Planning is now under way for CIRAS’ next campaign to focus its industrial and economic expertise on projects for the benefit of a large Iowa manufacturing subsector.
A total of 102 people from 55 organizations took part in two previous Innovations Summits arranged by CIRAS in spring 2014 and spring 2015 under a five-year effort funded by the United States Economic Development Administration’s University Center Program. The events, focused on bringing new technologies to businesses in the plastics and machinery manufacturing sectors, spawned upgrades and innovations that led to $1.5 million in new or retained sales for the participating companies and more than $184,000 in various cost savings to date.
Next, on March 22, CIRAS will focus on Iowa’s fabricated metals sector—a group that includes the makers of cutlery, hand tools, boilers, springs, and wire, among other products.
“Metal fabrication can be hard, physical work, and these companies deliver quality products that feed almost all manufacturing sectors in the state and the country,” said CIRAS program director Pete Nadolny. “Further, these firms are in mature, competitive industries, where customers are always pushing for more, but often willing to pay less.
“CIRAS’ services can help these firms use new technologies and processes to improve their profits,” Nadolny said. “This, in turn, will not only help the firms, but also improve the quality of life in the communities they support.”
Metals fabrication—the shaping or joining of metal pieces using processes such as forging, stamping, bending, machining, welding, or assembling—added $1.7 billion to Iowa’s gross domestic product in 2013, or roughly 5.5 percent of all the manufacturing in the state.
Iowa has more than 1,000 businesses in this sector, although roughly 400 have no employees. The 20,600 wage and salaried employees who do work in the sector (as of 2014) earned an average of $48,600 annually, making it the third largest manufacturing industry in Iowa behind food and machinery manufacturing.