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From the Desk of Jack Healy, Viewpoints on the State of Manufacturing

Collaboration to Produce Competitive Advantage

In October 2009, Paul Belham, owner of Bell’s Powder Coating contacted Congressman James McGovern (3rd Massachusetts), relative to his company’s business losses to Chinese competitors.  Congressman McGovern, well aware that his congressional district ranks twelfth nationally in net job loss due to the growing trade deficit with China since 2001-2008, arranged for a meeting with Paul and a cluster of small manufacturers  located in North Attelboro, MA.   To assist the manufacturers attending this meeting, the Congressman invited the North American Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (NETAAC) and the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) in order that they could hear the manufacturers issues first hand.

It was at this meeting that Paul found out that his business qualified for a NETAAC trade assistance grant, that subsequently allowed him to work with the MassMEP’s Next Generation Manufacturing program. To Paul’s surprise, with this workplace repositioning, he found that his business “had an immediate ROI and that in some respects that he could now  start competing with off shore markets”.

Manufacturers such as Bell’s Powder Coating, who have experienced recent declines in sales and employment, due to at least in part to increasing imports of competitive products are eligible for NETAAC assistance.    For such eligible firms the federal government will provide a percentage of the cost of consulting services  designed to help the firm improve its competitive position .  We have many of the largest firms regularly requesting such assistance while smaller eligible manufacturers do not apply for such assistance because they are simply unaware of its availability at
This initial cluster meeting was followed up with a visit from Ron Bloom, the President’s Chief Economic Advisor for Manufacturing Policy.   Jack Lank, President of the United Regional Chamber of Commerce collaborated with Congressman McGovern to have Mr. Bloom visit and meet with area manufacturers to see first-hand the effects of trade issues in the workplace.  Mr. Bloom has been visiting manufacturing across the country and is working on developing policy responses to the needs of the manufacturing community.

Subsequent to Mr. Bloom’s visit, Jack Lank along with Congressman McGovern organized and hosted a “Manufacturing Our Future Summit” whose sole purpose was to connect manufacturers to their next opportunity.  This purpose was set by the congressman who stated “that is  imperative that all of our existing resources be made assessable to our manufacturers who must become the best that they can be, if they are to compete in the global market place.”
Approximately 60 manufacturing firms from the region attended to hear the assistance offerings of federal and state resources and heard of the following opportunities.

Economic Policy institute
Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC)  –  Executive Director Patrick Cloney outlined how MassCEC is leveraging research , technology entrepreneurship and workforce skills  to support the growth and development of the state’s clean energy sector.  The importance of this sector to our state’s economy is now being reflected in the myriad of new manufacturing start up’s that have been initiated to support the off-shore wind and other renewable energy projects.  The MassCEC offers a Catalyst Award program whose purpose is to ensure that the renewable energy jobs started are jobs that stay in this state.  Details on what the Catalyst Program supports can be found at

Massachusetts Small Business Development Centers (MassSBDC ) provide a wide variety of business services in counseling, training and capital access for small manufacturers .  The two specific services featured at the summit were their award winning MassExport Center that provides a variety of services for enterprises interested in exporting.  Massachusetts has 89.4 % of its small manufacturing enterprises export 30.7% of their annual sales, which is why the services of MassEport are so important.  

The second part of the MassSBDC services offered were the capability of accessing the federal government procurement process.  This was followed by the Associated Industries of Massachusetts Buy Mass website that allows manufacturers to search and connect with other Massachusetts’ business services and products.

Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership  MassMEP – Next Generation Technical Assistance Program for accelerating growth and innovation in small manufacturing was presented at the summit by profiling three separate manufacturing  enterprises, who demonstrated the various approaches of how the MassMEP’s  technical assistance program’s contribution to the growth in their respective companies.  

These companies were :

The John Matouk Company, a small textiles company, once a contract manufacturer, has transformed itself into a growing and sustainable manufacturing enterprise with World Wide Brand Recognition of its own line of high quality products while maintaining and creating jobs, by leveraging technical assistance and following recommended from a Next Generation Manufacturer Road Map.

The Diamond Antenna & Microwave Corporation – competing in the highly specialized Satellite Communications arena has developed innovative new technologies to open new market opportunities on a global scale, experiencing employment growth at the compound rate of 10% per year, has leveraged technical assistance to align the organization for future growth, and is poised to double in size by 2013.

MTD Micro Molding – once a leader in the manufacture of miniature injection molding tooling found itself in a declining and disappearing industry has reinvented itself —   manufacturing Injection Molded parts barely discernable with the naked eye. By leveraging technical assistance to help build a Strategic Technology Road Map, MTD has seen revenue growth of 450% and employment growth of more than 40% in the past 5 years.

For those manufacturers who may be interested in how the Next Generation Technical Assistance Program can help their company, contact Greg King at  [email protected].  A description of the MassMEP’s Next Generation Manufacturer’s Technical Assistance program can also be found at

The take away from this summit has been the United Regional Chamber of Commerce’s commitment to continue the promotion of continuous improvement programs, through focused education and networking opportunities.  It is this spirit of leadership that is seeking to have regional collaboration produce a competitive advantage for the region that will allow its manufacturing base to grow. Any manufacturer interested in joining this initiative can contact Jack Lank at

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