Manufacturing in the state of New York has developed into an intriguing landscape over the last few years.
Backed by a number of recent legislative measures that have included a strong reform of the corporate franchise tax as well as the allocation of more dollars towards the attraction of new companies, manufacturing across the state is heating up. And in responding to the flood of new business that has resulted from such, the Empire State has paired its success in attracting significant, new industrial investment with a central focus on building and sustaining a talent pipeline to ensure that those who set up their business in the state can stay there for the long run. It’s a two-pronged strategy that has been in the works for quite some time, yet in 2015 it appears to be finally coming to fruition.
“It’s a very exciting time for manufacturing in the state of New York,” says Randy Wolken, President and CEO of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York (MACNY), one of the main drivers of growing New York’s manufacturing sector since 1913. “New York’s persistent focus on developing and growing not only the manufacturing companies within the state, but the present and future workforce that supports it, has really come into its own recently, and we’re seeing quite the impact now.”
In order for a state to achieve any kind of significant economic progress there typically needs to be meaningful legislation passed to open up new opportunities. In New York’s case, one of those instances came when Governor Andrew Cuomo passed a bill in 2014 greatly reforming the state’s corporate franchise tax for businesses. While noteworthy, perhaps the greater step was the next one taken by the state; playing a much more active role in the implementation and sustainment of such. “New York has invested quite a bit into its manufacturing future in recent years, and we’re really starting to see real, tangible benefits stemming from what has been a proactive effort made by both the private and public sectors.”
In fact, Wolken points to numerous major locations and expansions made within the state that are a direct result of such legislation and investment efforts. First there is Novelis, who in 2013 announced a $205 million investment to further expand their global automotive aluminum capacity, including a recently completed $48 million upgrade of its automotive scrap aluminum recycling facility in Oswego, in response to the auto industry’s heightened use of such materials in car and truck bodies.
Wolken then points to the massive joint announcement made by General Electric and world-leading sensor manufacturer, Ams AG of Austria. In August the companies unveiled a $2 billion investment into Governor Cuomo’s Nano Utica computer chip research initiative, a move that will bring nearly 2,000 new jobs to the Utica area.
“Investments like these have drastically changed our state’s identity recently, and it’s our belief that when it’s conducted specifically by global leaders like these two companies, it will only influence more of such deals going forward,” says Wolken.
All For One
The economic success has stemmed from what has increasingly become a necessary partnership between a state’s public and private sectors, and for a state like New York, which is populated by a high number of public universities in particular, it has led to a raised ceiling in terms of what can be accomplished and to what degree.
Let’s take a look at the recent deal between GE Global Research and the SUNY Polytechnic Institute, who have teamed up to develop a power electronics manufacturing plant for silicon carbide wafers. The project will create 470 jobs with the potential to grow to 820 jobs within the next 10 years. “The collaboration between state and local government, our manufacturers, and specifically higher education entities like universities, community colleges, and technical schools is a necessary factor in achieving the type of stable growth we want to attain in the long run,” Wolken says.
It also sheds light on the high priority manufacturers are placing on the impending issue of a skills gap, where there simply may not be enough trained workers to step in and fill the employment shoes of a fast-retiring older workforce. “There are some manufacturers in our state today that are ready to hire 100 new positions by tomorrow, but there simply aren’t enough people with the proper qualifications.” As the issue is clearly already knocking on the door, Wolken says the state has been aggressive in its efforts over the last five years in not only enhancing the training curriculums for its would-be future manufacturing workforce—from k-12 to the university level—but also going to war against the ignorant perceptions that many of the younger generation hold with respect to what a career in modern manufacturing looks like and can provide.
“The belief that manufacturing is defined by dirty machines and hard labor is quite an antiquated one, in fact if you showed people 20-30 years ago what today’s manufacturing facilities look like, they’d most likely liken it something out of science fiction,” says Wolken.
It’s why programs like their Partners For Education and Business initiative are so critical. “Partners For Education and Business (PEB) was established twenty years ago with the purpose of better educating not only the younger generation, but their parents and teachers as well on what a career in modern manufacturing is like. PEB has been able to reach over 7,000 students a year.” He says in one instance they took students to watched a robotic demonstration first hand. “By the end of the demonstration there were over 20 students that were simply fascinated with the technology and didn’t want to leave to go home.”
It’s an education that everyone can benefit from—students, manufacturers, and government agencies—because for a state like New York, where a wide variety of sectors like food processing, machinery, and chemicals are exploding in prosperity and show no sign of slowing down, there needs to be a highly capable workforce to support and nurture such growth for decades to come. But it appears the state is well ahead of schedule, and the influx of business over the last year shows that New York has the tools and state of mind to succeed in a big way.
Randy Wolken, President & CEO of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York (MACNY)
About the Manufacturers Association of Central New York
The Manufacturers Association of Central New York (MACNY) is a not-for-profit 501(c)6 association representing almost 330 businesses and organizations across Upstate New York. As an association of manufacturers, about three-quarters of MACNY’s members are industrial companies. The remaining members include accounting firms, insurance agencies, law firms, financial institutions and others. They belong to MACNY primarily to network with and serve manufacturers.
MACNY members supply the region, nation and world with a variety of products and services. Distributed across 26 counties in Upstate New York, they employ over 50,000 workers. They are located in cities and towns in Onondaga County and the Mohawk Valley, North Country, Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions. To learn about the excellent companies belonging to MACNY, please visit our membership directory.