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Paul Krutko, President and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK addressed the Industrial Cities Symposium at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago this week, discussing a new report on the state of manufacturing. The International Economic Development Council (IEDC), the world’s largest independent non-profit membership and research organization devoted exclusively to the field of economic development announced the release of its research report, “Jobs in the Making: Economic Development Strategies to Grow Manufacturing” earlier this year.  The extensive 200+page report was produced under the guidance of IEDC’s Economic Development Research Partners (EDRP) program that serves as a think-tank within the organization.

Paul Krutko, EDRP Co-Chair and President and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK ( , notes, “Manufacturing has been, and will continue to be, critically important for the American economy. Our “Jobs in the Making…” report is the most extensive research project that IEDC’s EDRP group has yet taken on. We are particularly proud of its originality as both an analytical document and as a highly useful tool to help support job creation within American manufacturing. Beyond being valuable to economic developers, I am confident that many individuals and institutions in allied fields will find the report of great utility.”

During his presentation, Mr. Krutko described how this new piece of research differentiates itself from other manufacturing reports. Analyzing the state of manufacturing through an economic development lens, the report presents strategies that economic developers, community leaders, and their manufacturers can implement to support manufacturing. Key findings Mr. Krutko spoke of include:

  • Existing Manufacturing Beats Business Attraction – Economic development assistance for existing manufacturing is often a more cost-effective investment than are programs to attract businesses.  Many states and communities have adopted this “support existing business” strategy.  For example, a statewide economic development organization, The Michigan Business Growth Fund, established in 2009, provides gap financing to existing small and medium-sized manufacturers.  It continues to assist SMBs through its collateral support and loan participation programs.

  • Technology and Innovation Change Everything – Manufacturers can no longer compete on the price of labor alone.  Disruptive technologies and innovation are quickly displacing labor cost as a competitive influence.  In Pennsylvania, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) program assists the advanced manufacturing efforts of entrepreneurs and small businesses.  The partnership between BFTP and economic development organizations (EDOs) throughout the state is a critical link helping small technology manufacturers gain access to financing packages, technical assistance, and statewide technology networks.
  • Sustainability Improves Competitive Position – Increasingly, customers of nearly every kind are demanding sustainable products.  Competitive manufacturers are responding with greener offerings.  They are also “greening” their own production processes, saving on energy, water, and raw material costs. Creative federal, state and city collaboration repurposed New York City’s aged and deteriorated Brooklyn Navy Yard into a green manufacturing zone.  Their redevelopment efforts paid off – the Brooklyn Navy Yard is now home to 240 businesses, including many green manufacturers, with more than 5,000 workers.
  • Workforce Development – Economic development organizations and professionals are very active in helping meet the manufacturing industry’s growing need for a more skilled workforce by facilitating the establishment of technical training programs.  In a national survey for this research project 92% of economic development respondents said they act as liaisons between manufacturers and workforce training providers.

Included throughout the report are trends and best practice examples on how economic development organizations and communities are implementing different strategies to keep manufacturing viable. Also included in the report is a toolkit for EDOs and professionals to use in their manufacturing sectors and develop strategies for strengthening them.