State considers offering computing center to businesses

By Marie Szaniszlo | The Boston Herald | June 19, 2013

Massachusetts is considering allowing small manufacturers to use computers at the Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke to help make parts for larger manufacturers, state officials said yesterday.

The plan, which is still in the conceptual stage, is part of a broader effort to help train workers and give them access to the hardware and software they need to make parts that large manufacturers increasingly are designing with computers, said Greg Bialecki, secretary of housing and economic development.

“We would like to see if we can get it up and running in the coming year,” he said.

At a day-long Manufacturing Summit tomorrow at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Bialecki and Gov. Deval Patrick will meet with more than 400 people in the manufacturing industry to discuss ways to help Massachusetts’ fifth-largest private sector, which accounts for some 7,500 companies and 250,000 jobs.

Since the beginning of 2010, 81 manufacturers have received tax credits for adding jobs in the state. But while small, local suppliers are often more reliable than out-of-state or overseas ones, Bialecki said, they don’t always know what large companies need. So the state has sponsored a few “speed dating” events for manufacturers, he said, to match up small and large companies.

Another challenge the industry faces is its aging work force, which is projected to have 100,000 job openings by 2022. The state has provided grants to help train veterans in manufacturing,, said Ed Leyden, president of Ben Franklin Design and Manufacturing in Agawam and co-chairman of the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative.

The collaborative also has been working with vocational school and community college leaders to better align their curriculum with companies’ needs and to tout manufacturing careers through promotional campaigns like “AMP it up!”

“Manufacturing is very different from most people’s perceptions,” said Kathy Rentsch, dean for business and technology at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester. “These are highly technical jobs and good career and salary pathways.”

Manufacturing companies in Massachusetts pay an average of $27,000 per year for unskilled, entry-level workers and $52,000 per year for skilled production workers, according to Northeastern University Professor Barry Bluestone, who serves on the collaborative’s board.

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