Manufacturing Plan Targets Ambitious Job, GDP Growth
Connecticut’s much-anticipated blueprint to grow the state’s critical manufacturing sector features ambitious job and GDP growth targets.
Released March 9, Connecticut’s Strategic Manufacturing Plan was produced by the Office of Manufacturing in collaboration with stakeholders from across the state.
It is built around three core pillars: workforce growth and development, supply chain resiliency, and industry expansion.
The plan features key strategic initiatives and tactics designed “to make Connecticut the internationally recognized leader in manufacturing through innovation and the growth of our manufacturing base.”
“This comprehensive strategic and tactical plan aims to strengthen the manufacturing ecosystem through technology adoption, workforce development, and supply chain reinforcement,” said chief manufacturing officer Paul Lavoie.
“Together, these imperatives will fuel the effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability, and ultimately the success of the manufacturing sector in Connecticut.”
Job, GDP Goals
The plan sets a target of 235,000 manufacturing sector jobs by 2033—an increase of 76,200 positions (48%) over January 2023 levels.
Connecticut manufacturing employment peaked at 253,500 jobs in 1994 and fell to a three-decade low of 149,100 in April 2020, amid pandemic shutdowns and restrictions.
The sector added 4,300 jobs in 2022, a 2.8% growth rate that was more than a percentage point higher than the state’s overall rate of 1.6%. U.S. manufacturing employment grew 3.1% in 2022.
The manufacturing sector accounted for $31 billion (13%) of the state’s annual economic output in 2021. The strategic plan’s goal is growing that share of GDP to 20% by 2029.
CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima welcomed the release of the strategic plan, saying “an overarching plan has been missing from the equation and is needed to prioritize and drive near and long-term solutions to grow our incredible manufacturing sector.”
“I greatly appreciate the plan opening with envisioned big hairy goals that we can all band together and support, essentially a guiding North Star to orient every future conversation and program consideration,” he said.
“Connecticut’s policymakers will play a critical role in the success of this plan—we can’t grow our economy without addressing the worker shortage, which is hampering growth across all sectors, including manufacturing.
“Legislators must support policies—such as CBIA’s Transform Connecticut solutions—that address the factors driving the labor shortage, including the state’s high cost of living, the cost of doing business, and the lack of worker housing.”
As of December 2022, Connecticut had 100,000 job openings, with an estimated 11,000 in the manufacturing sector—however, the state’s labor force has shrunk by 25,100 since the pandemic hit.
CBIA’s 2022 Connecticut Manufacturing Report revealed that 87% of the state’s manufacturers struggled to find and retain workers—an issue that has challenged the sector for much of the past decade.
“It’s a double whammy,” the manufacturing strategic plan notes. “More experienced manufacturing professionals are retiring than ever—while there’s been an historic lag of new entrants into the field.
“That makes access to a skilled workforce our single biggest impediment to growth—and attracting and developing talent our plan’s most critical strategic pillar.”
The plan recommends continued collaboration with the Office of Workforce Strategy to build and refine systems and infrastructure in alignment with the Governor’s Workforce Council’s 2020 Workforce Strategic Plan.
Other strategic initiatives and tactics to boost workforce levels include:
- Advocate for affordable workforce housing
- Support more transportation options
- Collaborate on efforts to increase career opportunities for underserved and underrepresented populations
- Develop a women in manufacturing program
- Shift perceptions about manufacturing, promoting the sector as “innovative, clean, and safe”
The plan calls for strengthening the manufacturing supply chain “through innovative programs that reduce the cost of doing business—and shorten supply chains.”
“Manufacturers have been particularly affected by the ongoing struggles to obtain supplies—thanks to port congestions, transportation issues, production delays, and extreme weather events,” the plan’s authors noted.
“Add to these challenges the fact that inflation has dramatically increased the cost of supplies and the result is both supply chain and economic uncertainties.”
Strategic initiatives addressing supply chain resiliency include operational efficiency programs for small to medium manufacturers and supporting Industry 4.0 adoption, including digital transformation and additive manufacturing applications.
A number of supply chain-based tactical initiatives outlined in the plan are already available, including the Manufacturing Voucher Program and the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology‘s digital transformation and Cybersecurity and Smart Industry Readiness Index programs.
Last month also marked the launch of CONNEX Connecticut, a free supply chain platform administered by CBIA affiliate CONNSTEP and funded through the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Manufacturing Innovation Fund.
CBIA’s 2022 manufacturing report highlighted many of the challenges faced by the state’s manufacturing sector, including the primary obstacles to growth.
Forty-four percent of surveyed manufacturers cited the lack of skilled job applicants, followed by the state’s high cost of living (15%), business taxes (14%), regulatory compliance costs (8%), the uncertainty and unpredictability of legislative decision-making (8%), and workplace mandates (6%).
The state’s strategic manufacturing plan proposes promoting and streamlining access to “all the resources Connecticut offers to both attract and retain those types of manufacturers who can best leverage our strengths.”
“Competition for manufacturing businesses is fierce,” the plan notes. “Many other states, regions, even cities/towns are offering attractive incentives to woo manufacturers.
“We need to find the right ways to attract the right types of manufacturers to our state—while motivating our existing manufacturers to continue to grow and expand right here in Connecticut.”
In addition to existing offerings, including collaborating with state agencies and organizations like AdvanceCT, the strategic plan emphasizes the potential offered by renewable energy.
The plan features an initiative to “lead and coordinate the offshore wind industry efforts to build out a supply chain, develop a workforce, drive research and innovation, and to maximize the opportunities of the offshore wind industry across the state.”
The tactics for leveraging energy opportunities include hiring a statewide clean economy program manager, resource coordination, a communication program targeting supply chain companies, and developing a workforce strategy with OWS.
“We have two choices: innovate or lose relevancy,” write the plan’s authors.
“This strategic plan for Connecticut manufacturing maps our journey forward as we embark on the next chapter in our state’s legacy of innovation.”
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