This is the second year that CIRAS has worked with community colleges, the Iowa Area Development Group, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach to fill October with “MFG Day” events in all 99 Iowa counties.
“This year, we definitely reached more people,” said CIRAS account manager Paul Dunnwald. “Everything was bigger.”
Events included a host of school visits (including several by the team behind Iowa State University’s solar-powered PrISUM car) and factory tours involving everyone from Cherokee Middle Schoolers to Gov. Terry Branstad.
At Boone High School, science and engineering students heard a presentation on metal additive manufacturing – a cutting-edge form of 3D printing that promises revolutionize product creation and design.
“I need more opportunities like this to let the kids see that what I’m saying is not just a dog and pony show,” said Boone teacher Shelly Vanyo. “They need to see that what they’re learning, if they vest in it, can become a career.”
After all the nationwide statistics are in, Dunnwald said Iowa expects to rank fourth in terms of the number of MFG Day events hosted – behind the larger states of Michigan, Ohio and California. “Per capita,” he said, “we just smoked everybody.”
Iowa has roughly 6,110 manufacturing firms, including nearly 900 food factories. Combined, they add more than $30 billion annually to the state’s economy and make up the second largest portion of its GDP. Yet, surveys show that only 37 percent of Americans would encourage their children to go into manufacturing.
Organizers believe MFG Day events can help a skeptical public can gain new appreciation for the professionalism of modern manufacturing. In Iowa, it seems to be working, Dunnwald said.
“Some of these Iowa companies may not look much on the outside, but their capabilities are fantastic,” he said. “And they’re filled with good, hardworking people.”
CIRAS staffers will begin planning the 2017 MFG Day in January.
Other highlights from Manufacturing Day events throughout October: