Locations For The Manufacturing Industry: On The Bright Side

Economic developers are going to great lengths to highlight their advantages as competition dramatically increases for new manufacturing locations.

By the BF Staff
From the March/April 2022 Issue

Emphasizing your strengths has always been crucial to winning over new clients. In the manufacturing industry this has taken on new importance as economic developers across the country try to show their best side to attract and retain new and expanding businesses.

For some communities, that may mean promoting a skilled workforce, a convenient location near a major metropolitan area or a geographic center of a state or the country. For other locations, it may be about upgrading existing buildings and emphasizing life style and convenience. Even others may be promoting experience in a specific business category.

Manufacturing Industry Locations
(Photo: Adobe Stock By ipopba)

Whatever their approach is, it is becoming increasingly clear that to attract new business and keep existing operations, developers and state, regional and local commissions must cut to the chase and show why they are better than their rivals.

The good news? Many are. With growing marketing budgets and more educated staffs, many economic development councils have become experts at highlighting their assets.

Charles County, MD: Revitalizing Its Communities

The small town of Indian Head, in Charles County, MD, is coming to life again thanks to a community-inspired revitalization. Once a bustling military town, Indian Head suffered a generation of economic decline after increased security around the local naval installation moved most base-related activity behind the gate and left the town without contractors and local businesses without customers.

In search of a solution, community leaders developed a collective vision of a catalyst project for revitalization: an innovation center in the town for public/private sector collaboration. Today, that center is a reality. A once-abandoned warehouse has been transformed into the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) Velocity Center. The town is attracting the attention of companies and organizations that seek proximity to the naval base, use of facilities at the new CSM Velocity Center, and access to clients throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region. This area for tech is growing and space is available.

Charles County Economic Development Department
Community stakeholders tour the Maryland Technology Center in Indian Head, Maryland in the midst of the facility’s construction. (Photo: Charles County Economic Development Department)

Opportunities With Naval Support Facility Indian Head (NSF IH)

Naval Support Facility Indian Head (NSF IH) is home to the Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division (NSWC IHD), the Navy’s principal agent for developing energetic materials and systems for the U.S. Navy’s fleet. The command is the Navy’s premier facility for ordnance, energetics, and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD). A major employer in Charles County, this naval base is within a 40-minute drive to Washington, DC, the Pentagon, and other key federal and military installations. The CSM Velocity Center (completed in 2020) provides off-base meeting and collaboration space for NSWC IHD and supports commercial activity in the town.

CSM Velocity Center: A Place for Innovation, Learning, and Collaboration

The Velocity Center, constructed in the first phase of Indian Head’s redevelopment, is a place for innovation. This 13,000-square-foot collaboration facility supports industry, higher education, and the federal government, providing space for instruction, technology transfer, and meetings. State-of-the-art conference facilities, classrooms, flexible workspace, and a maker’s space support collaboration, ideation, innovation, and workforce training. The Velocity Center’s maker space is ideal for exploring new technologies, equipped with hardware for computer-aided design and prototyping, 3D printers, and subtractive machines.

Velocity Park: A Technology Business Campus

The Velocity Center sits on a six-acre site that has been named Velocity Park. Plans for the campus include an office building, hotel and a small amount of supporting retail. Shovel-ready sites are available for development. The site was acquired by Mid-Atlantic Development Partners, who oversaw the Velocity Center renovation. Charles McPherson, CEO of Mid-Atlantic Development Partners, anticipates that Velocity Park will become a hub of innovation and commerce. “Proximity to NSF Indian Head is opening up many opportunities,” said McPherson. “The right mix of industry, retail, and hospitality will energize the area and encourage continued investment in the town.”

Maryland Tech Center: Home to Bomb Techs, Manufacturers, and Base Contractors

Even before it opened, the Velocity Center project caught the attention of the U.S. Bomb Technician Association (USBTA), a professional association of bomb disposal specialists, academics, innovators, and industry partners. Today, USBTA’s new headquarters is under construction across the road from the Velocity Center, a CMI General Contractors project. Known as the Maryland Technology Center (MTC), the 30,000-square-foot facility—formerly a grocery store and drug store—is under renovation to become home to USBTA, several of its member businesses, and other base contractors. These six member companies will share 10,000 square feet with USBTA:

  • Mithix Pro: manufactures and develops tools and equipment for bomb technicians
  • MED-ENG: manufactures bomb suits for bomb technicians as well as robotic platforms and other tools
  • DETECTACHEM: manufactures explosive and drug detection equipment
  • A.D.S.:  supplies military and public safety gear and equipment
  • Zero Point: supplies EOD products, training, and solutions
  • Pendar Technologies: develops autonomous chemistry systems

According to CMI General Contractors CEO Charles McPherson, approximately 17,000 square feet of office space is still available at the MTC. It’s an ideal location for companies and organizations seeking access to NSWC IHD, Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base Bowling, and the many military and federal installations in the Washington, DC area.

It’s clear, the town of Indian Head is making a comeback. The technology businesses are attracting new retail and restaurants to the town, and shovel-ready sites for buildout of office, advanced manufacturing, retail, or hospitality uses are creating new opportunities for innovators and visionaries. Learn more at www.MeetCharlesCounty.com.

Southern Indiana: Auto Supplier Investments Are Booming

While the global semiconductor chip shortage continues to impact the auto industry, auto supplier manufacturers aren’t just sitting idly by. In southern Indiana, they are gearing up to meet demand in a state that boasts the second largest automotive industry in the nation.

In the last year and a half, Tier 1 and Tier 2 auto suppliers in southern Indiana have announced more than $132 million in investments—with business strategies designed to meet consumer demand for autos that are far more complex today than in the past.

Morgan County, located just southwest of Indianapolis along the I-69 and I-70 transportation corridors, is seeing a boom in auto supplier investment as well as downstream economic development activity. TOA USA, based in Mooresville, IN, is one of the county’s largest employers. The maker of auto body assembly equipment recently announced a $29 million investment for updated equipment to accommodate new model rollouts for Subaru production in Lafayette and Toyota in Princeton, IN.

“The auto industry has been very strategic in how to react to lack of product. Despite the temporary uncertainty the industry is facing, companies are interested in growth. They continue to be risk adverse, but they are also looking past this short-term uncertainty,” said Mike Dellinger, executive director of the Morgan County Economic Development Corporation.

In addition to the TOA announcement, he pointed to recent auto manufacturing related projects in the southern half of the state greater than $10 million, including:

  • American Honda Motor Co. is using new laser technology as part of a $50 million investment to produce the company’s all-new Civic Hatchback at its southeastern Indiana plant in Greensburg, the first time the Civic Hatchback has been built in the U.S.
  • TS Tech, a major supplier of automotive seats, invested $19.1 million to double its New Castle, IN, facility for new or upgraded advanced manufacturing equipment.
  • TG Missouri Corp., a subsidiary of Toyoda Gosei Co., Ltd., is investing $19 million in its New Albany facility and adding 150 employees to expand the use of new energy-saving machinery and equipment. TG Missouri produces a wide range of products, including instrument panels, console boxes and radiator grilles.

The uptick in advanced auto supply manufacturing has led to increased interest in central Indiana from companies looking for a skilled workforce, prime location and the infrastructure in place to accommodate advanced manufacturing.   

“We’re seeing positive economic momentum throughout our service territory,” said James Tanneberger, president and CEO of South Central Indiana REMC. The Martinsville-based electric cooperative serves TOA USA as well as other energy intensive manufacturers, including plastics, fabricated metals and tool & die enterprises.

“Every expansion, every upgrade reinforces the support our community provides to manufacturers. Companies realize we have the engineering and electrical expertise to meet their needs in this rapidly growing area of Indiana,” added Tanneberger.

Dellinger agreed: “We’re seeing increased interest in software development as well as medical device manufacturing. With our skilled workforce, creating capacity for advanced manufacturing processes across industry sectors is a natural fit for us.”

Hutchinson, KS: A Premier Location

Located in the geographic center of the U.S., Hutchinson, KS continues to win new projects and expansions, earning a recent ranking as the top micropolitan city in Kansas. Manufacturers, agriculture and food processors, technology firms, and more are choosing Hutchinson. Its reputation as a premiere location for technical training continues to solidify its place for major projects in Kansas because of the customized approach that the Hutchinson Community College and the Hutchinson Career & Technical Education Academy take in providing a pathway to careers for their students.

As the most economically diverse county in Kansas, companies like Superior Boiler and J&J Drainage have recently added new facilities, doubling their footprints to keep up with demand and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy continues to produce wind nacelles for the renewables market. Tyson Foods and Kansas Protein Foods have put the area on the map for food processing, and companies like Collins Bus and Kuhn Krause are making world class products for the transportation and ag equipment markets.

Hutchinson County Chamber of Commerce
Hutchinson: During the first Career Signing Day, students sign their career letter of intent. (Photo: Hutchinson County Chamber of Commerce)

Advanced manufacturing and distribution projects are a natural fit for the 100-acre, certified shovel-ready Kansas Enterprise Industrial Park zoned for heavy industrial, where nearby commercial grocery giant Kroger’s warehouse operates alongside niche distribution companies such as BOLD 3PL, KMS Inc, and packaging companies like Lawrence Paper Company’s American Packaging division, and Sonoco Hutchinson Paper Mill, which produces packaging products and paper goods. Proximity to the nearby Wichita “air capital” means that aviation suppliers abound.

With a spec building underway and ready for occupancy in 2022 in the Kansas Enterprise Industrial Park, and a new large 500-acre rail served industrial complex being developed, Hutchinson and Reno County have sites ranging from 10 acres to 500 acres. The area offers excellent highway and Class I rail connectivity within minutes of I-35 and Wichita’s Eisenhower Airport (ICT), growing companies are finding their niche in a community that places a high value on quality of life and education.

In response to the needs of local industry to grow the talent pipeline in Reno County, Greater Hutch has collaborated with Hutchinson Community College and the Hutchinson Career and Technical Education Academy to launch several new workforce development programs. Developing the workforce of tomorrow is critical to the economy.

Last year, Hutchinson Career & Technical Education Academy held their first Signing Day event to celebrate students entering technical careers. In addition, Future Apprenticeship Success Training has engaged area high school students in a comprehensive manufacturing skills bootcamp, designed to quickly learn basic industry skills, along with on-site tours of area manufacturers, culminating with interviews for immediate job placement.   

Recently, a Career Quest pilot program launched to provide area 6th grade students the opportunity to explore career fields in professional services, manufacturing, trades, food processing, agriculture, and healthcare, along with financial literacy training with financial institution mentors. Hutchinson recognizes excellence in manufacturing and education and is creating solutions to continue to grow the pipeline of next generation talent.

Missouri: More Innovation, More Industries, More Success

The U.S. Tax Foundation’s Location Matters index was recently released. It ranks each U.S. state according to a long list of factors across various business scenarios. Missouri ranked better than all its neighboring states, solidifying its position as a leading location for businesses to grow and thrive.

In recent years, Missouri has made a concerted effort to create an extremely friendly business environment. For example, the state dropped its corporate tax rate to 4% in 2020—earning it a corporate tax index ranking of third best from The Tax Foundation. Other adjustments in tax policy continue to provide companies with an affordable place to do business. Missouri ranks 10th overall for new business and fourth-best for labor-intensive manufacturing facilities.

Manufacturing Industry Locations
Artist rendering of Gateway Studios and Production Services new facility in Chesterfield, MO. The company plans to invest $130 million and create 100 new jobs. (Photo: Gateway Studios and Production Services)

Manufacturing powerhouses from across the world are becoming more aware of Missouri’s commitment to supporting businesses. The state is attracting millions of dollars in investment from a wide variety of manufacturers, including ones like Gateway Studios and Production Services (GSPS). The company builds equipment used on tours for major performers. GSPS recently broke ground on a new 330,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art manufacturing and production facility in Chesterfield, MO. The 32-acre campus will be the largest entertainment production services and rehearsal facility of its kind in the U.S. This is a new industry for Missouri.

Speaking of new, auto manufacturer Ford is building its new E-Transit van in Kansas City, MO. The auto giant selected its Missouri facility as its first U.S. plant to assemble both batteries and all-electric vehicles in-house. Ford invested $100 million and added 150 new jobs to accommodate the manufacturing of its new electric vehicle. The company just announced that it has more than 10,000 orders for the Missouri-made van, and it expects demand to surge.

With new industries finding a home in the state, Missouri’s focus on workforce development is greater than ever. The state’s recruitment and training division, Missouri One Start, partners with employers to deliver best-in-class recruitment strategy and training assistance. This division is so successful, it’s been ranked by Business Facilities magazine as one of the best customized training programs in the U.S. Combined with Apprenticeship Missouri, which is recognized nationally for its annual volume of completed apprenticeships, it’s easy to see that the state has achieved excellence in filling talent pipelines.

Missouri has always been a leader in the manufacturing space and with innovative companies bringing new opportunities to the state, it will continue to be a top location for new investment.   

City of Industry, CA: A Commitment To Manufacturing

The Industry Business Council (IBC) and its board of directors, in collaboration with city civic and business leaders has begun the implementation of a citywide initiative in support of its manufacturers.

The City of Industry—with its 225 manufacturers employing over 19,000 area residents—has been a manufacturing hub in California for decades and the initiative sets out to renew the city’s commitment to the manufacturing industry.

The effort began in March 2021 with an economic study of the top industries represented by the city’s existing manufacturers. The objective of the study was to gain an in-depth understanding of growth and future expansion trends, including current data on nationwide areas where these industries are predominantly located and to identify competitive advantages of the city.      

Spearheaded by IBC executive director Joanne McClaskey, the focus of the initiative is to identify business issues impacting manufacturers and create solutions to help address specific challenges. “Businesses will solve their own problems,” said IBC board director James Lin. “Our challenge is to identify ways to address obstacles outside of the control of individual companies.”

The top issue reported nationwide and from local manufacturing executives is hiring and retaining qualified employees. Power reliability, government regulations and highway accessibility also rank in the top challenges reported by all groups. With direction from key advisors and stakeholders, the IBC team decided to focus on the biggest challenge: attracting qualified employees.   

“We’re implementing a plan to help attract qualified employees by creating a marketing campaign to promote the enormous breadth and depth of the city’s manufacturers to the surrounding region,” said McClaskey. “We have manufacturers representing a wide variety of industries utilizing the latest innovations in technology and sustainability while providing opportunities for career development and income growth for employees. These manufacturers are committed to being leaders in their industries and they’re doing it here in California.”            

The IBC’s plan includes a phased approach to allow for modifications and adjustments as campaign results are measured. Employment demographic data shared by several local manufacturers has provided the framework for the initial marketing efforts. With this data, the messaging is tailored to accurately target prospective employees and provide information regarding available jobs and growth opportunities close to where they live.

Oswego County, NY: Home To A Skilled Workforce

In today’s economy, finding and retaining a skilled workforce can be more difficult than ever. Oswego County and its regional partners are proactively addressing workforce needs along with critical physical assets, such as infrastructure and shovel-ready sites, to foster continued growth of the region for both businesses and citizens alike.

Oswego County has a highly skilled manufacturing workforce, with welding, fabrication and CNC experience. It’s a workforce that is supported by over 30 institutions of higher learning within 50 miles. These educational institutions work collaboratively with economic development organizations, workforce training centers and industry partners to develop training programs for advanced manufacturing. The goal of these programs is to create a pool of qualified candidates to meet the needs of industry today as well as tomorrow.

Oswego County Industrial Park
Oswego County Industrial Park, in Schroeppel, NY, offers 320 acres available for development. (Photo: Operation Oswego County, Inc.)

Cayuga Community College’s Fulton Campus offers specialty two-year degrees and one-year certificate programs that support the local manufacturing sector. Most recently, they have developed a micro-credential program focused on entry-level manufacturing and healthcare. A micro-credential can be completed in 15 weeks or less. Individual courses may be completed in two to three weeks and will prepare students for in-demand, entry-level positions. Implementation of the program started this spring with the Electro-Mechanical System Fundamentals micro-credential. Additional micro-credentials are being developed for industries where there is rapid regional growth.

In addition to the new micro-credential, construction of Cayuga Community College’s Advanced Manufacturing Institute at the Fulton Campus is nearing completion. With the assistance of area manufacturers, manufacturing programs will now include hands-on training laboratories. The labs, equipped with technology currently used by area manufacturers, will be available to manufacturing employees as well as students.

Regional economic development and workforce development partners also collaborate on several greater initiatives to advance the region by connecting workforce training, infrastructure, incubation facilities, and shovel-ready sites to attract new businesses and investment in strategic industry clusters. One such initiative they are currently collaborating on is the American Rescue Plan’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC).

These partners, including Centerstate CEO, the County of Oswego Industrial Development Agency, the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency, and Mohawk Valley Edge, among others, are working together to leverage public and private investment into the “Smart Systems Cluster” which includes semiconductor chip manufacturing, unmanned systems technology (UST), radar and sensing, Internet of Things (IoT), and 5G telecommunications. If successful, this initiative could bring $10B+ of public and private investment to the CNY region.

In addition to a skilled workforce, Oswego County is fully multimodal with a deep-water port, ready access to major interstates, regional air-freight transport and rail with convenient access to a regional rail switchyard, all located within an FTZ. Oswego County is also equipped with modern industrial infrastructure including heavy power and gas. Coupled with plentiful water and wastewater options, this infrastructure provides flexibility for light- to heavy-industrial uses. Many shovel-ready sites are available in Oswego County. Within the industrial parks, all sites have utilities and other necessary infrastructure in place. Additional investments are being made to increase the capacity of both infrastructure and inventory of sites that will make Oswego County an even more competitive and attractive location for new and expanding businesses.

Oswego County’s skilled workforce, collaborative support system, modern infrastructure, and multi-modal transportation options provide major competitive advantages for advanced manufacturing companies.

Seminole County, FL: The Natural Choice for Manufacturing Businesses

Seminole County is best known for its school system, one of the best K-12 in the state. It’s also known for its business and financial services industry and its nature, including preserved lands, trails, and parks, which gave rise to the tagline… The Natural Choice. But Seminole County is so much more than that—it’s also the Natural Choice for Business!

According to a report from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the manufacturing sector has seen a rebound in the U.S. in recent years, with an average 3% growth year over year since 2010. The initial “reshoring” of the early 2000s is even more urgent now as the country faces supply chain challenges, and all industries are seeking to have their supplies produced closer to home.

Manufacturing Industry Locations
FermiTron, Inc. is a full-service electronic product design and manufacturing corporation serving businesses ranging from promising startups to Fortune 500 corporations and government entities.

Although Seminole County is the fourth smallest county in the state of Florida and has a strong insurance and financial sector, the manufacturing industry is projected to grow 7% by 2026. In fact, there are several manufacturing clusters spread throughout Seminole County’s seven cities and unincorporated areas, with the largest concentrations around the Sanford, Longwood, and Casselberry districts.

Seminole County has more than 500 manufacturing businesses which employ 7,500 payroll workers, producing everything from cookies and cheesecake to avionics and lasers, and everything in between.

About 63% of the county’s manufacturers produce machinery, equipment, or their components. The prevalence of the machinery manufacturing subsector can be traced to the county’s strong aviation industry, anchored by the Orlando Sanford International Airport and fueled by the nearby defense industry cluster near the University of Central Florida (UCF) and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Companies such as Avocet, CE Avionics, AMI Aviation, Levil Aviation and Vertical Aviation help support the aviation industry with parts and supplies.

But for each of these, there are several other printed circuit boards and electronic components manufacturers, such as Exxelia, Quality Manufacturing Services (QMS), Fermitron and Analog Modules.

Seminole County, as all of Florida, grew from a strong agricultural and tourism history to hosting fully-diverse industries. Yet, county officials can identify manufacturing already existing in the area during World War II, when as part of local contributions to the war effort, garment factories in Casselberry converted operations to manufacture parachutes.

A recent NAM report indicates that three-quarters of the firms in the manufacturing sector in the U.S. have fewer than 20 employees. This is true for most businesses in Seminole County, though local manufacturing businesses employ on average 119% more people than other industries and pay 116% higher wages.

According to the U.S. Census in 2019, 51% of Seminole County residents possess a degree at some level, which is 12% above Florida’s and the national average. Another 25% possess a bachelor’s degree, 12% hold an associate degree and 13% a graduate or professional degree.

In an area with a low cost of business, including the cost of real estate and labor, the tax environment in Florida also makes it attractive for manufacturing businesses in Seminole County. Some of those benefits include no personal income tax, a low 5.5% corporate income tax, sales tax exemptions on industrial machinery and equipment used in manufacturing and on the electricity, steam or boiler fuels used in industrial manufacturing processes, to name a few.

Seminole County’s business friendly environment, ease of permitting, strong and diverse manufacturing industry, low cost of business, development of new industrial parks, programs to keep the flow of prepared workers moving forward, and an unparalleled quality of life make Seminole County The Natural Choice for Business!

Topeka, KS: Coming On Strong

From food processing to large-scale manufacturing and distribution, Kansas’ capital city is uniquely positioned to serve a wide variety of manufacturing-related projects. That’s why international companies such as Home Depot, Target, Walmart, Frito-Lay and others have already chosen to locate in Topeka.

Walmart, for instance, is investing heavily in Kansas’ capital city by building a $200 million distribution center in Topeka. That facility is expected to come online in 2022 and will be the company’s largest distribution center in Kansas. It’s strategically located in Topeka’s Kanza Fire Commerce Park, a 1,018-acre business park near the capital city’s regional airport. The business park is home to a Mars Wrigley U.S. manufacturing facility and sits near a Target distribution center, Home Depot distribution center and Bimbo Bakeries USA manufacturing facility. Clearly, these global powerhouses recognize the value of Topeka’s business community and strategic Midwest location.

Manufacturing Industry Locations
Topeka Regional Airport & Business Center, Topeka, KS. (Photo: GO Topeka)

With a prominent pro-business mindset permeating the community, the greater Topeka area touts competitive processes for encouraging growth and securing investment incentives for manufacturing facilities and more. This is evidenced by a strong desire to work closely with local employers to ensure their success. Businesses often collaborate with GO Topeka, the economic development arm of the Greater Topeka Partnership, to secure incentive agreements through the Topeka and Shawnee County Joint Economic Development Organization, which is funded by a half-cent county-wide sales tax and has elevated local business attraction and expansion in recent years. Couple these local incentives with the Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion (APEX) Act recently passed by the Kansas legislature, and it becomes clear Topeka and Kansas are ready to compete on an unprecedented scale.

But what’s an incentive package without a strategic location? In Topeka, you can achieve both. Conveniently located near the geographic center of the continental U.S. and just an hour’s drive west of Kansas City, Topeka allows you to build here and ship anywhere. Transport goods along Interstate 70, which runs through Topeka and is one of the longest interstate highways in the U.S. or move products by train or plane. Union Pacific and BNSF Railway both provide rail service in the area. Topeka is also home to two regional airports and within 70 miles of Manhattan Regional Airport and Kansas City International Airport.

Talent acquisition is a key part of any business location decision, and with Washburn University, the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, and several community and technical colleges nearby, Topeka attracts some of the brightest minds in the region. With business costs 15% below the national average, Topeka’s shovel-ready sites—ranging from 10 to 230 acres—are ready for the next great manufacturing endeavor.

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