Industrial Resource Centers In Need Of Resources From State
By providing small and mid-sized manufacturers with technical expertise and consultative services not otherwise available, the Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center network is a highly effective component of the Commonwealth’s overall job-creation strategy. While the Industrial Resource Center’s proven performance metrics are impressive, even greater outcomes could be achieved with additional state support. According to 724 Industrial Resource Center client surveys conducted by Fors Marsh and validated by the National Institute of Standards & Technology, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Industrial Resource Center services facilitated the creation and retention of 6,113 high-paying Pennsylvania manufacturing jobs in 2018. During the same one-year period, Industrial Resource Center clients attributed $186.2 million of new sales, $565.4 million of retained sales and regional investments of more than $182 million to their Industrial Resource Center engagements. Over the course of the last five years — from 2014 through 2018 — the same independent process, utilizing data voluntarily submitted by 1,740 Industrial Resource Center clients, proved that Industrial Resource Center efforts directly contributed to the creation and long-term retention of 27,805 manufacturing jobs and empowered the companies that utilized Industrial Resource Center services to invest more than $902 million in expansion, modernization and employee training. Participant responses also indicated that for nearly half of all clients (48.4 percent), their regional Industrial Resource Center was the only consultative resource they utilized on a regular basis. This data illustrates that the Industrial Resource Center program is filling a market void by providing smaller manufacturers, which constitute over 90 percent of the Commonwealth’s industrial enterprises, with access to world-class manufacturing techniques and technologies in ways that they can afford, implement and sustain. By focusing on meeting the needs of smaller firms, the Industrial Resource Centers strengthen the Commonwealth’s third-largest industry in terms of employment, which accounts for nearly 11 percent of all Pennsylvania jobs. Pennsylvania’s seven Industrial Resource Centers represent the state’s primary economic development resource dedicated exclusively to serving domestic manufacturers with fewer than 500 employees. The Industrial Resource Centers provide professional services using on-staff experts in areas such as Continuous Improvement, Six Sigma, Supply Chain Optimization, Quality Management Systems and, more recently, Cybersecurity and Smart Manufacturing (Industry 4.0). The Industrial Resource Centers have proven extremely effective at working with manufacturers to address operational challenges, embrace innovation, upskill their workforce and compete in national and international markets. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth’s manufacturers are facing new challenges and opportunities in technology areas such as robotics, smart materials and devices, visual and connected factories, big data management and virtual workforce training. In order to develop and deploy new services that will enable clients to comprehensively address those technologies, the Industrial Resource Centers are in need of additional resources from the Commonwealth. Since 2007-2008, state funding for the Industrial Resource Center program is down more than 60 percent, from $15.2 million to $5.2 million, and has remained flat since 2011. An increase in Industrial Resource Center resources would not only allow the Industrial Resource Centers to increase their outreach, particularly to manufacturers within rural communities, but would provide support for the introduction of new technology-based services through the hiring of new professionals, development of existing staff, creation of new strategic partnerships or acquisition of new technologies for client use or training purposes. Since their inception in 1988, the Industrial Resource Centers have provided small and mid-sized industrial firms with the expertise needed to continue to drive Pennsylvania’s economy forward. Additional resources will serve to further expand the Industrial Resource Centers’ reach and breadth of services, thus increasing the success of the companies they serve and the vibrancy of the communities in which those firms reside. ERIC ESODA is president/CEO of Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center. GARRY HARTMAN is president of Cheetah Chassis. RUDY SINGH is director of manufacturing, CSS Industries.