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We Need a Local Manufacturing Revolution

Back Commentary Oct 29, 2018 By Tracey Schaal

Last month, I traveled with the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce to Brooklyn to learn about best practices that have made this New York’s most sought-after borough. One of the major themes was manufacturing. While the speakers we heard from and the venues we visited were as diverse as the products they produce, the message to the 120 of us who participated in this study mission was clear: Manufacturing is too important to ignore, and the Capital Region needs to make this sector one of our core tenets for prosperity and calculated growth.

In the world of proactive economic development, there is no bigger way to impact a community than to locate a manufacturing company. We often hear people discuss the importance of bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. and that advanced manufacturing companies deserve our focus. But why, you may ask. On the surface, manufacturing may not be as sexy as a shiny new tech startup, but from my experience as executive director of the Power Inn Alliance — serving a business district where manufacturing is prominent — I have seen how our industrial end-users truly have the ability to improve our economy.

Related: Makers Wanted

Related: Sacramento Valley Manufacturing Initiative representative on the local workforce  

For every dollar that a manufacturing company invests in an economy, it generates another $1.81 in impact, according to National Association of Manufacturers. Attracting additional companies to become part of their needed supply chain, paying higher-than-median wages to their employees, producing a product that is then sold and generates tax revenue — these are just a few of the ways in which manufacturing jobs are critical to the overall success of our region. A Forbes article published in 2016 stated that for every manufacturing job, another four jobs are created. No other industry sector can claim that same significance.

The Power Inn Business District is home to over 62 percent of the City of Sacramento’s manufacturing jobs and over 14 percent of the six-county region’s manufacturing jobs. Companies such as Procter & Gamble, Mitsubishi Rayon, Balanced Body and HP Hood are just a few of the significant employers who call our district home. At the beginning of my tenure in 2015, when the Power Inn Alliance was looking for ways to grow our manufacturing base, we recognized that landing a large-scale manufacturing facility in the state of California could be challenging for a multitude of reasons including: strict regulatory environment, steep cost of land and buildings, high workers’ compensation rates — to name just a few. But we knew that growing our manufacturing base would provide substantial economic benefits for the city and for citizens within our community, so we have made it our goal to attract micro-manufacturing companies.

In 2017, we created a micro-manufacturing competition called Making Your Mark to assist a fledgling manufacturer in bringing their product to commercialization. Often, the founders of these manufacturing companies are wickedly talented in their field of expertise, yet they lack some of the tools needed to fully bring their company to life — specifically, access to legal advice, marketing strategies, equipment financing, real estate assistance and many other service-related functions that many of us in the business world take for granted.

The single most important factor for a manufacturer is access to and availability of a skilled workforce. I often hear from many of our largest employers that they struggle to find the talent they need.

We announced the winner of our 2nd annual Making Your Mark on Oct. 5, which is recognized as National Manufacturing Day. Liquid Flower, a veteran-owned line of cannabis-infused health and wellness products, was chosen for its innovative product, focused offering and ability to become commercially viable. The company received a prize package worth more than $50,000 in goods and services. Michael Patterson and his young company exemplify why we as a region need to embrace our young manufacturers, and give them the tools and support to grow here over the long-term.

The single most important factor for a manufacturer is access to and availability of a skilled workforce. I often hear from many of our largest employers that they struggle to find the talent they need. They don’t need more construction management candidates — they need workers who know how to swing a hammer or weld custom HVAC systems. They need applicants with an aptitude for using their hands and their minds to produce a product. There are more groups in our region than ever working on vocational education and career technical education models so we can provide our manufacturers with the talent and skills they need to keep them in our region. This is a critical step, but the job openings remain unfilled.

We must figure out how to engage this generation of students and encourage them to pursue opportunities outside of a four-year degree. As the daughter of a university professor and administrator, I wholeheartedly embrace the importance of a college education, but it is time for us to recognize that not everyone needs to hold a baccalaureate degree to have a successful career and life. This is why we have worked so closely with our partners at Valley Vision, Los Rios Community College District, the Sacramento Valley Manufacturing Initiative, Sacramento State (with their outstanding practical, hands-on approach to higher education) and many others to move the needle for the employers, but, more importantly, to move the needle for those individuals who can flourish in a manufacturing vocation, if given the right tools and opportunities.

The Power Inn Alliance is committed to all our manufacturers, large and small. Our challenge to all of you is to become part of the village, to embrace them, to support them and to ensure we create an environment where they want to call the Capital Region home. Let’s start a manufacturing revolution, shall we?


Mike Miller (not verified)November 5, 2018 - 3:46pm

This is a great article and Ms. Schaal is spot on with the info within the article. Being the CEO of a manufacturing business in Sacramento, I know how important our business is to the local economy and how critical the local labor force is to sustaining our business. Well done!