This entry continues our blog series offering highlights from the September 18th Summit. Our earlier post includes recorded video messages of support from US Representatives.
The event proved to be fertile ground for many productive discussions among meeting attendees. Local and state officials including State Senator Bob Wieckowski (below) and Assemblymember Bill Quirk, as well as City of San Leandro Council members Lee Thomas and Deborah Cox, took the opportunity to connect with manufacturers and service providers to learn more about the needs, challenges, and advantages of manufacturing in the East Bay. City of Orinda Council member Eve Phillips and State Assemblymember Kansen Chu were also among the officials in attendance.
The many types of service providers present included educators, workforce thought leaders & staff, manufacturing operations experts, as well as banking, accounting & finance industry representatives, and veterans services specialists, to name a few.
With Kelly Kline as the Summit's Master of Ceremonies, the event kicked off with a welcome from San Leandro Mayor, Pauline Cutter, who emphasized the importance of manufacturing for the economy of San Leandro as well as the region & country at large. San Leandro is a leader in cutting edge infrastructure, boasting gigabit fiber optic connectivity, an important draw for many types of manufacturers.
Jason Cox of USS Posco and Connie Bates of Inland Metal Technologies offered a welcome to fellow manufacturers and encouraged others to get involved. Jason and Connie have been stalwart members of the Partnership since its inception.
Next, Virginia Hamilton, Regional Administrator for the US Department of Labor, had an opportunity to speak about the importance and challenges of collaboration, given the realities of constrained time & resources. The demand-driven Partnership stands as a model for groups working together, many of whom are otherwise natural competitors or have historically faced other challenges in partnering to solve problems.
Mike Molnar of NIST impressed upon the audience the importance of innovation and its place in manufacturing for the US economy.
A Message from Congresswoman Lee
Adrienne Ursino delivered a message for Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Like other members of Congress who had expressed interest in showing their support, Congresswoman Lee could not attend the Summit due vote casting taking place in Washington D.C.
Congresswoman Lee is a co-sponsor of the Make It In America Act.
Rich Wells, Vice President of The Dow Chemical Company
The Dow Chemical Company has been part of the national discussion in manufacturing for many years. At the regional level, Dow has a long history of support for developing local talent and was a founding member of the East Bay Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.
Mr. Wells posed a compelling argument for the importance of US manufacturing as an economic lynchpin, both in terms of near term jobs creation as well as private sector R&D and the longer term significance of domestic intellectual property and continued prosperity.
Further Mr. Wells likened the current advantage which the US enjoys as having been given a 5 mile head start in a foot race, in no small part resulting from the natural gas boom. That advantage will rapidly narrow without a solid strategy and a steadfast adherence to it.
He went on to describe the pillars of Dow's Advanced Manufacturing Plan [pdf]. In brief, they are:
- Smart trade policy, including free trade agreements.
- A well-supported Export-Import Bank.
- Smart energy policy.
- Streamlined AND responsible regulations, permits, and tax provisions.
- Heavy investment in STEM education.
With a message from Congressman Eric Swalwell
The discussion opened with the roles which each level of level of government plays, the importance of collaboration across the scales of public policy, and the critical role which manufacturers themselves must continue to play.
Lively and thoughtful discussion touched on topics of workforce, competition between industrial & residential zoning, manufacturers' roles in informing the region's legislators and communities, as well as state-level efforts to streamline government bureaucracy, with Go-Biz in its third cohort of Lean Six Sigma training for California state agencies.
Assemblymember Bill Quirk took the opportunity to make a brief plea to manufacturers in the room to offer up any and all ideas regarding the challenges companies face and their solutions.
As Rich Wells had remarked earlier, one of the highest areas of concern facing U.S. manufacturers is the need for a larger, more robust workforce, with skilled tradespeople who are well versed in STEM (i.e., science, technology, engineering, and math) fundamentals and possess the foundational skills of leadership, discipline, communication, and critical thinking, and continual learning. Further, the panelists noted that educators, from Kindergarten to community college & university, have a role to play in helping young people be more mindful of a career path and to help students identify their individual calling.
The group emphasized the importance of the full continuum of work-based learning, that is, internships in high school & community college, practicums, on-the-job training, and apprenticeships. Continued growth in such programs would offer the secondary benefit of helping to educate educators and parents as to the opportunities young people have within the region's manufacturing sector. One such program, already underway in an adjacent sector, is being spearheaded by the California Hospital Association, who has recently authored a roadmap to work-based learning in healthcare. To scale work-based learning, however, the panel suggested an important shift must occur, placing greater importance on work experience as an educational component.
Regional collaborations are an essential catalyst, both among manufacturers as well as between manufacturing and education. Among other things, these newly burgeoning intermediaries are facilitating development with input from educators, employers, WIBs, chambers, and other community leaders to help design and inform the curricula.
The third and final discussion touched on the many ways in which manufacturers leverage their own ingenuity in order to succeed and excel in the marketplace.
A video of operations at Semifreddi's launched the panel discussion.
The panelists all provided insights and anecdotes of their own success through innovation, all of which were quite different by virtue of the diverse industries they represent, those being, electronics supply chain, artisan food production, metal stamping, and additive manufacturing. One common thread was the relentless pursuit of improvement. Be it through the lens of better customer satisfaction or worker engagement, maintaining that drive must start with the leadership itself and is engendered through the training and empowering of the team, giving them the flexibility to take a measured risk. In their own account, the East Bay helps make their success possible through: 1) access to customers; 2) access to workforce (though diminished); 3) central location and access to suppliers; and 4) local support.