See manufacturing through new eyes. By Lynda Weatherman

Many of us paint a picture of what manufacturing looks like – loud machines, dirty hands, and low wages. However, this picture is far from reality. Replace loud machines with the newest technology and clean rooms, dirty hands with white gloves and scrubs, and low wages with an annual pay that is 22% higher than the national average. This is today’s world of manufacturing, and the Space Coast is home to some of the best. In Brevard County, over 500 manufacturers employ more than 23,000 people, representing 1 in 8 of the Space Coast’s private sector jobs.

ManufacturingThe National Problem: A Workforce Shortage

In 2016 the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast (EDC) launched its Regional
Manufacturers Association of Florida’s Space Coast (MASC), and since has led initiatives such as the Certified Production Technician (CPT) course, the Made in Brevard Expo, and other key manufacturing events that not only advocate for the Space Coast manufacturing industry, but manage the creation of its future manufacturing workforce.

Why so much concentration on manufacturing? With 75 million baby boomers set for retirement nationally, and U.S. businesses re-shoring production, technically skilled workers are increasingly in high demand. According to the National Association of Manufacturing, it is expected that over 2 million manufacturing jobs in the United States will go unfilled due to a skills gap in the next 5 years, negatively affecting manufactures’ ability to expand operations.

This issue echoes locally, too. In Brevard County, 61% of manufacturing workers will retire in the next 10 years while only 3.9% of the Space Coast’s current manufacturing workforce is under the age of 25. With 3,000 new manufacturing jobs expected locally by 2022, this skills gap in Brevard’s largest economic contributor remains a forefront in the EDC’s program of work and has piqued the interest of community leaders and elected officials alike.

Debunking the Myths of Manufacturing

Perception is key. Manufacturing has acquired a bad rap over the years, but shifting the paradigm on this important industry remains a key element in fighting the workforce shortage. Here are six reasons why manufacturing is important to our local and national economy and the truths behind some of myths of manufacturing.

Myth: Manufacturing is not a stable career and pays low wages
Truth: Manufacturing Has Many Pathways, and Good Income
Brevard’s manufacturing industry pays wages that are 22% higher than the overall national average. Over the next five years, navigational, measuring, electromedical and control instruments manufacturing is expected to grow here in Brevard, and these jobs have an average annual wage of over $108,000. With local educational institutions, such as Eastern Florida State College and Florida Institute of Technology offering degrees and training credentials for this field, such as the EDC-led CPT Program, even those at entry level have many avenues to further their career and earning potential.*

Myth: Manufacturing is a dying industry
Truth: Manufacturing Creates Jobs
A recent article by Forbes titled “A Strong Manufacturing Sector Fuels Economic Growth” noted that manufacturing has the highest multiplier effect of any major economic sector. This means that for every dollar spent in manufacturing, another $1.81 is added to the economy. Additionally, for every manufacturing worker another four employees are hired.

Myth: Manufacturing is unintelligent work
Truth: Manufacturing Fuels and Creates Innovation
Manufacturing is responsible for 75% of our Nation’s private sector research and development, as engineers and manufacturers create new technologies and capabilities. Advanced manufacturing is complex and involves a mix of science, intricacy, and precision. One look at local manufacturers such as OneWeb Satellites, RUAG Space USA Inc., and Blue Origin – all working together to manufacture satellites that launch into low Earth orbit, is proof that manufacturing can take us to new heights.

Myth: Manufacturing is small town factories
Truth: Manufacturing is a Leader in Global Trade
Global trade is based primarily on goods, and not services. Therefore, manufacturing plays a key role for our nation, and our region, in remaining globally competitive. The World Trade Organization estimates that 80% of world trade is merchandise trade, or manufactured goods.

Myth: Manufacturing is dirty and leads to an unsafe environment
Truth: Manufacturing is Safe and Clean
Modern manufacturing is driven by technology, which equates to clean rooms emphasized by the prevalence of white lab coats and polished floors. It’s also safe – between 1994 and 2012, the rate of occupational injuries in manufacturing facilities decreased by two-thirds, a substantially faster rate of improvement than that of the overall private sector. (Manufacturing Institute & U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Myth: Manufacturing employees jump from job to job
Truth: Manufacturing Jobs Provide Stability
According to the 2017 PayScale Study, 5 Industries Where Workers Have the Most Job Security, manufacturing jobs ranked second for job tenure and stability. And bonus – 70% of local manufacturers report offering tuition support (MASC Advisory Board 2018), leading to further career advancement and opportunities.

So, you think you knew manufacturing? Manufacturing is not just shaping our future; manufacturing is building a better Brevard and a better economy. ◆

Celebrating one of the Space Coast’s true differentiators, the Fifth Annual Made in Brevard Expo, held at the Radisson Resort at the Port in Cape Canaveral, showcased the breadth and depth of the area’s growing manufacturing sector. Sponsored by the Regional Manufacturer’s Association of Florida’s Space Coast (MASC), an initiative of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast (EDC), attendees visited 30 manned booths to see the products and technologies of the Made in Brevard business community. At the event, several manufacturers were recognized for job creation/retention, corporate citizenship and new capital investment.

Matrix Composites, Inc. was awarded with the 2018 Small Manufacturer of the Year Award. “Since our inception in the early 90s, we have watched the Space Coast really develop as a premiere aerospace manufacturing and development hub,” says David Nesbitt, president and CEO of Matrix Composites. “We are very proud to be a part of this growth and appreciate all that this community has to offer.”

Headquartered in Rockledge, Matrix Composites has been working over the past several years to diversify its customer base, and recently increased operations from 29,000 to 42,000 square feet. The expansion includes facilities and machinery required to manufacture high volume composite structures for multiple aerospace customers. Capitalizing on the company’s unique manufacturing capabilities, Matrix has secured significant business in support of GE’s LEAP and GEnX engines used on Boeing 737, 747 and 787 aircraft, as well as with Pratt & Whitney on all of their commercial NGPF engines.

Structural Composites and FracTel were awarded the 2018 Innovation Companies of the Year Award.

Structural Composites a Melbourne-based company has made huge inroads for the application of composites in the transportation industry. Recently, Wabash National, the largest manufacturer of semitrailers in the nation, called for a trailer that was lighter, more durable, better performing and cost effective. The Company employed a combination of advanced composite engineering, PRISMA preform technology and CoCure resin systems, and brought the cost of composite structures down to the cost of aluminum to meet the needs of Wabash National.

FracTEL has continuously evolved its technology infrastructure and business processes to enable the rapid deployment of innovative products. The company was recently honored by Internet Telephony Magazine with the 2018 Product of the Year Award for their new, disruptive phone conferencing system – which is just one of the company’s products that promises to redefine voice communication in the digital collaboration landscape.

Rockwell Collins was awarded with the 2018 Large Manufacturer of the Year Award. Rockwell Collins currently employs over 600 engineers and nearly 1,000 production workers across their multi-site Melbourne campus. In the first quarter of 2018, the company added 148 manufacturing employees and plans to add additional employees in the coming months. An early supporter of the EDC’s Talent Asset Pipeline (TAP) program, Rockwell Collins has facilitated tours for Certified Production Technician (CPT) students and has guided the EDC’s efforts to calibrate and enhance the CPT program, which provides the necessary skills for entry-level production workers.

“We’ve been very committed to the Melbourne region for years and it’s an honor to be recognized for our continued investments,” said Todd Twachtmann, vice president, Melbourne and Programs Management for Rockwell Collins. “It’s important for Rockwell Collins to continue to be involved in the well-being and growth of the communities that we live and work in.”