How to grow manufacturing jobs in California: An action plan for advancing manufacturing

150 150 Justin Ewers

(photo credit: abrinsky)

Manufacturing has long been a cornerstone of the California’s economy, with the state producing more manufacturing jobs—from aircraft manufacturing to electronics and winemaking—than anywhere else in the country. Even as manufacturing has waned in recent years, nearly one in 10 California workers continue to earn their pay on production lines.

Much has been said about the prospects of the revival of high-tech manufacturing in California. But with global competition only increasing, more can be done to connect large and small manufacturers with the state’s regional workforces—and to promote exports and investments in fast-growing manufacturing sectors.

The Summit’s Advancing Manufacturing action plan outlines a way California can do both, promoting a statewide campaign to raise awareness about manufacturing, while also seeking ways to make the state’s regulations a competitive advantage for manufacturers.

“The key here is to promote innovation: The future is not like the past. Paradigms of manufacturing are shifting,” Chris Harrington, vice president of strategy and business development at Toshiba America Information Systems—and one of the leaders of the Summit’s Advancing Manufacturing action team—told an assembly of Summit team leaders in a briefing with state officials last week.

“You might wake up one morning and say the apparel industry will never manufacture in California—until you start thinking about wearable computers, intelligent fabric. That is high-tech manufacturing, and we can do that right here.”

An statewide plan for advancing manufacturing

At the Summit, participants will have an opportunity to review the manufacturing proposals summarized in the Policy Playbook and propose ideas for implementing them. The Summit plan highlights five steps the state could take to advance manufacturing in California:

  1. Create a California Campaign for Manufacturing: California needs to communicate the value of the manufacturing sector and its assets, including markets, workforce, suppliers and technology base. “If you want to attract and retain manufacturing in the state,” says Harrington. “You have to have a message and a story.”
  2. Make California Regulations a Competitive Advantage: California has some of the strongest laws and regulations for environmental goals in the nation. These regulations can become a competitive advantage if they support California manufacturers in developing stronger supply chains that meet internationally recognized standards, and increase the manufacturer’s rating on industry and customer scorecards. “We should look together at what the value of [complying with these regulations is],” says Harrington—energy consumption, for example, or pollution. “And where [California businesses] are competing on social responsibility and environmental standards, we should ask ourselves: Does this make those businesses more competitive than, say, a business in Texas?”
  3. Promote Innovative Manufacturing Partnerships: Based on California’s diversity of regions and technology assets, create industry-led regional partnerships focused on manufacturing clusters involving manufacturers, universities and community colleges and training organizations.
  4. Support Manufacturing Skills: In every region of the state, promote training programs for manufacturing in community colleges and universities that meet the skills requirements of industry.
  5. Promote Exports and Direct Investment: California has the opportunity to be a leader in manufacturing exports and direct foreign investment. “California needs to have a global perspective,” says Harrington. “If we’re the eight largest economy [in the world], let’s think that way—think about participating more directly in the Pacific Rim. I’ve been the beneficiary of a foreign company that’s played a role in placing a lot of good jobs, including mine, in California.”

Justin Ewers

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