in 2018. We are also raising four existing cranes, for a total of eight cranes offering 155 ft. of lift height. We have three active cargo terminals now, and a new terminal is in development on the former Navy Base.

One of our terminals is a drive off terminal for automobiles, and the other two handle container ships. The new terminal will also handle container ships. The larger container ships are 13,000 TEUs in capacity. We also built a new rail connection from Charleston to the Inland Port in Greer to able to reduce truck congestion at the port and expedite rail shipments out of the region. “

As we drove around the terminal that has the new cranes, I was dismayed to see thousands of containers from Chinese and German shipping lines, but was encouraged when Mr. Newsome said that according to the latest report, Charleston is the port that is the most balanced in terms of imports and exports on the Atlantic coast. The port is also seeing good growth in exports of manufactured goods. The three terminals turn over the entire number of containers every 7-10 days.

Mr. Newsome said, “Charleston ships more tires than any other port in the United States.  Michelin came in the 1970s and has invested $6-7 billion in their manufacturing facilities. BMW came in 1994 and has invested about $10 billion in their facilities. About 70% of BMWs are shipped out of the Charleston port from the entire line made in the U. S. Boeing built a plant in 2009. Mercedes-Benz Vans is building their new Sprinter vans here. Volvo will open a new $500 million facility near Ridgeville in 2018. Five companies represent about 70% of our shipping volume.”

After I returned home, I found this important data on the Port’s website: “A 2015 study by the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business concluded that the Port’s statewide impacts include:

  • $53 billion in annual economic activity
  • 187,600 jobs
  • $10.2 billion in labor income
  • 10 percent of total annual gross state product
  • $912 million in tax revenue”

Besides cars, tires, and other manufactured goods, Mr. Newsome said that the major products shipped out of Charleston are: agricultural (soybeans, grains), forest products (including diaper pulp, poultry, and pork.

According to the SCSPA website, the five fast-growing business sectors for the Port are:

  • Automotive manufacturing
    •Consumer goods distribution
    •Refrigerated/frozen exports
    •Transloading resin & grain
    •Tire manufacturing & distribution

Charleston shares some of the same industry clusters that San Diego has:  Aerospace, Information Technology, and Life Sciences. Their other two largest industry clusters are automotive and logistics. The following chart derived from data on the CRDA website shows the top ten manufacturers ranked by number of employees:

Company Products Employees Nationality
The Boeing Company
Aircraft manufacturing 7,400 American
Robert Bosch LLC Antilock brake systems, fuel injectors 1,800 German
SAIC Electronic security and communications systems 1,500 American
BlackBaud Inc Specialty computer software 1,300 American
Kapstone Charleston Kraft LLC Specialty paper & packaging 1,000 American
Nucor Steel Carbon & alloy steel 1,000 American
IFA North America LLC Automobile drive shafts 600 German
Mahle Behr Engine cooling systems 375 German
BAE Systems Electronic security and communications systems 350 British
V. T. Milcon Fabrication & assembly of communications systems 275 British

On our drive to our next appointment, I asked Claire to fill me in on the South Carolina business climate, so I could understand why so many foreign companies have established plants in the state. She said, “South Carolina offers a strategic location, particularly for companies based in Europe, and a business-friendly climate. We are a “right to work” state with one of the lowest corporate income tax rates in the south.” There are other benefits shown on the CRDA website: “no state property tax, no local income tax, no inventory tax, no sales tax on manufacturing machinery, industrial power or materials for finished products, no wholesale tax, and no unitary tax on worldwide profits.”

Claire added that another big advantage is that when a company relocates or expands to South Carolina, they can get training at little to no cost for their employees through readySC™, a division of the South Carolina Technical College System.  ReadySC’s mission is to “To promote the economic and workforce development of the state of SC. We provide customized training for new and expanding business and industry in the state of SC…”

Later in the day, I had the opportunity to visit the Mercedes-Benz Vans Training Center, where I met with Terrance Rivers, Area Director of readySC™, Susan Pretulak, V. P. Economic Development of the SC Technical College System., and Alyssa Bean, responsible for communications at Mercedes-Benz Vans manufacturing plant.

Ms. Pretulak said, “The Division of Economic Development works to not only attract new and expanding companies to the state but also provide the workforce development tools necessary to make certain they grow and prosper in South Carolina over the long term. The division is touted as providing a comprehensive solution for companies looking to grow their workforce in South Carolina. Housed within the division are the System’s nationally renowned statewide programs — readySC™ and Apprenticeship Carolina™.”

She explained, “Training is state-funded and is open to companies who will hire 10+ new, permanent, full-time employees with benefits.  There is a simple two-page agreement to participate in the program.  We have 16 technical colleges in our system, and each college has a readySC™ group. We are working with 89 companies at present.  We have two programs: (1) Pre-hiring Training, which is an unpaid training experience to provide potential employees for a company client and (2) Post-hiring Training, which is job specific training, such as welding, machining, assembly, etc.”

I asked if they have developed their own curriculum or do they use the SME ToolingU curriculum, and she said, “Some of both.” Mr. Rivers said. “We have a three-phase program:  Design, Discovery, and Delivery to customize the training to meet a company’s needs. Daimler was one of our first clients before they switched their name to Mercedes-Benz Vans. They make the Sprinter van at their plant.”

The readySC website expands on the requirements to participate in the program, specifying: To qualify, we require that:

  • Jobs projected must be permanent.
  • Pay represents a competitive wage for the area.
  • Benefit package must include health insurance.
  • Number of jobs created must be sufficient enough to allow readySC™ to provide training in a cost-effective manner.

Ms. Pretulak informed me that the SC Technical College System is also responsible for the Apprenticeship Carolina™ program, which “works to ensure all employers in South Carolina have access to the information and technical assistance they need to create demand-driven registered apprenticeship programs. At no cost to the employer, apprenticeship consultants are available to guide companies through the registered apprenticeship development process from initial information to full recognition in the national Registered Apprenticeship System.

The program started with 90 apprenticeship programs in 2007, and now has 918 programs today, representing 14,475 apprentices. One in three participating employers offer programs in more than one occupation.  The target industries are:  advanced manufacturing, construction technologies, energy, health care, information technology, and tourism and service industries. The total number of apprentices trained to date is 26,864, and the program is averaging more than 120 new apprentices per month.

At dinner that evening, I met Robin Willis, Associate Vice President, Talent Pipeline Strategies for the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.  She said, “We are very proud of the growing number of Youth Apprenticeship students and their hosts in our region. We feel strongly that this program provides life changing experience for students and helps companies fill their critical Talent needs, so much so we have funded the program in its entirety. There are 105 Youth Apprentices currently in the workforce – 66 new ones that started in August 2017 and 39 who started their 2nd year in August 2017 and will complete the program in June 2018.

I told everyone that I haven’t visited any other state that has such comprehensive training and apprenticeship programs, and I am very impressed by what South Carolina has to offer to existing and relocating companies. It is no surprise that so many foreign companies are choosing South Carolina to establish or expand their U.S. presence. Other states (particularly California) would be smart to emulate the business incentives and training programs offered by South Carolina.

Do Low American Savings Rate Cause Trade Deficits?

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017

Mainstream trade news continues to assert that trade deficits don’t matter. Economists help reporters write these fake news stories by claiming that America’s failure to save money is the problems, not foreign trade cheating. On June 20, 2017, the Coalition for a Prosperous America released a research paper titled “Do Savings Rates Cause Trade Deficits? by Michael Stumo (CEO) and Jeff Ferry (Research Director) that shows why globalist economists are wrong about what causes trade deficits, offshoring and job losses.

They write, “A popular, but misleading, claim is that low US savings, relative to investment, causes our trade deficit. For exam­ple, Harvard professor and former Reagan administration advisor Martin Feldstein.has said that the US fiscal defi­cit, which indeed reduces national savings, is the cause of the trade deficit. ‘If a country consumes more than it produces [thus saving little], it must import more than it exports.’”

These macroeconomists “claim that Americans spend too much, save too little, produce too little, and thus must import to support their gluttony.” They are incorrect.

White House economists use the “savings rate causes trade deficits” claim to create the false illusion that nothing can be done. But the real problem is that a few foreign countries – like China, Japan, Germany and South Korea – have economic strategies to overproduce, under consume and ship their overcapacity to the US. Their growth strategy is their full employment program. They export their unemployment to the US.

DISTINGUISHING CAUSES FROM MATHE­MATICAL INTERRELATIONSHIPS

To macroeconomists, the ”National savings, investment and net trade are variables within equations or formulas known as ‘national income identities’. Because the variables are within the identity, they are called “endogenous’ and are explained by the equation.” But they do not explain what causes the changes.

“The basic Gross Domestic Product equation is referred to as a national income identity, expressed in the following equation:

GDP = C + I + G + NE

C = Consumption; I = Investment, G =  Government and NE = Net Exports. Net Exports are also expressed as X – M in another version of this equation. When the Net Exports is a negative figure as it has been since 1979, this reduces the GDP.  According to previous research by the Coalition for a Prosperous America, “the annual trade deficit has reduced each year’s GDP by some 3% to 5.5% each year, and those reductions compound over time.”

The purpose of the paper is to explain “how to distinguish (a) causation from (b) math­ematical interrelationships in the national income identity or equation that underlies this debate. For reasons explained below, real world changes (exogenous factors) outside the identity are the true causes. These real-world changes directly impact one or more variables within the identity, transmitting through the equation by mathematical necessity. In short, na­tional savings is related to the trade deficit in an accounting sense but does not cause it.”

Government policies often affect each one of the variables of the above equation. For example, the income tax rate may affect Consumption.  If rates are high, then American consumers have less money to devote to consumption.  If Government consumption and expenditures through procurement is down as it was under Sequestration, then companies that sell to the government make less money and have less money to buy products as business and corporate consumers.

To clarify the relationship between savings and trade deficits, the authors cite Robert Scott of the Economic Policy Institute: “Accounting identities do not, and cannot, explain the causal relationships between savings, investment, and trade flows. Do low savings rates cause trade deficits, or does causation run in the other direction? A trade deficit reduces the incomes of domestic workers, pushing many into lower income brackets. Families with lower incomes gen­erally find it much harder to save. Therefore, increasing trade deficits can and do reduce national savings.”

DEBUNKING THE MORALITY VS SAVINGS RATE HYPOTHESIS

International economists in important positions “im­plicitly argue that no policy action is necessary or effective because US citizens simply do not save enough. We have caused our own problem. Our immoral, gotta-spend-it-now culture must become more austere.”

However, the authors explain that “National savings, in the context of the national in­come identity, is the aggregate of household, business and government savings. It is the extent to which national in­come exceeds private and public spending.

Household savings can, for example, go down if family earnings fall but they spend the same as before on necessities. Taxes or interest rates could go up causing con­sumers to spend less. Neither cause has anything to do with financial morality.”

Instead, government policies can and do affect savings rates. The authors state, “Surplus countries such as Germany and China have been deficit countries in the past… with low savings rates and trade deficits. Their cultural propensity to spend or save did not miraculously change…policy changes in the 1990’s and 2000’s caused trans­fers of wealth from households to industry forcing less consumption and more production at increased scale and with very competitive prices. The result was more national savings and trade surpluses.”

HOW OVERSUPPLY IS TRANSFERRED TO DEFICIT COUNTRIES

The authors show how the oversupply (overproduction) of some countries is transferred to other countries causing them to become deficit countries.  They write; “All countries cannot run trade surpluses. Offset­ting deficits must exist elsewhere. The primary reason for a country to engineer persistent surpluses is to spur domestic employment by excessive reliance upon foreign consumers. The deficit country, however, experiences de­valuation of its formerly well employed labor.”

They point out that in 2005, “then-Federal Re­serve Board chairman Ben Bernanke argued that the large and growing U.S. current account deficit is caused not by anything happening in the U.S., but by decisions taken by emerging economy nations to run very high savings rates, pursue export-led growth, and lend money to other countries, especially the U.S. He called the situation a ‘global savings glut.’ These excessive inflows of foreign savings raise the U.S. dollar exchange rate, drive down our interest rates, and force our economy into a trade deficit.”

The method by which this transfer takes place is described by Professor Michael Pettis, quoted in the paper:

“If any country takes steps to change the gap between its total domestic savings and its total domestic investment, then those steps must also affect its trade balance. Because a change in one country’s trade balance must be matched with an opposite change in the trade balance of all other countries, there must also be an opposite and equal change in the gap between the total domestic savings of the rest of the world and the total domestic investment of the rest of the world.”

Other factors affecting this transfer are “wage suppression (intentionally as in Germany) or because high volumes of new workers are entering the labor market (as in Asia) and redirect household resources to investment. The result is that productivity increases faster than wages. Increased production outstrips the ability of domestic households to consume. Domestic supply exceeds demand and the coun­try must rely upon foreign consumers to soak up the excess.”

What Tactics Do Surplus Countries Use?

The authors explain that “Export-oriented or investment-oriented countries can utilize policies to reduce consumption, increase pro­duction and export at very competitive prices.”

China:

  • Wage growth is constrained to well be­low the growth in worker productivity
  • Undervalued exchange rate…for much of the past two decades
  • Government subsidizes Chinese manufacturing exporters
  • Financial repression of Chi­nese households
  • Vast amounts of surplus labor that produces more than it consumes.

In essence, the authors state “They export oversupply, deflation and unemployment. The result is excessive reliance on demand from consum­ers in deficit countries.”

Germany

  • Holds down domestic wages
  • German banks provide direct loans and vendor financing to foreign countries to buy German products
  • Impose a 19% consumption tax (VAT) that is rebated to exporters

As a result, “The eco­nomic distress caused by the German-policy-induced cri­sis in other eurozone countries perversely holds down the value of the euro” making Germany’s exports more price competitive in the global marketplace.

SOLUTIONS TO REBALANCE TRADE AND CAPITAL FLOWS

The authors present the following recommended solutions to reduce trade deficits:

  1. Fix currency misalignment, especially the overvalued dollar.
  2. Implement a US consumption tax, such as a goods and services tax (GST), in a revenue neutral and distribution neutral way by completely offset­ting the payroll tax burden.
  3. Adopt a territorial business income tax called sales factor apportionment (SFA)
  4. Consider broadly applied tariffs to counter the unearned ad­vantages of trade surplus countries
  5. Apply selec­tive tariffs to high value or strategic products that the US wants to produce

In conclusion, the authors state: “…the level of US savings and invest­ment cannot and do not ‘cause’ our trade deficit. The true causes are surplus country policies, misaligned exchange rates and global labor oversupply. Persistent trade surplus countries export their oversupply and unemployment to deficit countries characterized by open economies and open financial markets. Policy leaders must become adept at determining the actual causes, how they are transmit­ted through national income identities and how they re­sult in imbalances. Effective policy responses can then be designed to rebalance trade and capital flows, increase US employment and restore our economic growth.”

The paper shows why America’s economy grew when the majority of manufactured goods were Made in America and consumed by US consumers.  The wages paid to the manufacturing workers who produced these products allowed them to save more because they earned more. When the U. S. lost 5.8 million higher paying manufacturing jobs from the 2000 – 2010 because American production was offshored to China and other Asian countries, American workers no longer had any money to save. The overproduction of trade surplus countries resulted in a glut of cheap imported products that further depressed or destroyed some American manufacturing industry sectors. The cheap imported goods that consumers bought became a curse rather than a blessing.

Therefore, the preposterous premise of many macroeconomists that low savings create trade deficits was proven false. It is incomprehensible to me why macroeconomists don’t understand that you can’t save if you don’t have a job or your non-manufacturing job is paying way less than your manufacturing job did. This is why I strongly support the recommended policies of the Coalition for a Prosperous America and urge you to do so also.

North Dakota’s Northern Plains UAS Test Site

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

When I was first invited to North Dakota, the plan was for me to visit the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks, but it was about 80 miles away from Fargo, and the Site’s Director was going to be out of town the week of my trip.

My first thought was questioning why North Dakota was selected as one of the six UAS test sites compared to San Diego, which is home to Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk and General Atomics’ Predator unmanned vehicles. I had given a presentation at the San Diego Lindbergh Chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International in the spring of 2013 while they were collaborating to prepare a proposal for being selected as a test site and was surprised when San Diego was not selected.

I posed this question to my host, Paul Lucy, the first evening we met during my trip, and he supplied part of the answer. It turns out that the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks had a long history of training airline pilots starting in the late 1960s and more recently expanded into training pilots for unmanned vehicles.

In December 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration selected North Dakota to be one of the six test sites, officially known as the Northern Plains UAS Test Site. According to the website, the mission is:  “Collaborate with FAA and industry partners to develop equipment, systems, rules, and procedures to safely integrate unmanned aircraft into the NAS without negatively impacting existing general or commercial aviation.”

After I had written my other articles about North Dakota, I set up a phone interview with Nick Flom, Executive Director of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site. He took over the position in 2016 after the founding Executive Director, Robert Becklund, was promoted to Brigadier General and Deputy Adjunct General for the State of North Dakota. However, Nick is not new to the center since he was Becklund’s first hire when the site was established.

Nick provided me the rest of the answer as to why North Dakota was selected. He said, “When they were preparing for the selection process, the entire state went into what we called the “one voice” effort by the Governor, the North Dakota Department of Commerce, and the Office of the Adjunct General of the National Guard, the University of North Dakota, and other organizations in the state. Over $20 million was committed to establishing the UAS Test Site because the FAA test site designation did not include any Federal funding.”

As a point of reference, he told me that whole population of North Dakota is about 775,000, and there are only three Congressional Representatives. The population of the City of San Diego, California where I live is nearly double at 1.4 million.

He explained that “the wide open space of North Dakota was a big consideration, and there is no restricted air space because of population density. The FAA also wanted to diversify the test sites to reflect extremes of temperatures, and North Dakota has some of the highest and lowest temperatures of the U. S.”

The UAS Test Site website sums up the reasons why North Dakota was chosen as follows:

  • “Unequalled history, legacy, and culture of UAS.
  • Immediate access to uncongested airspace statewide and custom tailored to support your research.
  • Diverse climate and open terrain.
  • Unified commitment from North Dakota and congressional leadership, local industry, and key business decision makers.
  • State grant program to match funds from industry-academia research.
  • Strong relationship with Grand Sky, a UAS Business and Aviation Park at Grand Forks Air Force Base.”

When I asked what are his responsibilities, he answered, “We have a couple of different missions to integrate unmanned vehicles into the national air space:  supporting industry as rules are being developed, providing the test environment for application-based processes in agriculture, building inspection, insurance claims, etc., and as an economic driver for agriculture and energy. We look at unmanned vehicles as an opportunity to diversify the state’s economy. Grand Forks has an Air Force Base that has underutilized space, and there was 217 acres in Grand Forks available to establish a UAS business park. The first two tenants in the park are General Atomics and Northrop Grumman. General Atomics has a flight training facility for their sales of vehicles to foreign countries. They were training their pilots to fly in civilian air space. Northrop Grumman flies Global Hawks out of the Grand Forks Air Force Base to support some of their military customers. We help support these capabilities and have the goal of flying beyond the line of sight using the radar system at the Grand Forks Air Force Base. Right now, when General Atomics is doing flight training, they have a chase airplane following along. When they can fly beyond line of sight, they won’t have to have a chase aircraft follow along and will be able to execute their mission at a lower cost.”

Nick Flom provided me with more detail about UND’s history of pilot training. He said, “UND started with two airplanes in the 1960s, and then added a helicopter program in 1980. Now, they have 150 airplanes for commercial aviation pilot training. They were the first university to add unmanned vehicle pilot training in 2010, and are now filling the increasing demand for unmanned vehicle pilots. They are the first university to offer a four-year UAS Operations Bachelor of Science degree in the U. S. We have a close relationship with UND, and we can leverage a lot of their research. The President of UND established the Research Institute for Autonomous Systems on the campus. The top leaders understand the importance of unmanned aircraft.”

Nick explained, “UND offers specialized training and curriculum development for UAS crew training and certification that includes human factors, safety management systems. It has an indoor UAS flight laboratory, a Predator Reaper Integrated Networked Computer Environment (PRINCE) simulator, a Predator Mission Aircrew Training System (PMATS) simulator, as well as a UAS Scan Eagle aircraft and simulators.”

From the University of North Dakota Aerospace home page, I learned that UND specializes in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) research, education and training for private industry, government, UAS researchers and UND graduates. The UAS research collaboration includes:

  • “UND Institute for Unmanned and Autonomous Research (IUAR)
  • John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences
    • Aviation, Atmospheric Sciences, Computer Sciences, Space Studies, Earth Systems Science & Policy
  • UND Aerospace Foundation
  • Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NP UAS TS)
  • UND School of Engineering
    • Unmanned Aircraft Systems Engineering Lab
    • Robotics and Intelligence Systems Lab
  • UND Department of Psychology
    • Northern Plains Center for Behavioral Research”

From all of this information, I could see that it was entirely appropriate for the UAS Test Site to be established in North Dakota near University of North Dakota.

I asked Nick about funding for the UAS Test, and he responded, “The state of North Dakota has appropriated dollars to support the test center. We also contract with government agencies such as NASA and the FAA as well as private companies to do services for which we are paid.”

Before ending our discussion, I asked Nick what were the future plans. He answered, “It depends on the needs of industry. The ability to fly aircraft beyond line of sight is very important, along with the ability to safely perform operations over populated cities. Right now, it is one pilot per aircraft, but it may be possible to have one pilot flying more than one unmanned vehicle.”

In retrospect, I realize that San Diego County would not have been a good choice for a FAA test site as we have too much restricted air restricted air space due to three military airports, San Diego’s Lindberg Field international airport, several small airports spread throughout the county, and the Tijuana, Mexico international airport right across the border. In addition, the population of San Diego County is 3.3 million, and there is only a small variation in temperature from winter to summer. There is no doubt in my mind now that North Dakota was a good choice for being selected as one of the six designated test sites.

NDSU Research & Technology Park Leads Region in Job Creation

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

On the first day of my visit to Fargo, North Dakota, I met with Chuck Hoge, Executive Director of the North Dakota State University Research & Technology Park (RTP), which is “dedicated to enhancing the investments in North Dakota State University by the citizens of North Dakota. The development of facilities and research centers conducive to cutting-edge research is also part of the NDSU Research and Technology Park.” The Research Park operates a 50,000 sq. ft. technology incubator, which offers space, facilities, and services to technology-based entrepreneurs and businesses.

Mr. Hoge also serves on the Fargo Moorhead Growth Initiative Fund Board. Prior to the Research Park, he was president of the Ottertail Corporation Manufacturing Platform for six years, and before that, he was president and CEO of Bobcat Corporation.

Mr. Hoge said, “I was on the board of directors of the Park before I became Interim Director in 2013 and the Executive Director in 2016. The Research Park is a 501 (c3) corporation with its own Board of Directors. The Park is home to two NDSU research buildings, the John Deere Electronic Solutions building, and two buildings occupied by Appareo, one of our Incubator graduates.”

Explaining the purpose of the research park, he said, “The Park’s goals mirror those of the State of North Dakota. Our shared mission is to diversify the economy through high-tech STEM jobs, develop the workforce and provide valuable, in-state career opportunities for North Dakota students. In the past, many of NDSU’s 15,000 students were seeking well-paid, high-tech positions out of state, so we made it our goal to create those opportunities for them in-state. The Research Park has created 1,339 direct jobs, of which 52% are held by graduates of North Dakota colleges and universities.”

“In the Incubator, our mission is to help companies succeed faster, which is why we have two of our partner organizations in the Incubator; the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Bank of North Dakota. The SBDC helps startups with anything from business plans to financial modeling and because the Bank of North Dakota is the only state-owned bank in the country, they have many programs aimed at helping startup companies.”

When I asked for information about the founding of the Research Park and incubator, he said, “The Research Park was founded in 1999 and the incubator in 2007. Our funding sources were a combination of private donations, a State Centers of Excellence grant and an EDA grant.”

Hoge, said, “The Bank of North Dakota isn’t the only state entity creating programs for local startups. The Department of Commerce’s Innovate North Dakota program provides up to $32,500 in startup funds to companies in four phases ? $2,500, $5,000, $10,000, and $15,000. In the last couple years, we had over 50 companies in the Fargo area use the program to kick start their companies with a great success rate. The program doesn’t only provide monetary support; the company founders attend entrepreneur training boot camps to network with fellow founders and learn from world-renown entrepreneur, Dr. Jeffery Stamp of Bold Thinking, LLC.”

He told me that the incubator has 12 current incubator clients and has graduated five companies:  Appareo, Fargo 3D Printing, Intelligent InSites, Myriad Mobile, and Pedigree Technologies.

“In addition to programs designed to target local entrepreneurs, we also have a student competition called Innovation Challenge, where $27,000 is awarded to teams of NDSU students with the most innovative ideas. Through three rounds of judging by industry professionals, the students are challenged to pitch their innovations through a written proposal, a trade show scenario and a mock fundraising pitch. We want to inspire students to think about entrepreneurship as a career path and we use innovation as the gateway to entrepreneurship. We had three companies get their start in Innovation Challenge last year and we are hoping for more this year. The program is financially supported by a combination of a University Center EDA grant, state matching funds and contributions from local businesses and organizations.

The Incubator Manager, John Cosgriff, has a background in venture funds, and he assists companies with intellectual property, human resources and raising capital. We have monthly founder meetings where the entrepreneurs advise each other and ‘Lunch and Learn’ events where founders learn from and network with industry experts.”

After I returned home, I was emailed an Economic Impact Study released November, 2016, and a few highlights are:

  • Its companies support an estimated 1,300 indirect jobs in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
  • Its companies employ 489 graduates of NDSU (37% of total RTP employment)
  • Another 202 are graduates of other North Dakota University System schools.
  • 107 student interns are employed by the RTP companies.

While at the Incubator, we met with Chad Ulven and Corey Kratcha, who are the co-founders and CTO and CEO, respectively, of one of the incubator tenants, c2renew, which “uses proprietary biocomposite formulations to design materials, compounds, and parts that satisfy demanding engineering specifications.” With this technology, it is possible to take advantage of lower-cost, renewable resources while meeting, maintaining, and even improving upon the mechanical properties required for a product.

Dr. Ulven said, “I was trained in advanced composite materials when I was in graduate school and at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds Army Research Laboratory. Then I became faculty at NDSU researching agricultural products for use as fillers for composites. I wanted to use a variety of materials and built several predictive models based on biomass constituent make up. I met Corey by chance, and we decided to take the technology out of the lab and spin it off to make products. We started working with big companies like Bobcat and John Deere, but the time to market was too long.”

He explained, “We decided to target companies that are focused on new products and started working with EarthKind to develop consumer market products using a PLA based resin along with flax fiber.”

They showed us some of the products where their materials are used:

EarthKind Pouch Pod – All natural repellent holder that uses flax sourced from North Dakota farms as the filler to the resin.

Bogobrush – An eco-friendly toothbrush where materials, production, and shipping all take place in North Dakota and the surrounding area. The company gives a toothbrush away for everyone bought.

Corey said, “In a partnership with 3DomFuel, we have developed a collection of bio-based 3D printing filaments called c2composites. Our expertise in biocomposite formulation matched with the expertise 3DomFuel has in producing filament means that anyone with a 3D printer capable of printing PLA can print with the following custom filaments:

Wound Up – a coffee plant fiber waste filled filament

Buzzed – made from byproducts of beer production

Entwined – made from industrial hemp

LandFilament – made from upcycled municipal solid waste

We have created many different biocomposites for various customers, but we had never created anything that was 100 percent done for us. So we thought about ways to take one of our favorite things, coffee, and use it in a new and innovative design. We developed the c2cup by creating a new biocomposite formulation that is a hybridization of a bio-based resin and coffee plant fiber. We then used this biocomposite to make 3D printer filament and printed the first coffee cup. The biomass resources we use are taking the waste off the hands of the producer to be utilized in a rapidly renewable manner. We use carbon rich byproducts that also have high lignin content that improves a material’s UVA resistance. We look at how we can meet performance specifications by finding a solution that is bio-based, renewable, and sustainable.

We have a 9,500 sq. ft. production facility in a nearby industrial space. We have at least two interns from NDSU at any one time that we meet through the Incubator and other meetings.

We now have experience working with a wide variety of thermoplastics including: PP, PE, PLA, ABS, ABS/PC, and PA, and a wide variety of agricultural inputs are possible as fillers:

  • flax fiber
  • wood flour
  • hemp fiber
  • sunflower hull
  • dried distiller grains with solubles
  • soybean hull
  • oat hull
  • sugar beet pulp

Our formulations are more environmentally responsible since the petroleum feedstock can be replaced with agricultural byproducts which would otherwise be left to decay in the soil or be sent to the landfill.”

Chad told me about the collaboration they are doing with NDSU researchers to spin out c2sensor, as a result of the “development of a micro-sensor made from biocomposites and non-bioaccumulating metals. He said, “The Sensing Earth Environment Directly (SEED) Sensor can be placed during planting for in-situ measurement of soil conditions, as opposed to current methods which often require a combination of direct (i.e. soil sampling) and indirect measurements (i.e. remote sensing).

Biodegradable materials used in SEED Sensors allow them to degrade after use where planted without adding toxins to the soil. Since wireless communication with the sensor is based on passive radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, batteries are not required for operation. This technology has been tested in lab and in field trials.”

Chad said, “The SEED Sensors provide:

  • Salinity levels for allowing adjustments as needed
  • Nutrient levels for variable rate fertilizer applications
  • Moisture levels to have more focused irrigation
  • pH levels to more proactively manage inputs
  • Real time soil analysis for end of year fieldwork
  • couple with aerial mapping via UAVs or satellite imager”

At the end of our visit, Chad said, “We also provide engineering services to help design, analyze, and develop plastic and plastic-composite parts for virtually any application. While we specialize in utilizing natural and recycled materials in place of virgin polymers, we also produce solutions with more tradition materials like fiberglass and carbon fiber.”

If c2renew is an example of the cutting edge technology of the startup companies in the Incubator, North Dakota will certainly be able to reach its goal of accelerating the growth of startup and emerging companies to expand their manufacturing base and keep college graduates from leaving the state. The Park’s website describes the success to date: “The NDSU Research & Technology (RTP) Park and its companies have seen tremendous growth over the last five years according to a survey conducted by EMSI in 2010 and repeated by the RTP in 2015. As of December 2015, there were 1,105 jobs at companies located in the park and 234 jobs at RTP incubator graduate companies located around the Fargo-Moorhead area. This is a 50 percent increase over the number of jobs at the end of 2010.”

It would have been great to be able to visit with more Incubator tenants, but we had other more established companies to visit the rest of the day that I will discuss in my next article.

 

North Dakota Focuses on Accelerating Growth of Emerging Companies

Wednesday, 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.

MEPs are Essential to Rebuilding American Manufacturing Competitiveness

Tuesday, 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.

San Diego Tackles Housing Affordability and Skills Gap for STEM Careers

Tuesday, 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.

 

CONNECT’S MIP Awards range from Pure Fun to Life-Saving

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

On December 1st, the winners of the 2016 CONNECT Most Innovative New Product Awards were announced at the 29th annual dinner event held at the Hyatt Regency Aventine in La Jolla.

CONNECT is a premier innovation company accelerator in San Diego that helps start up entrepreneurial teams become great companies in the technology and life sciences sectors by providing access to the people, capital, and technology resources they need to succeed. CONNECT has assisted in the formation and development of more than 3,000 companies since 1985. Lead sponsors for the event were Cubic Corporation, and JP Morgan Chase & Company.  Tom West, San Diego Executive Director & Regional Manager of JP Morgan Chase, presented CEO Greg McKee with a check for $200,000 to support CONNECT.

CONNECT CEO Greg McKee said in part, “This event gives us an occasion to celebrate what we do best in San Diego ? innovate. From genomics to robotics, Bluetech to biotech, and data analytics to medical devices the breadth of our innovation economy is staggering. In fact, it’s a quarter of our GDP. You, as innovators, matter. And, I would bet, that many of the products we see here tonight will have an equally profound impact. For over thirty years CONNECT has been, and continues to be, an organization driven by discovery, innovation, economic empowerment, and the opportunity to change the world. But, changing the world isn’t always about a single sweeping gesture or one grand moment, it’s hard work, it’s a blend of small insights and little steps forward, it’s about sharing discoveries and thriving on others’ inspiration.”

There were a record 111 entrants this year across the ten categories listed below. To be eligible, the product must have been first introduced after January 1, 2014, never been selected as a MIP finalist, and generated revenue from sales (except for free mobile apps and companies submitting for the Life Science Products – Clinical Stage category). Each semi-finalist demonstrated their products in front of an expert judging panel in early October, from which 30 were selected as finalists. The winners and other finalists were:

Bluetech:  Water Pigeon – a fast, simple, secure way to deliver automated metering infrastructure (AMI) capability without replacing existing water meters or building wireless networks. Water Pigeon is a graduate of CONNECT’s Springboard program and a resident of EvoNexus.

After winning the award, CEO/CoFounder Clay Melugin said, “The MIP award from Connect is an outstanding honor to win. With so many great startup companies in San Diego in all categories, being recognized for Innovation delivers a boost to our team as we continue to push forward on goals that improve the world. Innovation is clearly not dead in the US and we want the world to see how innovation emboldens a supportive city like San Diego.

The outreach from others after the award has been amazing. It is very inspiring when people take time to understand our mission and offer to help us continue the journey both as investors and people who simple want to help. This only happens in a vibrant technology community like San Diego where startups encourage and help each other move forward towards success.”

Other Finalists:

Diver6a life-saving diver tracking system used to wireless supervise divers position and monitor their vital information provides services and technology for government and industry with extensive experience and capabilities supporting complex scientific and maritime operations.

Planck Aerosystemsits flagship drone brings high performance, autonomous unmanned aerial systems to moving vessels previously only possible from manned helicopters.

Cleantech, Sustainability, and Energy:  Camston Wrather LLC – recovers gold, precious metals, and polymers from electronic waste using proprietary patents and green chemistry.

Other Finalists:

  • Measurabl – an all-in-one commercial real estate energy and sustainability management software.
  • SDG&E – a regulated public utility that invented the Renewable Meter Adapter (RMA) as an alternative for private solar rooftop customers to avoid costly panel upgrades.

Defense, Transportation, and Cybersecurity:  Cubic Corporationdesigns, integrates and operates systems, products and services that increase situational awareness for customers in the transportation and defense industries.

Mike Twyman, President of Cubic Mission Solutions, said, “Cubic is honored to receive the Most Innovative Product (MIP) award from CONNECT in the Defense, Transportation and Cybersecurity category for our inflatable satellite communication system. Cubic GATR’s industry-leading inflatable satellite antenna is changing the satellite communications industry and receiving innovation awards, such as the MIP from CONNECT, validates the push for innovation at Cubic. We look forward to continuing our support of CONNECT and fostering innovation in San Diego region.

Other Finalists:

  • B&B Technologies LP – developer of the DAMPS advanced magnetic suspension/propulsion shock mitigation technology R&D for the military, medical and professional/commercial markets.
  • Space Microthe Micro-STAR-200M is a space qualified sensor observing start and delivering precision pointing information to its host spacecraft.

Information Communications Technologies: Aira develops remote assistive technology and services that bring greater mobility and independence to blind and low-vision people in daily living by connecting them to a network of certified remote agents via the blind user’s wearable smart device.

The impact of winning the CONNECT Most Innovative Product (MIP) Award certainly marks an important milestone at Aira, including our place as a recognized technological innovator in the San Diego region” said CEO Suman Kanuganti. “We believe that San Diego, because of its supportive and engaging technological environment, is truly the best community for startups like Aira, and we thank CONNECT for the work they do to grow the region, and of our peers who continue to inspire and challenge us to be more competitive, smarter, and committed to thrive and succeed here in San Diego. Equally important, Aira’s winning of the MIP Award allows further light to be shed on the often-forgotten challenges that people with vision loss face on a daily basis in functioning in a sighted world, and how the power of technology and innovation can play a major role in alleviating these challenges.”

Other Finalists:

  • Creative Electron – the TruView Cube is an innovative x-ray machine used to count the number of semiconductors without the need to open protective cases.
  • Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. – The SnapdragonTM 820 processor represents a rare feet in the engineering and design of semiconductors, in which every major IP block in the system is a new and custom design.

Life Science Diagnostics and Research Tools:  Echo Laboratories Inc. – developed the Revolve, a new hybrid microscope that easily transforms between upright and inverted configurations, merging the capabilities of two instruments into one. Echo Laboratories graduated from CONNECT’s Springboard program two years ago.

CEO/Founder Eugene Cho said, “Winning the event was a big achievement for us. Just two years ago we were at the same event, sitting in the audience as Springboard graduates. It was incredible validation to our team of how far we’ve come since then.”

Other Finalists:

  • DermTech – a non-invasive gene expression platform that works with samples collected using DermTech’s Adhesive Skin Biopsy Kit to facilitate the diagnosis and treatment of psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions.
  • NanoCellect Biomedical– the WOLF Cell Sorter is the new benchmark for access and performance to make flow cytometry and cell sorting technology more affordable and accessible for life science researchers to perform cellular analysis, develop molecular diagnostics, and improve personalized medicine.

Medical Devices:  Onciomed, Inc.the Gastric Vest System™ (GVS) is a revolutionary, minimally invasive implantable device to treat obesity and diabetes.

Other Finalists:

  • Innovative Trauma Care – created the ITClamp Hemorrhage Control System which is designed to address massive hemorrhage – a leading cause of death in traumatic injury – by controlling critical bleeding in seconds.
  • 11Health – a connected medical device company, where all patented devices use Bluetooth® wireless technology to send secure real-time data to mobile devices, including smart phones, tablets and watches.

Pharmaceutical Drugs and Biologic Therapies:  ACADIA Pharmaceuticals, Inc. – NUPLAZID is the first FDA-approved treatment for hallucinations and delusions associated with Parkinson’s disease psychosis.

Bob Mischler, Senior Vice President, Strategy and Business Development said, “We’re honored that NUPLAZID was chosen as the winner of the Pharmaceutical Drugs and Biologic Therapies category. Even more importantly, we are gratified that this innovative treatment offers renewed hope to patients with Parkinson’s disease psychosis, a debilitating condition that affects around 40 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease, and the loved ones who care for them.”

Other Finalists:

  • Ardea Biosciences– Zurampic is the first new oral medication for treatment of gout approved by the FDA in 60 years.
  • GlyConMedics LLC – Pre-biotic (OZ101) tables advance the treatment for type 2 diabetes by providing an affordable and effective long-term ADD-ON treatment to existing SU therapies to improve glucose control, educe hypoglycemia and weight gain.

Robotics and Unmanned Vehicles:  Clever Pet – a connected game console that intelligently trains and engages dogs using their normal daily food automatically, whether their humans are home or not. CleverPet is a resident of EvoNexus.

We were honored to receive CONNECT’s Most Innovative Product award in our category,” commented Co-founder Leo Trottier. “We could not have built CleverPet without the support of the San Diego community and organizations like Connect. We see this award as validating a business and idea that when we started felt at best a pipe dream.”

Other Finalists:

  • NXT Robotics – provides service robots to support increased security monitoring and alerting requirements.
  • Robolink – aims to make STEM education accessible, engaging and fun for children and hobbyists by producing robotics educations kits and providing educational lessons that teach core principles of engineering and programming.

Software, Digital Media, and Mobile Apps:  Guru – an app that features beacon-enabled technology that interacts with smartphones to create digital experiences for museums, aquariums and zoos. Guru is also a CONNECT Springboard graduate and a resident of EvoNexus.

Hilary Srole, Project Manager said, Entrepreneurship is hard, so receiving recognition like this from CONNECT is awesome. Winning gave us a great sense of validation. Not only for us, but for the San Diego Museum of Art for taking a chance with us. It really feels good to show that their faith in us wasn’t misplaced. This whole process has been rewarding. Springboard’s mentorship has helped us avoid some of the pitfalls commonly associated with start-ups and has helped us to move in the right direction faster.”

Other Finalists:

  • Nanome, Inc. – developed the world’s first immersive and scientifically accurate molecular modeling tool in Virtual Reality.
  • South Doctors, Inc. – the leading platform that connects patients from around the world with the best doctors and facilities in Mexico.

Sport and Active Lifestyle Technologies:  Bixpy LLCthe world’s first portable and modular personal water propulsion device that runs on lithium batteries for snorkelers and scuba divers, with attachments available to motorize kayaks and standup paddle boards.

Founder/CEO Houman Nikmanesh, said, “We were absolutely humbled by our selection as a finalist for the MIP Awards by Connect. We were among some brilliant people, amazing products, and innovative ideas. So when we won, we were absolutely beyond ourselves. It has taken us more than two years to develop the Bixpy Jets and we have worked tirelessly on a project that at times seemed like a pipe dream. Winning such a prestigious award validates our vision and paves the way forward for us. We’re proud and attribute much of our success in our product development to being in San Diego. Aside from being the perfect hub for an outdoor lifestyle company, the San Diego startup and innovation community has been instrumental to our drive and success.

Other Finalists:

  • ElliptiGO Inc.the world’s first elliptical bicycle, combining the best of running, cycling, and the Elliptical trainer for a fun and effective way to exercise outdoors.
  • FlyDivethe X-BOARD connects to a personal watercraft for hydro jet propulsion, empowering riders to hover and fly above the water. It is the most advanced hydro flight system designed and engineered to support both beginners and professional riders.

It was a very exciting night for me because I had been one of Bixpy’s mentors in the CONNECT Springboard program this year. Bixpy graduated in July, and in only four short months, they conducted a successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, were selected as a finalist, and won this prestigious award.

CONNECT has a built an unbeatable roster of over 500 highly-qualified individuals to serve as Springboard Entrepreneurs-In-Residence and Mentors who volunteer their time as mentors to help entrepreneurs develop successful companies. I look forward to mentoring more companies in the future.

 

Cincinnati’s Cintrifuse Connects Entrepreneurs, Big Companies and Tech Funds

Monday, December 12th, 2016

During my visit to Cincinnati earlier this month, I had to pleasure of meeting key people from Cintrifuse and a few of the regional accelerators. The website says Cintrifuse is “Where Dreamers, Disruptors and Doers Connect” because “the world needs innovation. Entrepreneurs, BigCos and Tech Funds need each other. An active network ensures they can connect. And at the heart of that network is Cintrifuse.”

At Cintrifuse, I met with Wendy Lea, who has been CEO since 2014, and Eric Weissmann, Director of Marketing. Ms. Lea is “an accomplished Silicon Valley executive with deep experience in marketing, sales, and customer experience.” Ms. Lea serves on several boards, including Corporate Visions (San Francisco) and Xyleme (Boulder) as well as still being the executive chair of Get Satisfaction (San Francisco.)

Ms. Lea said, “Cintrifuse was born to answer this question: What will it take to create a thriving startup ecosystem in Cincinnati? Cintrifuse is a not-for-profit public/private partnership that exists to build a sustainable tech-based economy for the Greater Cincinnati region. Our purpose is to advocate for entrepreneurs leading high-growth tech startups– attracting, inspiring, and supporting them on their journey. The goal of Cintrifuse is to lower starting costs of business, especially businesses with the potential for high growth and that are disruptive technology. The Cincinnati Business Committee wanted to see how they could be relevant and formed Cintrifuse in partnership with the City of Cincinnati and EY. They wanted their kids to be able to come back to Cincinnati. The Cintrifuse Syndicate Fund is at $57 million and invests in VC firms outside of the region with the understanding they (VCs) create a regional engagement plan. There’s no stipulation that they invest in Cincinnati startups, but just be involved in the ecosystem. This includes reviewing deals, participating in events, and meeting our Limited Partners (LPs) most of whom they would love to meet with anyway – Procter & Gamble, Kroger, the University of Cincinnati, etc.”

She said, “We own and manage a 38,000 sq. ft. building in the economic area known as “Over the Rhine.” We got the building mortgage free, but put $17 million into improving the building. We opened in 2012. We provide services to 285 members companies – advisory services (such as mentoring and office hours), connections to talent, funding, and customers, as well as operating co-working space in downtown Cincinnati. We are part accelerator, part incubator, and part co-working space to move a company to the next ‘Lily pad’.

Ms. Lea added, ” The ‘headroom’ at Cintrifuse is wide. There is a strong appetite for new technology, new ideas, and disruption. Cintrifuse is a census taker – 300 startups are on our database across industries. We have brought is $160 million into the region for their startups, and we give them lots of exposure to VCs. One of our success stories is Everything But the House, which started in Cincinnati. They just raised $41 million, and Cintrifuse made the introduction to their investors.”

She explained, “Cincinnati has more Fortune 500 companies than anywhere else outside of San Francisco Bay area, so we created a Customer Connections program to share information between large companies and small companies. Our Customer connections program is taking 15 startups to Israel to present “innovation briefs.”

She would like to see Cintrifuse expand all over the world similar to TechStars in Boulder, CO with which she was involved when she lived in Boulder. She said, “Tech Star is the largest global network in the world with 28 centers, and their graduates have created 800 companies. Cintrifuse hosted their   reunion of graduates called FounderCon in the fall of 2016.”

The next day, I met Jordan Vogel, now V. P. of Talent Initiatives with the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, who worked for Cintrifuse for three years as director of the entrepreneurial ecosystem., He gave me more background information on Cintrifuse, saying, “It was created by Cincinnati Business Committee, composed of the top 30 CEOs in region and  the Cincinnati Regional Business Committee, composed of about 100 CEOs of somewhat smaller companies. When Chiquita left, the leaders became concerned and asked “What does the future look like? What should it be? They decided they needed to promote the next P&Gs of the world. Entrepreneurship was the key. They commissioned McKinsey & Company to conduct a comprehensive study on what would make the Greater Cincinnati region more attractive to startup entrepreneurs and outside investment. The study revealed the region’s strengths and gaps. Cintrifuse was formed to leverage the strengths and fill in the gaps. There are four universities in the region, but there was no path to commercializing technologies being developed”.

He added, “Funding was needed, so they created a fund of funds. They raised $78 of which $57 million went into a syndicate fund. To be part of the syndicate, Venture Capitalists had to commit to take a look at startups and be committed to engage with two to four trips per year to the region to meet with entrepreneurs. The purpose was to create a food chain.”

According to its StartupCincy Resources page, “Cincinnati lays claim to one of the most vibrant startup ecosystems between the coasts.” Home to The Brandery, one of the nation’s Top 10 accelerators; HCDC, the #1 incubator in the State of Ohio; CincyTech, one of the Midwest’s leading seed-stage investors; Queen City Angels, a private, seed-stage venture capital investor ranked #2 in the nation; four universities committed to innovation; and now the country’s only faith-based accelerator – there is a ton of innovation activity in this town!”

The Cintrifuse webpage lists the following accelerators as collaborative partners:

  • ArtWorks CO.STARTERS (formerly SpringBoard) “is a nine-week business development program that helps aspiring and seasoned entrepreneurs examine assumptions and turn business ideas into action.”
  • Bad Girl Ventures “is an educational and micro-finance organization dedicated to inspiring and supporting women entrepreneurs in all the key elements of their business.”
  • The Brandery “is a seed stage startup accelerator ranked as one of the top programs in the United States. It runs a 4-month program in Cincinnati, Ohio, focused on turning your great idea into a successful brand driven startup.”
  • First Batch ”It is a five-month accelerator that is the first business accelerator in the nation to focus on scaling physical product companies using local manufacturing. Cincinnati’s long history as a center for consumer products, branding, and manufacturing make it THE place for growing a business creating and selling tangible goods.”
  • MORTAR was started by three minority community members in the downtown area called “Over the Rhine.” “It is called ‘Mortar’ because people are the mortar between the bricks of the buildings and the founders believe that the neighborhood’s residents have the potential to create booming enterprises – just footsteps from their homes.”
  • Minority Business Accelerator – “its mission is to help accelerate the development of sizable minority business enterprises and to strengthen and expand the regional minority entrepreneurial community. It works with companies under $1 million in revenue to connect them with large companies who want to diversify their supply chain.”
  • Ocean is a faith-based “accelerator for startup growth by focusing on the purpose that drives founders…and their companies.”
  • UpTech “is designed to attract and accelerate entrepreneurs who have the next big idea to make the world a better place. Its mission is to create an informatics industry in Northern Kentucky. It is especially well suited to support entrepreneurs who benefit from our partnership with the NKU College of Informatics.”

It lists the following incubators in the Cincinnati region, which also collaborate with Cintrifuse:

  • bioLOGIC is a life sciences incubator.
  • Hamilton Mill “is a Southwestern Ohio small business incubator for green, clean, water, digital and advanced manufacturing technologies. Conveniently located between Cincinnati and Dayton in the original pioneer town of Hamilton, OH.”
  • Hamilton County Development Center (HCDC) “is a nationally recognized startup incubator in Southwest Ohio that helps entrepreneurs launch successful innovative businesses. It just spun off an accelerator called Pipeline for water product development.”
  • The Northern Kentucky ezone (NKY ezone) – “It works collaboratively with several organizations that provide funding assistance to fast-growth, high-tech companies. Its team will work with you in assembling the necessary information, plans, and presentations to apply for these opportunities.”

Over dinner at Cintrifuse, I met with the heads of three of the accelerators, Matt Anthony and John Spencer with First Batch and JB Woodruff with Uptech. Two entrepreneurs also joined us for dinner, Konrad Billetz, CEO of Frameri, and Paul Powers, CEO of Zoozler LLC and Physna LLC. Frameri makes the world’s first interchangeable prescription frame and lens system. Mr. Billetz was previously part of the Brandery four month accelerator program in 2013. He said, “We got $20,000 as part of the program, and then we did an Indiegogo crowdfunding and got about $100K to get into full production. We were on Shark Tank in 2015, but we turned down the deal we were offered. We found a lens manufacturer in Dallas, TX, but still do some production in-house.

Mr. Powers said, “Physna is a member of Cintrifuse. I started Physna in December 2015, and we are developing software that will lead the revolution in 3D printing. I am also the CEO of Zoozler LLC that is about two years old. Zoozler is a tech development company (including websites, apps, digital marketing and media) and has an initiative for local startups requiring help in tech development.”

I connected with Matt Anthony by phone after I returned from my trip to find out more about First Batch. Mr. Anthony said, “I founded the accelerator in 2013 to overcome the gap between a well made early prototype and being able to make the first batch of product at manufacturing scale. Over the next four years we grew the program to educate and connect entrepreneurs to overcome the additional hurdles to scale, including legal, marketing, distribution, and more. We’re unique nationally in that we’ve focused on utilizing the strength of our local manufacturers, which tied with the heritage in physical consumer products and branding make for a perfect set of resources to grow new physical product companies. We operate out of a 10,000 sq. ft. maker space on the 4th floor of a former brewery, located in the “Over the Rhine” area. The program itself is five months of rigorous learning from regional experts, product testing, development, one-on-one mentorship, and $10,000 in funding to get into actual production. Companies must all come in with a working prototype and an understanding of their business to really get the most of the five short months. Some of our companies have been making their product for years and are looking to expand their production beyond themselves. The goal of the program is to get the companies into the first stage of production and actually selling products in order to set them up for future growth and funding.”

For example, one of their companies, Textile House, used the funding to make a couple hundred garments for their fall fashion line. They already raised an additional round of funding through a Kiva micro loan to bring their spring line to market in early 2017.

 

He added, “We started out with two companies in 2013, four in 2014, five in 2015, and six this year. We started this year in June and our 2016 class just culminated in a Demo Day on November 9th. We try to check in with graduates to continue to ensure growth, and about half of the companies each year choose to stay on as members of the maker space.”

When I asked him to describe how their program works, he said, “After an open application, our companies are selected through a series of interviews that end in a final juried selection. Once the program starts our cohort meets as a group twice a week, and one-on-one at least once, often with speakers, manufacturer visits, branding support, and other individual consultation sprinkled in between. We start the week on Monday mornings reviewing business concepts and readings, ranging from learning more about the types of entrepreneurial personalities via E-Myth, and later how to start prototyping and quickly testing product ideas via Lean Startup and marketing channels via Traction. We are primarily funded through grants and donations of time and materials, and don’t currently take an equity position in our companies. We look to help grow companies by connecting to resources down the line from ECDI, Queen City Angels, Cintrifuse, even other accelerators.”

With so many accelerators and incubator programs to nurture startup companies, Cincinnati is off to a good start to achieve its goal of re-industrializing the Cincinnati region. Other cities in the United States that were formerly major industrial centers would do well to follow the example of Cincinnati in setting a goal of re-industrializing their city to create more higher paying jobs and restore prosperity.

 

Cincinnati Focuses on Re-industrialization to Create Prosperity

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Last week, I spent two and a half days in Cincinnati, Ohio as the guest of Source Cincinnati, an independent, multi-year national social and media relations initiative that works to enhance perceptions of Cincinnati as a world-class Midwestern region. I met with Julie Calvert, Executive Director, during my visit, but my personal guide and host was Paul Fox, VP of Strategic Initiatives at Proctor & Gamble and “Executive on Loan” to Source Cincinnati for a year.

From Mr. Fox, I learned that Cincinnati is the third largest city in Ohio and had such interesting nicknames as “Porkopolis” in the past because it was the largest pork packing center in the world and the “Queen City of the West,” for its ideal location on the Ohio River and its rich culture and heritage of a predominantly German population who settled Cincinnati in the late 1700s.

After arriving late Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Fox and I had dinner with David Linger of TechSolve, and Scott Broughton, Center Director for Advantage Kentucky Alliance at the WKU Center for R&D at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, KY. TechSolve is a 30-year old consulting firm that is a State of Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partner (MEP) affiliate, and Advantage Kentucky Alliance (AKA) is the MEP for Kentucky. Mr. Linger just took over the reins as President and CEO on September 1, 2016 after Gary Conley retired from 20 years of service.

Mr. Linger, said “There are about 2,500 manufacturers in the Ohio region of metropolitan Cincinnati, and Cincinnati used to be known as the “Machine Tool Capital of the U. S.”, but very few machine tool companies exist today, including its most well-known machine tool company, Cincinnati Milacron,” after its machine tool line was sold to Unova. TechSolve provides manufacturing and health care consulting. It has a focus and strength in process improvement, machining, and innovation — applying these skills to help businesses find long-term solutions and promote problem-solving cultures.

Mr. Broughton said, “AKA is a not-for-profit partnership that provides assistance and training to help manufacturers of all sizes grow, improve their manufacturing and business strategies and processes, adopt advanced technologies, increase productivity, reduce costs, and improve competitiveness. Manufacturing in Eastern Kentucky was mainly related to the coal mining industry, and two-thirds of the companies have gone out of business. We have focused on helping the remaining manufacturers to understand their core competencies to market to new industries, such as aviation and automotive. Our services include:  business growth services, continuous improvement services, and workforce solution services.”

On Wednesday morning, we had breakfast with Laura Brunner, President/CEO, and Gail Paul Director of Communication Strategy of the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. She told me that the Port Authority was established by the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in 2001 and is the second largest inland port covering 26 miles from the Indiana/Ohio border. In 2008, the Port Authority was reformed and empowered to take a leadership position in regional economic development. It is a quasi-public agency that operates collaboratively with dozens of economic development, community and corporate partners.

Ms. Brunner presented me with a report prepared for me, titled “Manufacturing in the Greater Cincinnati Region. As background, “The Port Authority leverages its infrastructure strengths and development-related expertise to design and execute complex projects to improve property value, catalyze private investment and promote job creation.”

I was astounded when she told me, “The Cincinnati region has lost 67% of its manufacturing jobs.” The report states, “Manufacturing was a primary component of Cincinnati’s economy until its peak in 1969 when 43 percent of the workforce in Hamilton County was employed in manufacturing jobs. Today, lower-wage service-providing jobs far outnumber manufacturing jobs by about 7:1…From 1969-2015, the number of people employed in manufacturing decreased from 146,000 to 48,000.”

She said that the Port Authority Board of Directors has established a vision to transform Cincinnati to prosperity by 2022 through “repositioning undervalued properties and re-building neighborhoods.” The report she gave me states that the strategies for success are:

  • “Industrial Revitalization – redevelopment of 500 acres of underutilized industrial land along key transportation corridors
  • Neighborhood Revitalization – transform ten communities for lasting impact, including residential properties and commercial business districts
  • Public Finance Innovation – cultivate a nationally-recognized public finance program that supports economic and community development efforts

The projected Return on Investment for these strategies is:

500 industrial acres redeveloped 10 revitalized communities
8,000 new jobs 300 quality homes
$565 million in annual payroll 50 commercial acres with 400K SF
$550 million in capital investment 130 new businesses
$8 million in income taxes Increased property & income taxes
$14 million in real estate taxes Improved lives of residents

In June 2015, the PGCDA Board approved establishment of the industrial and neighborhood strategy, development of internal resources, communication strategy, and the financing and fundraising plan to support the strategies.”

The report states, “The proposed redevelopment of approximately 2,000 acres of industrial land through Hamilton County for Manufacturing uses will have a considerable impact on the Greater Cincinnati Region.”

The first sites for the Redevelopment Pilot program have been selected, and the first funds have been obtained for acquisition of land parcels, demolition/remediation of existing buildings, and site preparation. The first site is assembled and is scheduled to open in 2017.

In the meeting with Ms. Brunner and Paul, I was also provided a “Manufacturing Attractiveness Study” by Deloitte Consulting LLP presented on October 3, 2016 to the Greater Cincinnati Port Development Authority, TechSolve, and Cushman and Wakefield.

The study states, “The current lack of easily developable real estate (cleared, access to utilities, free from environmental concerns, etc.) in the Cincinnati area likely puts the city at a significant disadvantage for attracting manufacturing investments.

The Port Authority’s operations focus on transportation, community revitalization, public finance and real estate development makes it especially well-equipped to evaluate and address opportunities to redevelop and reposition sites formerly occupied by industrial operations.”

The Port Authority seeks “to achieve the following objectives:

  • Analyze the last 5 years of manufacturing deployments in the Ohio Region (Ohio and surrounding states)
  • Understand trends in urban manufacturing through case studies
  • Identify demand-side location factors that drive location decisions in the advanced manufacturing, food and flavoring, and Bio-Health (Life Sciences) industries
  • Understand the strengths/ weaknesses of Cincinnati as business location”

In analyzing the Manufacturing Investments for the Ohio Region from 2011-2016, the study revealed:

States # of Project Announcements Capital Investment Jobs Created
Indiana 350~ ~$13.4 ~37,000
Ohio 271 ~$17.6 ~34,000
Kentucky 230 ~$9.0 ~24,000

“Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky saw the most number of project announcements along with largest amounts of capital investment over the past five years.”

“The majority of the manufacturing investments in Ohio over the past 5 years are spread throughout rural areas within commutable distances of large metropolitan areas (Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, Akron and Cleveland.) Based on FDI data, 14 manufacturing projects were announced in Cincinnati within the past 5 years.”

The Deloitte study stated “Advanced manufacturers are highly interested in labor quality and availability as well as minimizing risk related to site development and neighboring use concerns.” The two highest factors are: “Labor Quality and Availability (engineers, technicians and operators) and Real Estate (Site readiness, Capacity and availability of utilities, and Neighboring use/pollution). Labor quality, labor availability and supply chain tend to be the key drivers for food industry in making location decisions.

The study showed that “A 1-hr drive time from downtown Cincinnati allows access to a significant labor force, with over 2.5 million in population.” The manufacturing industry represents 14.34% of the Cincinnati Metro economy. Persons with Associate degrees (20.12%), Bachelor degrees (11.97%), and graduate degrees (8.42%) represent 50.51% of the population, and another 45.71% of workers have a high school diploma (26.08%) or some college (19.63%).

Other advantages are: “When compared to the states surrounding Ohio, Ohio has a relatively low average industrial electricity price;” and “Cincinnati is located right in the heart of the most utilized truck routes in the country and has a relatively low percentage of roads requiring significant maintenance when compared to nearby states…”

The summary findings of the report were:

  • “Cincinnati has an advantage in the presence of industrial engineers, machinist and tool/ die makers, as well as a large supply of lower skilled production workers, giving the area a talent proposition to attract manufacturing deployments
  • However, a key driver of the evaluation process for manufacturing deployments is developable sites… Cincinnati currently lacks suitable real estate options to entice most manufacturing operations
  • Given Cincinnati’s availability in key manufacturing skill sets and low/average cost in several talent segments, an investment program to prepare site options would enhance its ability to attract manufacturing investment.”

Our next meeting was with Kimm Coyner, V. P. Business Development & Project Management of REDI Cincinnati, which was spun out of the Cincinnati Chamber in 2014 with the support of Jobs Ohio. REDI Cincinnati covers 15 counties ? five in Southwest Ohio, seven in northern Kentucky, and three in Southeast Indiana, through which the Ohio River runs in the center.

Ms. Coyner said, “REDI is solely focused on new capital investment and attracting and expanding manufacturing to create good paying jobs. We have 165 public and private members. Our team identifies opportunities to attract businesses to the region by developing relationships with companies and new markets – domestically and across the globe. We provide connections to the resources that take startups to the next level and grow existing businesses. We connect companies to the region’s assets, advantages and business leaders to secure Greater Cincinnati’s place as one of the world’s leading business centers.”

She told us that railroads were the key to industrial development of the region in the 19th Century to provide transportation beyond the river. She said, “While Cincinnati arguably stayed too long in the manufacture of carriages and missed out on being a primary automotive manufacturing center like Detroit, we remain a major tier 1 supplier to that industry with hundreds of manufacturers and a significant talent base. We have five key industry clusters:  Advanced Manufacturing, Information Technology, Food and Flavorings, BioHealth, and Shared Services. Advanced Manufacturing is made up of automotive, aerospace, chemicals and plastics and additive manufacturing/3D printing. Our region is the #1 supply state to Boeing and Airbus. We have nine Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Cincinnati, and four of the nine are manufacturers: AK Steel Holding, Ashland, Kroger and Procter & Gamble.”

I was subsequently emailed a list of the top ten employers, nine of which are manufacturers:

  • Kroger 21,646 employees
  • GE Aviation – 7,800 employees
  • AK Steel Holding Corp. – 2,400 employees
  • United Dairy Farmers – 2,029 employees
  • Ford Motor Co. – 1,650 employees
  • Mubea NA – 1,360 employees
  • Bosch Automotive Steering – 1,300 employees
  • Intelligrated Inc. – 1,100 employees
  • Hillenbrand Inc. – 1,080 employees
  • Milacron LLC – 1,020 employees

She added, “We participated with JobsOhio in a booth at the IMTS show in Chicago and focused on promoting Cincinnati as a site destination to companies from Germany.” She noted that Cincinnati has the second largest Oktoberfest outside of Munich, Germany. I told her that we have a strong German-American club in San Diego that puts on a good Oktoberfest featuring a band they bring from Germany.

It is obvious to me that Cincinnati leaders recognize the important role that manufacturing plays in a local and state economy. I had mentioned to everyone I met that manufacturing is the foundation of the middle class, and if we lose manufacturing, we will lose the middle class. Cincinnati learned this lesson the hard way, but I am confident that their new vision to re-industrialize Cincinnati will create good paying jobs for residents and restore prosperity to the Cincinnati region.

I was honored to be invited to give a presentation on “How to solve the skills shortage and attract the next generation of manufacturing workers” that was based on several articles I have written in the past four years (all are available at www.savingusmanufacturing.com under Workforce Development category). If Cincinnati’s leaders achieve their vision, more skilled workers will be needed. Specific recommendations I made were: (1) start to engage youth in middle school through summer camps, and robot contests (2) provide career technical pathways in high schools and community colleges, plan a Maker Faire, promote establishment of a Maker Place, and become more involved in future Manufacturing Day (www.MFGDAY.com).

These meetings provided so much information that I will devote my next article to my visits to local manufacturers:  GE Ceramic Matrix Composite Laboratory at the GE Aviation plant in Cincinnati, Balluff North America in Florence, KY, and TSS Technologies in West Chester, OH, as well as the Center for Intelligent Maintenance Systems at the University of Cincinnati.