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"Making" Our Future

As states work to improve their economic outlook, many are looking for opportunities to invigorate their manufacturing sectors.  While there is no scripted, fail-safe path for states to design programs and create incentives to spur innovation and manufacturing growth, many are working to provide an infrastructure and environment in which manufacturers can grow and prosper.

Although not a panacea of fix-alls for states, the recently released report entitled, “Making” Our Future from the National Governors Association does provide a synopsis of what some states are doing to support manufacturing.  The report is a culmination of a year-long strategic planning process that states engaged as a result of their participation in an NGA-convened Manufacturing Policy Academy. The eight states of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania participated in this venture, which was a joint effort of the National Governors Association with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute for Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership and Economic Development Administration, which provided funding and thought leadership on the issues.

According to the report’s executive summary,

"The policy agenda for U.S. manufacturing is changing. Five years ago the debate was mostly about how to rescue and retain existing footholds in manufacturing, but lately the debate is increasingly about how to set the stage to lead the world in new technologies and innovations that are changing the face of manufacturing. That shift in direction was underscored this year when eight states prepared new strategies not through the lens of “let’s save manufacturing” but through the lens of ‘let’s lead in what lies ahead,’ including robotics, nanotechnology, and advanced materials.”

The report found that:

  • The eight participant states represent 30 percent of total U.S. manufacturing Gross Domestic Product (GDP), one-third of U.S manufacturing jobs, and more than 25 percent of U.S. exports of manufactured goods;
  • Each of the eight states arrived at its agenda independently, but their agendas are remarkably similar in priority and policy;
  • As an eight-state cohort working on similar priorities, they can scale up efforts and generate effects that are greater than what can be done by a single state working alone.

Results of the Academy include new programs, such as a voucher program in Connecticut, redesigned or new organizations to support manufacturing in the state, new legislation, and new funding allocations for priority manufacturing initiatives. The report also features a series of best practices for others interested in encouraging growth in manufacturing through innovation, entrepreneurship, and investment. Through steps like these, state governments can play a proactive role in fostering manufacturing growth.

The report found that state-by-state approaches to addressing manufacturing issues differ, which is to be expected.  Every state has its own ideas and plans, but the academy’s outcomes prove states can work together and learn from one another to encourage growth.

About the author

Megean Blum

Megean Blum is a business specialist working with the Program Evaluation and Economic Research group at NIST MEP.


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