State Investments Give Connecticut’s Manufacturers New Competitive Power
One manufacturer needed to ramp up production of highly specialized components for fail-safe technologies by finding a faster way to de-bug tools used to make them.
Another needed to reconfigure its physical plants before launching a line of customized gymnasium equipment.
Yet another was looking to accelerate the assembly of complex biotech devices with the help of a highly sophisticated robot.
All of these diverse challenges were addressed with the help of Connecticut’s Manufacturing Innovation Fund — a $60-million fund that supports the growth of Connecticut’s advanced manufacturers.
Connecticut has one of the most cutting-edge advanced manufacturing sectors in the country, powered in part by a highly educated, highly skilled workforce ranked #3 in the U.S. for productivity. That sector is now comprised of 4,500 advanced manufacturers that employ more than 157,000 workers. What makes these companies so sustainably competitive is their eagerness to embrace new technologies and their commitment to invest in ongoing training.
To support their efforts, Connecticut launched the Manufacturing Voucher Program (MVP) — which awards vouchers ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to qualified applicants to cover half of the purchase of specialized expertise needed to improve operations.
To date, more than 180 companies have received Connecticut MVP grants totaling more than $7 million. Here are just three examples of how Connecticut’s manufacturers are leveraging state support — and advanced technologies — to streamline and enhance production.
Faster debugging for new tools
Rowley Spring & Stamping, in Bristol, Conn., designs the tools it uses to make products in the medical, military and automotive sectors. De-bugging these tools takes time and slows down production. Rowley needed a new type of power press that would let them de-bug new tools away from the production line.
With the help of a $50,000 Connecticut Manufacturing Voucher Program grant, Rowley bought that new $131,000 press. The increased production speed likewise increased capacity, enabling Rowley to add a second shift of workers to its power-press area.
“We would not have been able to buy that machine without the help of the Voucher Program,” said Rowley president John Dellalana.
More space for more opportunity
Jaypro Sports in Waterford, Conn., wanted to capitalize on a growth opportunity, but needed more space to do so. With expanded facilities, the company could resume producing a line of custom gymnasium equipment, including basketball backboards, volleyball nets and batting cages.
To adapt its facility to accommodate new production, the firm used a $10,250 MVP grant, covering half the cost of the new layout.
The results? With the optimized space, “we exceeded our first-year sales estimate of $1.5 million by over $250,000,” said company controller Elaine Adams. The jump in sales also enabled the firm to add six new jobs.
Adding a robot to the team
Okay Industries in New Britain and Bristol, Conn., builds customized automation systems to assemble medical devices, each to unique customer specifications. Production is complicated, but a $162,000 Fanuc robot could both simplify and accelerate the process.
“The way we’re able to do well is to be innovative and get into technology that’s ahead of everyone else,” said engineering program manager Jim DeVecchis.
With the help of a $50,000 MVP grant, Okay Industries purchased the advanced technology it needed. When the robot is operational, it will increase the factory’s capacity by as much as 15 percent. Consequently, DeVecchis reports, “Designs are less complex and the tooling needed to perform a specific task is less expensive.”
All part of a statewide commitment to innovation
The MVP is just one of the programs supported by Connecticut’s Manufacturing Innovation Fund, a far-reaching and ongoing effort that includes:
- the Incumbent Worker Training Program, which helps employers broaden and sharpen workforce skills;
- the Apprenticeship Program, which turns trainees into skilled advanced manufacturing specialists; and
- the Young Manufacturers Academy, which inspires students in grades 7-9 — the innovators of tomorrow—to pursue exciting career possibilities.
A robust array of R&D partnerships and specialized degree programs at Connecticut’s colleges and universities also helps drive innovation and keep the talent pipeline flowing.
Connecticut has a centuries-long tradition of manufacturing innovation — from jet engines and nuclear submarines to some of the latest advances in bioscience. That tradition continues to thrive, thanks to a statewide commitment to the sector and to the thousands of Connecticut manufacturing leaders who never stop pushing the innovation envelope.
Catherine Smith is commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. Prior to joining DECD, she had a distinguished career in the insurance and financial services industry, serving as CEO of ING U.S. Retirement Services. Smith graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., and received a master’s degree in public and private management from the Yale School of Management in New Haven, Conn.