Jun 12, 2011

Small successes in manufacturing showing up

My daily sweep of manufacturing news brought in quite a few signs of  strength in smaller companies in the U.S. Many of you know that I feel we need manufacturing everywhere in the world for the greatest potential for prosperity. At the same time, I'm especially happy to see good things happening to my neighbors.

A hearty appetite: The local food and beverage industry grows despite the recession
Lane County, Oregon -- where my sister Diane lives, by the way, is holding onto jobs because of innovative food manufacturers, seeing opportunities in changing consumer needs such as lactose-free frozen desserts and chocolate.

Bloom's price and reliability questioned: Fuel-cell maker promises up to 1,500 jobs
I have lots of family in Delaware. It was a blow when Chrysler shuttered its plant in Newark but Bloom Energy has promised they will add back 1,500 jobs to make fuel cell boxes. Realistically, we know that jobs like that take a long time to materialize, and sometimes fail to appear at all. This article shares good news, tempered with some skepticism.

Indiana an island of growth
Michael Hicks, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, has studied the data and feels good about Indiana. He says, "In the two years since the recession, the U.S. economy has lost 2 percent of its manufacturing employment. Indiana has not merely bucked the job loss trend, but added 4.6 percent more jobs in manufacturing. This is astonishing because the sectors of manufacturing that Indiana is most concentrated in have continued to lag nationally." And, yes, I have cousins living outside Indianapolis.

DE wants energy industry jobs;
CT has them
Made in Torrington: The face of the city's manufacturing community
Since the 18th century, Connecticut has been a manufacturing center. While its history-making machine tool industry has been slammed in the last couple of decades, don't count the New Englanders out.  Local companies are turning out furniture, chains, fuel cells, wind turbines, brushless motors and industrial adhesives. Rick Thomason's interviews with leaders of these companies show why manufacturing is an exciting business.

(when you click the following link, scroll down the page a ways to see the whole article...)
Pasco business fosters reputation for innovation
It's not all about the advanced energy industry. I like this story of one guy in Washington State starting with one machine in a garage, and now running a company making thousands of hydraulic jacks a year.

Companies Spend on Equipment, Not Workers
One reason why better business isn't pushing up job numbers is that manufacturers are finding lots of reasons to make capital investments with that extra cash we've been hearing about. Some people point to the mismatch between workers and job requirements I've discussed before, and some point to really good deals on automation and software. It's good news for someone (maybe elsewhere in the world) manufacturing that equipment or writing that software, not as much here where people are hurting. [As an aside, Mr. Dunkelberg's statement about having no unemployed farmers is just silly. We had them and still do ... where does he think industrial workers have come from ever since the first agricultural equipment was put to work?]

How will you live your manufacturing story this week? How will you make your company worth writing about tomorrow?

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