Rotary learns about manufacturing

Published 6:18 pm Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Art Ford of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Extension Partnership came to Rotary this week and gave an overview of the status of manufacturing in Georgia today.
Titled “Manufacturing Matters,” he spoke not only of the obvious matter of it creating wealth and boosting the economy, but also how it spurs innovation and creativity among its workers.
His department assists manufacturers with such issues as new product development, how to be more productive, sustainability and energy management, as well as loan procedures.
Ford claims manufacturing is not dead, but, indeed is alive and well in Georgia. In 2014 his agency worked with 1,141 Georgia companies and surveyed them six to nine months later. One of the benefits noted was a $128 million dollar reduction in operating costs.
Productivity has gone up as a result of modern equipment. He compared the state of manufacturing to that of farming, saying it used to take a whole lot of people to farm, as everything was manual labor. Now, thanks to mechanization, about 3 percent of the population is involved in farming, yet produces more product.
Ford believes some manufacturing jobs are coming back to Georgia, and cited growth especially in North Georgia in 2014. Manufacturers created 355,000 new jobs in 2014, where the wages are two times that of workers in retail. Manufacturing accounts for 10.8 percent of Georgia employees.
A survey conducted every two or three years shows that manufacturers experienced a 13 percent increase in profits from 2012 to 2014.
He stressed the importance of education in preparing more skilled operators for the improved machinery, and believes the future of manufacturing is utilizing the whole person and their input on how to improve the work place.
“The only asset you have that appreciates in value is your people. Everything else depreciates,” he explained.
Asked if he thought manufacturing in the U.S. would ever come back to what it used to be, Ford replied he did not think so. He said he didn’t think people would be satisfied to work the ways they used to. He  believes the jobs are coming back for those who work creatively and the best opportunity for growth is by encouraging and assisting homegrown manufacturing or entrepreneurship.
Ford stated some manufacturing jobs are returning to the U.S., as he sees labor rates rising in foreign countries whose people want better lives too.
He cited the jobs being created here by foreign companies, especially in the auto industry, where cars are made in the U.S. and shipped back overseas.
He further predicted that the jobs coming back will be for those workers who use their creativity.

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