Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Manufacturing Challenge for Columbus2020

I attended a recently gathering of investors and those involved in Columbus area's newest economic development to both hear an update on the inaugural year of work of Columbus2020 and a preview of JobsOhio. 

I was mightily impressed, but for two things.  These are not criticisms, but windows to a challenge.

I, regrettably, counted hearing the word "manufacturing" zero times in the first hour from any of the speakers.  I'm just used to the "m" word rolling off of economic development group tongues in Ohio at a higher rate than zero.

Credit CEO Kenny McDonald for noticing and letting me know he noticed before I said one word to him.  Kenny knows the importance of manufacturing.

Kenny's investors may be another story though.  An electronic voting method let attendees in breakout sessions vote on topics.  The question about what type of industries Columbus2020 should seek to attract came up in a session I attended.  I compared notes with some colleagues and found they fielded the same question.

I was in shock.

My group, and comparatively the others' sessions too, did not rate manufacturing as the top industry to seek.  Instead, the group I was in ranked "science and technology" tops.


Of course, the vast majority of science and technology is either associated with manufacturing or leading to manufacturing.  Indeed, much of the science and technology output that doesn't align with manufacturing is, by definition, either failing to be commercialized or being sent overseas. 

Job creation being the goal of Columbus2020 means manufacturing needs to be job one.

One of the top challenges for Columbus2020 is getting its investors and thinkers in the larger, metro county on the same page with those of us in the other, more manufacturing-oriented counties of the Columbus2020 region.  Franklin County was below 10% workforce engaged in manufacturing.  The other counties are well over 10%.

The manufacturing challenge has begun!

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