Florida Manufacturers Meet

By December 2, 2006Report from America

Report from AmericaYesterday I had the pleasure to speak to the annual meeting of the Manufacturers Association of Florida (MAF), meeting in Orlando. While it was nice to fly down to a warm, sunny destination like that, this blogger was there for about 6 hours and then came back to the office. That’s a commute my grandparents wouldn’t believe if they were still around, and it’s been made possible by rising ecnomic growth in this country and the advanced technology manufactured products such as today’s airplanes that make such travel easy and relatively affordable. Some of the parts on the plane I flew were probably even made in Florida.

One thing that might surprise many of you is that the manufacturing sector in Florida, which is clearly not as large as in Ohio, Wisconsin or California, still contributes more to the gross state product than either construction or agriculture! When you consider all the building that is always underway in the Sunshine State, as well as its deserved reputation as a citrus powerhouse, it’s instructive to find out how dynamic and diversified the Florida manufacturing community is today.

If MAF has its way, then Florida will continue to grow as an important manufacturing location. I met an executive from Hoerbiger Compression Technology that makes the reciprocating compressors used in refrigeration and petroleum and natural gas production. Next time you turn on your gas stove or cooktop, think about how that gas got from the Gulf of Mexico to your kitchen. It doesn’t just flow there by itself. Hoerbiger compressors all along the pipeline keep it moving so you can fix dinner or boil water for coffee. And those compressors are made in Florida (and Texas).

Manufacturing workforce issues are on everyone’s mind in Florida. With ambitioius plans in many counties to bulk up on new manufacturing investments, they want to make sure they have the kind of workforce that will attract new companies and expansions at existing firms. This linkage between the schools, the economic developers and the manufacturers is never an easy one. Making it work is one of the functions of the Workforce Investment Boards around the country as well as associations such as the South Florida Manufacturers Association.

Floridians have a number of initiatives underway to help them see this path forward. Florida Trend’s NEXT magazine had a special section recently on manufacturing geared to students who might want a career in manufacturing. It caught their eye by noting, “more than 400,000 Floridians statewide earn an average annual wage of $43,732 working at more than 16,000 manufacturing companies to make the products you use daily. The manufacturing industry offers not just jobs, but high-wage, high-skill careers that are ‘Made in Florida.'” We learned at the meetings that in just one month, over 1,400 students had contacted MAF and other organizations, responding to this special section on manufacturing careers.

Florida also received a National Science Foundation grant to establish advanced technological education centers. There are only 33 in the United States, and 3 of them are right in Florida. As Arden Bement, head of the NSF said, this is the agency’s “premier initiative with two-year colleges.” To learn more about the NSF program, click here. And to learn more about the Florida component, click here.