Mira Costa College’s Technology Career Institute Fills Manufacturers’ Training Needs

September 2nd, 2017

For nearly twenty years, the only place to get the training through the community college system to become a machinist was San Diego City College. Now, however, there is a second location for civilians to get training as a machinist in San Diego County at the Technology Career Institute (TCI) of MiraCosta Community College. MiraCosta College is a public California community college serving coastal North San Diego County. The main campus is located in Oceanside, and there is a second campus in Cardiff-by-the-Sea.

The reason I mention training for civilians is that from 1923 – 1993, the Navy had a machinist school at the Naval Training Center, San Diego. NTC ceased providing training at the end of 1993 as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission of 1993. The machining training was transferred to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois. There is still a machine shop at the North Island Naval Air Station on Coronado Island that offers training for entry-level Navy machinists to become journeymen. There is also the Workshops for Warriors, about which I have written previously, that has been training Veterans in machining and other manufacturing skills since 2011.

Last October, I visited the Technology Career Institute (TCI) during San Diego’s Manufacturing Week (associated with the national MFG Day on October 5th). I met Linda Kurokawa, Director of Community Education & Workforce Development, and finally had the opportunity to interview her in depth last week.

My first question was:  When did TCI start and whose idea was it? Linda said, “The Technology Career Institute officially opened in its current location in Carlsbad in March 2015, and it was actually my idea.” She explained, “I started it because I felt that San Diego North County needed a technical training center to provide low cost and accelerated training. We wanted to get young people and Veterans trained for good paying jobs. For about five years, I had been asked by local manufacturers and the local chapter of the National Tooling & Manufacturing Association (NTMA) to start a machinist program. But, I had no money, no instructors, and no equipment.

I decided to see if there was a way it could be done. I worked with the City of Oceanside and asked if they had an empty building. They did since it was during the long-lasting recession. I talked to leaders in the local industry to see if we could raise the funds to get the equipment. The MiraCosta Foundation helped us get donations to buy some of the equipment. One donor even gave $50,000. I worked with Haas Automation®, Inc., and we got some automated machining centers through an ‘Entrustment’ arrangement.”

Continuing, she said, “When we were in the planning stage for TCI, I was advised to make sure the course met the needs of the manufacturers, so we had manufacturers review our curriculum. We also visited training centers all over the country to learn about best practices. We started our machining program in the spring of 2013 at the Oceanside location. The program was very accelerated ? the students went every day, five days a week, for eight hours a day. The NTMA helped me find our first instructor, a woman who was retiring from the Navy and had taught machining skills on board ship to sailors.”

When I asked how they wound up at the current facility in Carlsbad, she responded, “I realized that with the small facility we had, we could only train a few students at a time. I heard about a grant available through the Department of Labor, and I hired a grant writer. We submitted our proposal and won a $2.75 million grant, which allowed us the funds to buy the equipment we needed to double the size of our machining program and also establish an engineering technician program.

We looked for a larger empty building and found one in the city of Carlsbad. We worked with city officials to get a low rent, as we are entirely funded by student fees. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement. Carlsbad is helping to fill the talent pipeline and helping residents in North County find technical training, and we provide the training in a low cost building.

We moved into our 23,000 sq. ft. building in early 2015 and had the time and space to start night and weekend classes using modules from our daytime accelerated program. We are GI bill approved and funded through Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funds and state funds, which are only available about five months of the year before the funds are exhausted. Our fees are high per student (about $6,000), so I wanted to find another grant. The Girard Foundation did help out by funding one semester last year.”

I told Linda that I had seen the press release about the MiraCosta College being one of the recipients of the more than $111 million America’s Promise grants that were awarded on November 17, 2016 by the U.S. Department of Labor “to 23 regional workforce partnerships in 28 states to connect more than 21,000 Americans to education and in-demand jobs.”

The press release stated, “Each four-year grant will support tuition-free education and training that prepares participants for jobs in industries that currently utilize the H-1B temporary visa program to meet industry workforce needs. Grantees will use individual assessments to determine the best strategies to successfully move participants into middle- to high-skilled jobs including accelerated training, longer-term intensive training and up skilling current employees to meet the demands of higher skilled jobs.

Grantees will focus their activities on four key priorities:

  • Increasing opportunities for all Americans through tuition-free training for middle-to high-skilled occupations and industries.
  • Expanding employer involvement in the design and delivery of education and training programs.
  • Utilizing evidence-based sector strategies to increase college completion, employability, employment earnings and outcomes of job seekers.
  • Leveraging additional public, private and foundation resources to scale and sustain proven strategies.

Funded through fees paid by employers to bring foreign workers into the U.S. under the H-1B temporary visa program, America’s Promise grants are intended to raise the technical skill levels of American workers and, over time, help businesses reduce their reliance on temporary visa programs.”

Linda said, “I wrote my own grant this time, and we were the only college in California to receive the grant of 6 million over a period of four years. We are six months into the grant, so we still have 3 1/2 years left. We are sharing some monies with Grossmont Cuyamaca College in east San Diego County and Chaffey College in Riverside. The grant funds have allowed us to eliminate tuition fees and reduce administrative fees down to a modest $375. However, the America’s Promise grant is not a long-term solution. ”

She explained, “Our local manufacturing industry is composed of such small companies that there isn’t enough extra money from these companies to be a sponsor for a machining school. However, we do get small donations of money and donations of metal materials used by the students, as well as donations of some equipment.”

I told her I understood because this is the type of company I represent as a manufacturers’ sales rep – companies that are typically under 25 employees, and I even represent two San Diego North County companies that have less than 15 employees. I mentioned that I had read the sector report on Advanced Manufacturing released in November 2015 by the San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP). It stated that” 97 percent of all Advanced Manufacturing businesses are businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Small businesses in this sector also account for 36% of all employees and for a third of all generated annual revenue.”

When I asked what is coming up, she said, “We are excited about launching our apprenticeship program for Machining Technician, CNC machine operators, engineering technicians, electronic assembly, and solar PV in the next few months that have been approved by the State of California Apprenticeship Standards. We will do the pre-training at our facility and monitor the students On the Job Training. We will have an Advisory Board, and already have a couple of companies lined up for the apprenticeships. We are also partnering with Able-Disabled Advocacy for a small portion of their $3.2 million grant for apprenticeships from the Department of Labor that they were awarded in November 2015.

As we concluded our discussion, Linda commented, “One of the benefits of having a big training center is that we will be able to make changes amongst our local manufacturers. Our students are being directed to the companies where they will be able to have a decent paying job.  When companies come to us asking why they can’t get our graduates to go to work for them, we have to explain to them it is because they are not paying a living wage. We are helping them realize that they need to pay higher wages to get and keep better employees.”

I responded that I had heard that San Diego ranks in the top 10 (9th) of most expensive places to live according to Inc. magazine, so it is tough to make it when the wages in San Diego are so much lower than cities that are higher up on the list like New York, Boston, and San Francisco. That is why it is important to get the training and/or education needed to be able to get a higher paying job here, and why it is so important for companies to pay competitive wages. The SDWP report identified advanced manufacturing as one of the priority sectors for job growth, so the Technical Career Institute is an important addition to San Diego County’s training infrastructure.

 

North Dakota’s Northern Plains UAS Test Site

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.

North Dakota Manufacturers Ride Innovation to Rapid Growth

June 13th, 2017

On the second day of my visit to Fargo, North Dakota, we went to see Andy Dalman, President/CEO of Advanced Bone Technology, which is developing SimuBone, a product that replicates a human bone. SimuBone is the first product to combine internal and external geometrical precision with mechanical properties adaptable to customer specifications, providing the look, feel, and performance desired in a clean, biohazard free, consumable product.

Andy said, “We are only a three-person team now, working out of our own apartments because we are all still students at North Dakota State University. I was part of a professor/student team that performed the initial research starting in 2012, and I was the student. But, I am in my final semester. We have a patent pending, and the University owns a portion of the patent. The standard for device, therapy, and procedure development is human cadaver or animal testing. My goal is to reduce the need for cadavers in medical research, medical device design, surgical training, public safety testing and more. SimuBone has no biological components and can be manufactured on-demand at a fraction of the cost of alternatives.”

He explained, “We make artificial bone out of composite materials using additive manufacturing (3D printing). We can replicate many different bone parts for use in education. We can produce a model based on a CT scan, which can be interpreted into a 3D model in liquid silicone. We own all of our own equipment and have been buying standard equipment that we modify. We use some modified Foam Labs equipment now because we don’t need to go to very high temperatures.”

I asked, “What other opportunities exist? Andy responded, “We have the opportunity to revolutionize medical training by providing realistic feedback without using a cadaver. Right now, medical training uses plastic models – plastic melts or burns. However, orthopedic and dental are two of the slowest industries for adopting new innovation.”

He added, “Our vision is to determine what it would take to become an in body implant company. We have a feeder grant through the North Dakota Department of Commerce. We are “boot strapping our company and have raised $140,000, but our total investment has been $200,000 to date. Of this amount, $120,000 has come from North Dakota, and another $25,000 has come from a grant from VentureWell as one of their E-team members.”

When I asked how they are marketing, he answered, “We are still figuring that out, but we are reaching out to more innovative dentists and doctors. We are currently marketing for dental applications and allowing students to give feedback. The properties of the material are bio compatible, but we are currently working on out of body applications because it is a long approval process for implant parts. We spoke to orthopedic doctors before we were ready. We do know that our market will be high dollar and low volume.

Our next stop was Appareo, which designs, develops and manufactures innovative electronic and software solutions for original equipment manufacturers, as well as direct-to-market.

We met with COO David Batcheller and Brenda Wyland, Director of Marketing. Appareo has established itself as a recognized leader in the custom design, development and manufacture of innovative electronic and software solutions within the industries of aerospace and agriculture.

Batcheller said, “Appareo was founded in 2003 and moved into the NDSU Technology Incubator when it opened in 2007. We started designing and manufacturing flight data recorders for airplanes and helicopters. Once we employed 50 people, we built our current building near the incubator in the Research Park and moved into it 2010. In 2013, we expanded our manufacturing facility to accommodate a second production line, but we quickly outgrew our space and purchased the adjacent manufacturing facility in 2014.”

He said, “Appareo’s proximity to the NDSU campus played an important role in the company’s growth. We have access to the product of NDSU, which produces some of the finest minds in the nation. ”

He explained. “Through the creative application of cutting-edge technologies, we create complex end-to-end solutions that include both mobile and cloud-based components. We are an accredited FAA Parts Manufacturing facility and are ISO 9001:2008 certified. All of our products are designed, developed, built, and supported in the USA. While our engineering and manufacturing expansion takes place in Fargo, we continue to expand our engineering capabilities with teams based in Tempe, Arizona and Paris, France. Having Appareo offices in Paris and Tempe is critical for building upon our global presence, but we have an unwavering commitment to Fargo as our home base. We’re fortunate to have access to a rare talent pool here; some of the most passionate, brightest high-tech engineering minds in the nation.”

He added, “Contributing to the growth of our agricultural business is a joint venture with AGCO Corporation, the world’s largest OEM dedicated solely to agriculture. Under the joint venture, called Intelligent Ag Solutions, we develop innovative electromechanical devices and systems, as well as technology for advanced machine control systems. We are the only company controlling agricultural products by WIFI. We work with agricultural equipment manufacturers to infuse these technologies into their equipment.

We have developed another new family of products under the Stratus brand to meet the aviation needs to comply with the FAA mandate that requires all aircraft operating in airspace that currently requires a  Mode-C transponder to be equipped with ADS-B Out before 2020. This family of products, a portable receiver, transponder, and TSO charging port, provides real-time weather and traffic information directly to pilots in the cockpit.”

His concluding remarks after we toured the shop floor were: “We have established a trajectory of rapid growth, averaging a compounded annual growth rate of more than 45%.”

Then, we drove 40- miles south of Fargo to Wahpeton to visit two companies, Giant Snacks, Inc. and ComDel. At Giant Snacks, we met with General Manager Lucy Spikermeir. Giant Snacks is a manufacturer of large sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and most recently, pistachios.

Lucy said, “The President, Jay Schuler, took over his father’s business. We came out on our own to be only the second company to specialize in large seeds. We select sunflower farmers with proven excellence for growing large sunflower seeds. We work with each farmer during the growing process and monitor the seeds as they are processed, cleaned, seasoned, and roasted to perfection. We had the roaster custom built for us. We are using more and more robotics and automation in our plant.”

When she gave us a plant tour, I was quite impressed with the size of the tanks for the processing and cleaning of the seeds. They are huge – possibly 10-12 ft. in diameter and 12 – 15 ft. high. Their roaster is nearly as big, and everything from the transfer of seeds from one stage to another as well as the filling of the individual bags is all automated. There were actually only about 15 people working on the shop floor to do everything from processing the incoming seeds to packing the bags into shipping boxes. They design their own boxes so they can be used on their automated line.

Lucy told us, “For many years, Frito Lay was the official snack for all of the pro baseball teams except for Minnesota teams. The players really liked the larger size of our sunflower seeds and the variety of the seasonings. The Minnesota teams must have shared their snacks with other teams because we were called by the new snack manager of the dugouts asking if we could provide seeds for more teams. Now all but one of the major league dugouts uses our seeds.”

She explained, “We get out pumpkin seeds and pistachios from California, but our sunflower seeds are grown locally. In the upper Midwest, we have a 70 percent market share. We are experiencing big growth in Texas and the West, but nationwide, we only have a 15 percent market share. About 80 percent of our sales are in gas stations and convenience stores, but we are getting into more chain stores. We own the land, so we could triple the size of our building. We have 35 employees, but it is still a very seasonal business. January through March is slow for sunflower seeds. This is why we added pistachio seeds to our line. We are growing double digits every year, and we will continue to add new products and new seasonings.”

I really hadn’t eaten sunflower seeds since childhood, so had no idea of the variety of seasonings:  Dill Pickle, Toasted Coconut, BBQ Ranch, Spicy Garlic, etc. Lucy gave me my choice of flavorings for bags of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and pistachios, and my family enjoyed them all when I returned home.

Our last stop was ComDel Innovation, where we met with President Jim Albrecht, CFO Bruce Weeda, and General Manager Art Nelson. ComDel Innovation is a precision manufacturer that supports their customer’s commercialization process, integrating all aspects of product development under one roof. ComDel Innovation’s contract manufacturing services include injection molding, assembly operations, precision machining, fabrication of tooling and stamping dies, metal stamping & forming, thread rolling and metal finishing.

Jim said, “Our site was founded in the mid 1970s as a 3M manufacturing location, which was spun off to Imation in 1996. ComDel Innovation was formed when Imation decided to exit manufacturing in 2007. Many of our initial employees worked for 3M and Imation, providing a tremendous nucleus to form a company around. About four years ago, ComDel Innovation created an ESOP as a way to recognize the employees for their contribution to the success of the business. The name ComDel Innovation represents our commitment to deliver innovation and results for our customers. The value offered is in support of customer’s product development needs and providing high quality products. We operate in two buildings totaling 260,000 sq. ft., running 24 hours a day and 360 days a year. ComDel Innovation started with 60 people in 2007 and is currently at 275 employees. Much of our business is the result of working with customers in the U.S. Over the past few years we have seen opportunities to work with business that are reshoring products from other regions of the world.”

I asked if they are a Lean manufacturer, and Jim said. “We had great heritage, as part of 3M and Imation, where lean principles and the continuous improvement tools were taught and implemented throughout the organization. ComDel Innovation carries those tools and practices forward in support of our customers. We also utilize a Total Quality Management Program to manage the quality of materials we purchase. High-end computer-aided engineering software is integrated into our design process for custom assembly equipment, molds, tooling, and fixtures. CAD/CAM software is leveraged for our precision machining and grinding operations.

During the plant tour, I could see why ComDel Innovation is successfully capturing business and why businesses would consider them for reshoring product to the U.S.I saw considerable automation being used in their plastic injection molding, machining, and metal forming departments. ComDel Innovation utilizes assembly cells for low to high volume production. They use robots for removing parts from machines in the injection molding, machining, and metal forming departments. They have a Materials Laboratory to perform complete thermal and mechanical testing for thermoplastic resins and conduct failure/defect analysis. It is apparent they have invested a considerable amount of money in utilizing state-of-the art equipment and systems. This is the path that American manufacturers need to take to be competitive in the global marketplace.

As I ended my trip to North Dakota, I can envision the North Dakota Department of Commerce realizing its goal of expanding its manufacturing base by fostering emerging companies and supporting the growth of existing companies. With its very favorable business climate, North Dakota maybe able to attract companies from other upper Midwest states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

NDSU Research & Technology Park Leads Region in Job Creation

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

May 24th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Research and development tax credits

* Corporate income tax exemption

* Property tax exemptions for new or improved buildings

* No personal property or gross receipts taxes

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

* Seed and angel capital investment tax credits

* Early-stage financing resources

* State-sponsored workforce training grants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Workshops for Warriors Holds Successful Inaugural Gala

May 18th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MEPs are Essential to Rebuilding American Manufacturing Competitiveness

April 18th, 2017

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

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

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

The top challenges reported to MEP by manufacturers are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 11th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Eliminate the Trade Deficit” Resonates in Halls of Congress

March 21st, 2017

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Why Universities are Important to Rebuilding U.S. Manufacturing

March 8th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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