Former Gov. Terry Branstad, Governor Kim Reynolds and a host of other Iowa governmental and business leaders recently unveiled a plan to boost Iowa factories during a “Year of Manufacturing.”
The Year of Manufacturing initiative, which was announced in January during Branstad’s Condition of the State address, is designed to be a 12-month, concentrated focus on improving Iowa’s manufacturing Gross Domestic Product. Led by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) and CIRAS, business leaders plan to fan out across the state to visit with companies and make certain that each firm is aware of the resources available to help them improve.
“Now that the legislature has gone home, we can focus on this very important issue,” Branstad said at an April 24 news conference. [Reynolds formally became governor when China-bound Branstad stepped down a month later.]
Organizers plan to use a newly assembled Manufacturing Toolkit (www.IowaMFG.com) to make manufacturers more familiar with the wide variety of resources that exist in Iowa to help them grow, improve productivity, embrace new technology, enhance their enterprise leadership and tackle workforce-related issues.
CIRAS has been working with the IEDA to help fashion Iowa’s approach to the Year of Manufacturing, and the center intends to play a key role in promoting the initiative.
“CIRAS was founded on the proposition that we can help Iowa communities succeed by helping their local industry succeed,” said CIRAS Director Ron Cox. “The more attention we can give Iowa manufacturing, the better.”
Maureen Lockwood, manufacturing manager for Newton-based Thombert Inc, praised the initiative as a valuable way to make Iowa businesses more aware of entities such as CIRAS and ABI.
“Iowa has a lot of tools like these available to assist manufacturers,” Lockwood said. The effort we’re launching today… will help ensure that Iowa businesses know what help is available and how to access it. This can only be good for Iowa.”
Iowa currently has more than 6,100 manufacturers who employ more than 200,000 people and contribute $29 billion to the state’s economy each year. The initiative’s goal is to boost that figure to $32 billion by 2022.
Lori Schaefer-Weaton, ABI board chair and president of Agri-Industrial Plastics in Fairfield, praised Iowa leaders for focusing the spotlight on an important economic sector that nevertheless needs encouragement.
“Although we’ve come far, we (as an industry) have a long way to go,” Schaefer-Weaton said. “The stronger we are as manufacturers, the stronger I believe the state of Iowa will be.”
Founded in 1963 as a corporate outreach arm of Iowa State’s College of Engineering, CIRAS has spent more than 50 years providing proven, research-based services to businesses across Iowa. CIRAS experts use federal and state money from a variety of sources to match Iowa companies with what they need to succeed, whether that be highly technical management and metallurgical expertise or advice on marketing and pursuing government contracts. CIRAS staffers engage with companies in every corner of Iowa to first assess what those firms need, then to provide education about best practices around the nation and the world. Once a path has been determined, CIRAS works with a company for as long as it takes to embed positive change.
Together, CIRAS and its partners provided assistance to 3,787 distinct Iowa businesses in calendar years 2011 through 2015. Clients reported an economic impact of more than $2 billion during that period and estimated that 28,653 jobs either were created or retained because of CIRAS involvement.
For more information, visit www.iowamfg.com.