Disruptive technology, growth opportunities among themes of CED manufacturing conference
Video highlights: Introduction and keynote featuring Wilfred Marshall, Al Muratsuchi, and U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert M. Atkins
By Matthew Kredell
Following a gradual erosion of manufacturing jobs over the past decade, the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership for Southern California (AMP SoCal) Bi-Annual Meeting – hosted Nov. 14 by the Price School – USC Center for Economic Development (CED) – brought together representatives of the region’s leading aerospace companies to discuss how they could manufacture a better future for aerospace and defense.
“I sense a lot of new optimism with the California aerospace industry,” said Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, chairman of the Select Committee on Aerospace. “Some people say California, particularly Southern California, is making a comeback as the aerospace capital of the world. We need to continue to have these strong public-private partnerships, not only with our universities, our community colleges, our education system, but also with our legislature.”
In 2014, CED and the City of Los Angeles joined forces to receive a federal designation from the Economic Development Administration, a bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce, to start AMP SoCal as part of the nationwide Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership.
“Initiatives like AMP SoCal exemplify the value of collaboration across sectors, which is a hallmark of what we want to do as a university,” USC Price Dean Jack H. Knott said in his welcome remarks. “It brings together the public, private, nonprofit, government and academia to tackle these really hard problems.”
As an outreach arm of the USC Price School of Public Policy, the CED-led AMP SoCal initiative develops strategies to enhance collaborative regional innovation, provides technical assistance to economically distressed communities and builds a talent pipeline for manufacturing jobs through its work with universities and community colleges in the region, according to project manager Libby Williams.
“What we do is focus on economic development within the community,” Williams said. “We work with cities, counties, municipalities and agencies to help them determine what needs they have in terms of attraction, business retention, and how they can further job growth in their regions.”
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert M. Atkins gave a keynote speech on leadership. Atkins noted how working with AMP SoCal over the past year “opened my eyes to a new perspective on aerospace.”
Atkins moderated the first panel, which focused on the future of aerospace with speakers from companies that are disrupting the industry’s status quo, while finding a new way to do business.
Another panel focused on how technology of the future – such as 3D printing and virtual reality – will affect manufacturing.
In a final panel on “Growing Successful Manufacturers Locally Through Public-Private Partnerships,” James Sly of the East County Economic Development Council described an internet-based tool called “The Connectory.” This searchable database of companies is used at every level of the supply value chain by communities and companies to create more local business-to-business opportunities.
‘Plenty of opportunity’
Deepak Bahl, program director and co-principle investigator for USC CED, was joined by research analyst Robert Creighton for a presentation on the state of the aerospace and defense industry in Southern California.
The U.S. has lost 1.5 million jobs in manufacturing over the past 10 years, with 200,000 of them coming from California. Reasons for the decrease include the recession, consolidation in the industry, increased productivity with the shift from low to high technology manufacturing, and increased outsourcing to countries in Asia with lower labor costs.
Despite the decline, Southern California remains the No. 1 manufacturing sector in the U.S., and Bahl asserted that the area is ripe for a rapid increase in jobs in these industries.
Opportunities include: market expansion in emerging economies that drive commercial airline growth; the drone market expected to double by 2022 with the development of commercial applications in agriculture, remote sensing, surveying, public safety and package delivery; and space tourism projected to increase from $330 billion to $2.7 trillion by 2030. Technological advancements will also make aircraft more fuel-efficient, smart automation will improve operational efficiencies in factories of the future, and 3D printing will drive down costs and time to market.
“While there has been an erosion of jobs, there is plenty of opportunity here,” Bahl said. “We have world-class institutions of higher learning, we have the best infrastructure, we have the best talent, and … what I see here in the audience is a prime example of a public-private partnership with industry, academia and government coming together to solve intractable problems to create new jobs and business development.”