Monday September 13, 2010

MACNY Adds Clout to its Research Capabilities

Manufacturing Research Institute poised to benefit key economic sector
By Lou Sorendo

    The Manufacturers Association of Central New York today unveiled a new initiative creating a statewide Manufacturing Research Institute of New York State.

    MACNY is leading the initiative on behalf of The Manufacturers Alliance of New York, a statewide coalition of manufacturing alliances statewide, according to its president, Randy Wolken.

    “It will give us a chance to take a hard look at manufacturing and see where we are it in terms of successes and opportunities,” Wolken said. “We want to make sure we have the right workforce in the 21st Century for manufacturing companies. We are excited about the opportunity to shed light on the importance of manufacturing and obviously help it grow.”

    The MRI will act as the research, policy and educational arm of the Manufacturers Alliance of New York.

    The MRI conducts research to increase awareness among the general public, educators, policymakers, and the media about the importance and necessity of manufacturing sustainability to New York state’s future economic stability and overall quality of life, according to MACNY.

    The MRI is the first and only research institute for manufacturers solely dedicated to the promotion and advancement of New York state manufacturing.

    The MRI has released a report titled, “Twenty-First Century Manufacturing: A Foundation of New York’s Economy.”

    This report was commissioned by the MRI, and prepared by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, the public-policy research arm of the State University of New York, at the University of Albany.

    “The report should benefit every manufacturer throughout the state, and the reason is manufacturing is critical to New York state and the numbers and impact prove it,” he said.

    Wolken said “not a lot of good research is being done on why we are where we are today and how we can grow the manufacturing sector.”

    New York state is the sixth largest manufacturer in the country. The U.S., meanwhile, is the global leader in manufacturing.

    Home field advantage

    He said the new institute will be located in Syracuse, which will “clearly be one of the areas we’ll spend a lot of time on.”

    The institute and report will help grow the manufacturing sector and ensure that it is competitive, Wolken said.

    “Because it is located here, there will be special benefits to the region,” he said.

    Wolken said the report conveys how critical manufacturing is to the economy, whether it involves the percentage of wages or jobs it represents, or the spin-off effect it has.

    “It’s absolutely critical for Central New York that manufacturing does well,” he said.

    The report says manufacturing comprises 17 percent of private wages in the state.

    “That’s direct wages, not indirect,” he said. “There are typically two to three jobs connected to that, so 40 percent of the economy is tied to manufacturing.”

    “As manufacturing goes, so goes the rest of the community,” he added.

    Another finding of the report that Wolken finds critical is that manufacturing plants tend to be small and medium-sized businesses. As of 2009, average employment in the 18,888 establishments in New York was 25 jobs.

    “Those small businesses are really at the heart and soul of what tomorrow’s manufacturing environment will look like,” Wolken said.

    Meanwhile, today’s manufacturing is high tech and value added, Wolken said.

    “Those are growth sectors in the state and can be and should be growth sectors in Central New York,” he noted.

    Wolken said some of the findings in the report are startling.

    He said it is surprising to discover that the most manufacturing jobs—nearly 100,000—are in New York City.

    When you factor in the spin-off jobs and family members of workers in the manufacturing sector, that number grows to 1.2 million.

    “Manufacturing is radically important to them just like it is to us,” said Wolken, adding that fact is oftentimes lost on the New York State Legislature.

    “These are facts and insights that can help shape the future of public policy toward manufacturing,” Wolken said.

    The new wave of manufacturing

    Wolken also stressed that one of the findings of the study is that computers and electronic products have emerged as the leading manufacturing sector in New York state.

    “It’s probably a surprise to most people who thought computer manufacturing would have gone overseas or to other parts of the country,” he said.

    Wolken said the Syracuse region features one of the leading computer manufacturers in the nation in Seneca.
    “It’s kind of our mini Dell,” he said.

    Seneca also has a subsidiary that has become a leader in reverse logistics. The company specializes in recycling computers.

    Wolken also noted that fabricated metal products still play a significant role in the manufacturing sector.

    “These are highly specialized, advanced manufacturing applications that can be uniquely done here and give us a competitive advantage,” he said.

    Wolken recalls when manufacturing used to comprise 40 to 50 percent of the workforce in Central New York.

    While there are fewer workers in that sector, those historical highs of the past so far exceeded the national average that Central New York is on par with the rest of the country in terms of manufacturing jobs as a percentage of the total workforce today.

    “We have this perception that manufacturing jobs are going away, but many of these jobs have become automated and workers have gone from unskilled to semi-skilled to fully skilled technicians,” he said.

    He said the highest-paid jobs in the community come from the manufacturing sector.

    “Many of the people who hold these jobs will retire as Baby Boomers,” he said. “One of the reasons the MRI exists is to inform young people and the community at large that those great jobs are going to be there and we need to fill them in order to be competitive.”

    The computer and electronic products sector features some of the highest average salaries in the state, Wolken said.

    In that category, the average wage is $84,292. Statewide, it means $5.5 billion in wages.

    He said manufacturing facilities often run multi-million dollar equipment, while venues have gone from blast furnaces to clean rooms.

    “The jobs are getting better, paying better and we can be more competitive,” he said.

    Ready to compete

    Central New York has a competitive edge over other regions due to its abundance of educational facilities that prepare students for high-tech manufacturing, Wolken said.

    “We have some of the top-ranked educational resources compared to anywhere in the world,” he said. “We have the talent for companies to come here, be here, and be successful.”

    Another factor on why Central New York has a competitive edge is its history, Wolken said.

    “We have a long history of making quality things. It’s not new to us,” he said.

    In addition, Wolken said Syracuse is not only a “great” place to work in, but also to live.

    Syracuse was ranked among the most affordable communities to live in, and is ranked in the top five most family friendly places to reside in.