NEW BRITAIN HERALD: Study: Advanced manufacturing thriving in New England
As originally appearing in The New Britain Herald

BY JEFF GEBEAU

New England, and Connecticut in particular, are thriving in the area of advanced manufacturing, according to a report from global consulting firm Deloitte and The New England Council, a business organization that seeks to promote economic growth in the region.

“Looking at the state of the industry now, we’re doing really well,” said Chris Averill, the council’s director of federal affairs.

The study, titled “Advanced to Advantageous: the Case for New England’s Manufacturing Revolution,” details the growing share of advanced manufacturing jobs in the region relative to its overall number of manufacturing positions. In 2012, according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, advanced manufacturing positions made up 60 percent of the jobs in New England’s manufacturing sector and 72 percent in Connecticut’s manufacturing sector. Of the state’s 173,348 manufacturing employees in 2012, 124,475 worked in advanced manufacturing.

“Advanced manufacturing is the now and the future,” Averill said.

Advanced manufacturing is also responsible for $19.4 billion of Connecticut’s gross domestic product, which is high relative to the rest of New England and the U.S., he said.

The hallmarks of advanced manufacturing are advanced technologies, advanced materials, innovative design and superior management methods, he said.

“It’s really a new way of thinking about how to make things,” he said.

The report identifies five sub-sectors that are strengths of the New England region: aerospace and defense; medical devices and biotechnology; precision machining; semiconductors and complex electronics; and signal processing, navigation, optics and measurement. Connecticut is strong in all of these “industry clusters,” particularly the first three, he said.

Besides outlining the current state of advanced manufacturing in New England, the report prescribes an action plan to maintain and accelerate its growth that features recommendations including creation of a comprehensive, manufacturing-oriented, educational “pathway” that involves high schools, technical and vocational education programs, institutions of higher education, training programs, internships and professional experience. Credit earned by students would be integrated and connected throughout the pathway’s various avenues and transferrable at each level.

The plan also highlights the need to change the image of manufacturing from what it labels the “four D’s” — “dirty, dark, dangerous and declining” — to the “four A’s” — “advanced, advantaged, added-value and accelerating.”

“Rebranding is a big message of our report,” Averill said. “Everybody has this image of manufacturing in their heads, and it’s usually an image that is very distant [in the past].”

Other recommendations in the plan include increasing manufacturing internship opportunities and partnerships between educational institutions and manufacturers and tailoring public policy to the needs of the field.

The report, released in April, was presented last month at the University of Hartford to representatives of educational institutions and the manufacturing, business and financial services sectors, as well as federal and state officials. Similar presentations will have been made in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont, with one in Maine yet to be held.

“Growing and sustaining the U.S. manufacturing base is core to the economic strength of Connecticut and the New England region,” said Elliot Ginsberg, president & chief executive of the East Hartford-based Connecticut Center for Advanced Technologies, which was represented at last month’s presentation. “The comprehensive study conducted by NEC and Deloitte clearly indicates that we must, as a region, work together to address the issues of technology, innovation and workforce development. Through regional collaboration will we be able to generate growth and ensure our collective manufacturing leadership in today’s competitive global market.”

Jeff Gebeau can be reached at jgebeau@newbritainherald.com or (860) 801-5205.

Follow him on Twitter at @JGNewBritHerald.

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