Florida Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)

by Julie Song

Manufacturing is a significant engine that drives the Sunshine State’s economy with high-paying jobs, innovation and opportunity.  Brevard County has a large part to play in the success of this industry.  When you look at the numbers, the local manufacturing industry has a higher average wage than the state of Florida and manufacturing represents a larger percentage of our total workforce.

Letting the Numbers Speak: Florida vs. Brevard

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES 342,000 21,500
PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL WORKFORCE 5{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2} 12{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2}
AVERAGE ANNUAL WAGE $43,410 $56,312

While our state may not be known nationally as a manufacturing powerhouse like Michigan or North Carolina, what we lack in numbers we make up in resources.  This is where the Florida Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) has stepped up its efforts to make Florida manufacturers more efficient in processes and procedures.  MEP’s growth-based solutions assist small- to medium-sized companies in transforming their business operations into high-performing globally competitive enterprises.

Focus and Services

Our organization has consistently placed a significant emphasis on assisting companies within Brevard due to the strong cluster that exists locally.  By partnering with the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, we are able to share our services with an already established manufacturing base.  What started as a series of training sessions in LEAN principles has blossomed into a wide array of programs offered to manufacturers of all sizes and revenue levels.  Not only can manufactures learn how to run their supply chains more effectively and reduce waste, they can now also be better prepared to submit bids to the government, find a job in the industry after receiving Mobile Outreach Skills Training (M.O.S.T®) on a mobile training unit, procure work with prime contractors, and learn how to grow profit sustainably.

For companies operating in today’s lean times, efficient utilization of employee skills and resources is an important goal.  One of the largest issues looming overhead for the industry is the lack of a trained workforce.  If you were to bring together a group of small manufacturers and asked how many of them would hire someone today if they were qualified, every one of them would raise their hand.  It is a vicious cycle.  When the economy is good, companies are willing to spend the time and money to train employees.  When the economy is down, these same companies are now figuring out ways to cut costs and training funds are usually the first on the chopping block.  This is where MEP has some great options.  Through our specialized programs, we can bridge the training gap by bringing employees up to date on cutting edge techniques without incurring much expense for the company.

Measuring Outcomes

These programs are already producing tangible results.  A third party marketing firm surveys the companies in attendance at each of these workshops six weeks after the class and additionally every six months after the class, up to 18 months.  As of February 2011, 90 companies surveyed indicated that, as a direct result of the workshops jointly held by the EDC and Florida MEP, they have:

  • Created 614 jobs that otherwise would not have existed;
  • Retained 749 jobs that otherwise would not have been retained;
  • Increased and retained $367.8 million in sales;
  • Spent $8.6 million on new investment;
  • Experienced $36.9 million in cost savings.

Now is the time to act.  Reach out and seek the support you truly need.  The recession we are currently experiencing has lasted longer and has been more severe than anyone could have predicted.  To persevere, you must take advantage of the plethora of resources available to help your business overcome these challenges, especially the assistance that MEP can provide through training and organizational programs.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help; it may make the difference in your company’s survival.  Brevard manufacturers will play a large role in leading Florida’s manufacturing industry into the next decade.

About Florida MEP

The Florida MEP is an affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) under the U.S. Department of Commerce.  The national MEP system is a network of manufacturing extension centers that provide business and technical assistance to smaller manufacturers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  Through MEP, manufacturers have access to more than 2,000 manufacturing and business “coaches” whose job is to help firms make changes that lead to greater productivity, increased profits and enhanced global competitiveness.  For more information, visit www.FloridaMEP.org

Julie Song is a project manager for the Florida Manufacturing Extension Partnership, an Investor in the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast.