Everyone knows that a strong manufacturing sector is a necessary component of a well-balanced economy. Manufacturing provides good-paying jobs with strong benefit packages; it stimulates the local economy, purchasing materials and services that are included in products. By nature, it provides opportunities to export, to other states and globally, bringing new money into the state from away. It also is a large driver of research and development, bringing new technologies and products into Maine’s economy.

The Manufacturers Association of Maine recently hosted an important conference at the Owls Head Transportation Museum on the future of manufacturing. There was a lot of talk about ingenuity and innovation.

There are a number of new manufacturing companies that are driving the industry forward through technology development. They are bringing high-tech composites, medical products and spacesuit components to market.

They are, in fact, “Making it in Maine.”

Many manufacturing companies in this state are providing good manufacturing jobs without having products of their own.

Newfab, my company, is a metal fabrication company that specializes in contract manufacturing machinery and equipment for our customers. We employ manufacturing technologies and the diverse capabilities of our impressive work force to provide cost-effective manufacturing services to industries including radio frequency broadcast, water and wastewater treatment, feed and wood pelleting.

Competing in these industries requires employees who are highly capable in a wide variety of skill sets, not unlike the technology companies that I already mentioned.

To sustain and grow the manufacturing industry will require that many initiatives be pursued in parallel. Small businesses, especially, struggle to provide the resources to accomplish all that is necessary to thrive in the marketplace.

The Manufacturers Association of Maine is leading the effort to provide support for the industry, with cost-effective, industry-driven service to assist manufacturers in growing their business through the business growth services effort. Those services include:

• Cluster development — Identifying the specific needs of industry clusters by organizing participating companies to collaborate. A grant from the Maine Technology Institute has provided the seed funding for the current aerospace cluster initiative, and a medical device manufacturers cluster is in the works.

• Regulatory compliance — Initially focusing upon environmental, health and safety. The goal is to provide assistance to manufacturers to achieve compliance without having to reinvent the wheel.

• Health insurance — MAMe is developing a self-insured health insurance program that focuses on a strong wellness program with many advantages to both employers and employees, including incentives for positive outcomes.

• Training — Providing industry-driven skills training programs with funding assistance to help defray the costs.

A manufacturing revolution is coming to Maine and the Manufacturers Association is leading the way to make it in America, and make it in Maine.

Chip Roche is president of Newfab Inc. of Auburn and is chairman of the executive board of the Manufacturers Association of Maine.

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