HARTFORD COURANT: Keep Manufacturing Revolution Going In Connecticut As originally appearing in The Hartford Courant
BY JAMES T. BRETT & SENATOR CHRISTOPHER MURPHY
Connecticut is home to thousands of manufacturing companies and 160,000 manufacturing jobs. From household names like UTC, Sikorsky, Pratt & Whitney and Electric Boat to pioneering smaller companies throughout the supply chain, Connecticut is a state built on manufacturing.
As the economy continues its recovery, it is important that we recognize the critical role manufacturing plays in our state’s growth.
Although many people still picture the smokestacks and crowded factory floors of the past as “manufacturing,” today’s industry is a far cry from that. Indeed, the four D’s of manufacturing’s past — dirty, dark, dangerous and declining — are being replaced by the four A’s — advanced, advantaged, added-value and accelerating.
Connecticut manufacturers are second to none, which is why we must do everything we can to foster growth in this important sector.
A new report by the New England Council and Deloitte highlights the great potential for economic growth in the advanced manufacturing sector. This report, “Advanced to Advantageous: The Case for New England’s Manufacturing Revolution,” assesses where we are and where we are going as a region before laying out a blueprint to achieving continued success.
So first, where are we?
In New England, nearly 60 percent of our manufacturing jobs can be classified as advanced, including a whopping 72 percent in Connecticut. Advanced manufacturing pumps $19.4 billion into the state’s economy, and Connecticut is a verifiable leader in the aerospace, defense, medical device and biotechnology sectors, among others.
This is encouraging, but in a globalized economy, we must do more to strengthen this leadership.
Some of the challenges — such as the education skills gap and small business creation and growth — require a comprehensive plan of action.
“Advanced to Advantageous” lays out a plan for Connecticut and the entire New England region. Each recommendation emphasizes the critical importance of collaboration — between industry partners, higher education institutions, state governments and states.
First, we need an educational pathway that encourages a lifetime of learning — and credit for that learning at every step of the way.
Second, we must expand industry partnerships and apprenticeships, and get younger generations excited about manufacturing. The Connecticut. Dream It. Do It. initiative is a promising example of how to bring advanced manufacturing to middle and high school students so they gain a better understanding of the rewards of working in the field.
Additionally, the Connecticut College of Technology’s Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing is making it easier for students to transition from two-year to four-year colleges while retaining credit for their previous coursework and experience.
Third, we need to build a better brand for manufacturing. Today’s manufacturing is not that of the 1950s and 1960s. it is better viewed as part of the “maker movement,” boasting high pay, a safe working environment, critical thinking, and advanced technologies and designs.
Fourth, Connecticut and all of New England would benefit immensely from hosting one of the advanced manufacturing centers under President Obama’s National Networking for Manufacturing Innovation. We will continue concerted efforts already underway across the region to apply for and secure one of these hubs in New England.
Fifth, we must support start-ups and small businesses, and ensure that state policies foster growth in advanced manufacturing. Connecticut and New England are blessed to have the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology in our backyard as a resource for companies looking to implement innovative solutions, increase efficiencies and improve workforce development. It is a regional leader and a true model of success.
A recent discussion of the report at the University of Hartford drew dozens of manufacturers, state government officials, representatives from higher education and others excited about the prospects for Connecticut’s manufacturing revolution, including Hartford’s congressman, John Larson, who spoke passionately about the need for collaboration.
We are heartened to see the enthusiasm for the jobs of today’s manufacturing here in our state and are committed to spreading the word about the reality of Connecticut’s manufacturing base.
Connecticut succeeds when advanced manufacturing flourishes. By working together to tackle the most pressing challenges facing the industry, we can ensure that the same innovation and prosperity that manufacturing brought 200 years ago with the Industrial Revolution continues well into the future for New England families and communities.
James T. Brett is president and CEO of The New England Council, a regional business association. Chris Murphy is Connecticut’s senior U.S. senator.