Rochester Tooling & Machining Association

Keynote Address

The Finger Lakes Manufacturing Collaborative

Kevin J. Kelley, RTMA Executive Director

As you may know, Governor Cuomo has initiated the New York Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI). It is part of an overall program aimed at systematically revitalizing the economy of Upstate New York. The URI is an opportunity for the communities of Upstate New York to address the economic challenges of the regions and work together in bringing jobs back upstate. The URI will be a competitive process in which the 3 best proposals from the 7 upstate regions will receive $500 million each. These funds will go to projects identified by the Regional Economic Development Councils.

At a recent Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council meeting, I reported as the co-chair of the Advanced Manufacturing Work Group, on our recommendation for the URI.

The Advanced Manufacturing Work Group has endorsed the Finger Lakes Manufacturing collaborative for the Upstate Revitalization Initiative.

- - The Finger Lakes Manufacturing Collaborative provides a simple, clear framework to guide the large network of existing regional organizations and assets toward transformative outcomes for the regionís manufacturing sectors.

- - The two key tenets of the collaborative are as follows: 1) strategic alignment of a diverse set of entities around top manufacturing challenges, and 2) strategic investment of adequate scale to have an impact on the regionís manufacturing problems.

- - "Strategic Alignment." The Collaborative is designed to guide the formation of a strong, inclusive and highly effective collaboration of the key manufacturing stakeholders and resources to maximize their combined impact on the regionís manufacturers. Developing a new regional innovation-based manufacturing cluster is no simple matter. It requires enhanced, sustained collaboration on complex initiatives among the private sector, the public sector, and universities. Currently, there are about 25+ public agencies, academic institutions, and economic development organizations that either provide direct services or support funding for programs or assistance aimed at strengthening the regionís manufacturing sector.

A strategically focused regional manufacturing cluster can accelerate regional transformation by "linking and leveraging" existing networks of assets ó the skill of the workforce, the research base in universities, and the networks of support organizations for innovative companies. 

Better connecting these assets enables the region to exploit new competitive opportunities; and as companies within a cluster pursue these opportunities, they create higher paying, more secure and competitive jobs.

- - "Manufacturing Problems". There are large bodies of authoritative research about why the US has lost ground in manufacturing. One of the major reasons is the overall "declining competiveness" of US companies against firms from innovation-based economies in Asia and Europe.

The issue has been studied extensively. RIT authored a study which analyzed the key competitive challenges facing over 4,000 manufacturers in Upstate New York. The study found that the root causes of these competitive challenges included: 1) limited competitive knowledge; 2) lack of R&D support resources; 3) insufficient support for innovation; 4) deficit of required skill sets within the workforce; and 5) lack of access to capital to invest in operations.

- - There are five components of the Collaborative Ė workforce, discovery, acceleration, opportunity access, and integration Ė each representing, and in alignment with, the key challenges impeding manufacturing growth.

- - The Collaborative is not a not top down manufacturing strategy. It is a guide for strategic collaboration, communication, and action by the many organizations committed to growing the regionís manufacturing sector.

The Collaborative will be led by a public-private advisory board. The Board will provide strategic leadership, determine funding priorities, and provide oversight.

Recognizing that there are other proposals which will be incorporated into our regionís submission for the Upstate Revitalization Initiative Competition, the RTMA stands behind the Finger Lakes Manufacturing Collaborative. We believe it can be a game changer. We will continue to work for its successful implementation.

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