Manufacturing ‘renaissance’ takes shape in Mass.

By Ira Kantor | The Boston Herald | September 13, 2012

Massachusetts’ manufacturing sector no longer suffers from “Rodney Dangerfield syndrome” — it finally has respect, according to a new report issued today.

Investments in new equipment and technology; the development of more specialized products; and increased workforce training efforts have helped the industry undergo an “economic renaissance” in just five years, said the report’s chief author, Barry Bluestone of Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy.

“Assuming the economy continues to recover, and somehow Europe doesn’t implode, we’re looking real good,” Bluestone said.

Manufacturing currently has the second largest payroll in Massachusetts, behind health care, with an average salary totaling more than $75,000. Despite labor statistics predicting the current statewide 250,000 employment number dropping to about 239,000 by 2018, there could be as many as 100,000 new sector jobs opening up over the next decade, the report said. A whopping 65 percent of the 700 manufacturers surveyed expect to increase production over the next five years, according to the report.

Despite the positive forecast, several “clouds” hang over the sector, including health insurance and energy costs, and the ability to replace a rapidly aging workforce, though some say manufacturers should look more to community college graduates.

“Community colleges can provide education that’s necessary and, in many cases, the experiential learning piece that will help these companies grow with the kind of workforce they need,” said Pamela Goldberg, CEO of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

At an event in Avon today, Gov. Deval Patrick is expected to unveil a manufacturing promotional campaign targeting younger audiences.

“The kind of manufacturing we have now in Massachusetts is really part of the innovation economy,” said state Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki. “That industry … has really done the hard work over the last 20 years to reinvent itself and is now in a terrific place.”

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