Advanced Manufacturing: The Cobots Are Coming

Collaborative robots (a.k.a. cobots), designed to work alongside human workers, are the next big thing in advanced manufacturing. More than 150,000 cobots will be in use by 2020, a number expected to exceed 700,000 by 2025.

Collaborative robots are coming soon to a factory floor near you. Created specifically to work alongside humans rather than replacing them, sales of collaborative robots—cobots for short—are surging.

In 2016, cobots accounted for less than five percent of global industrial robot sales; but by 2020 industry analysts believe the cobots market could surge to $3 billion, with 150,000 units in use—a number they say could more than quadruple by 2025.

If current trends continue, 2018 will be remembered as the year that cobots really entered the mainstream.

Mercedes-Benz recently raised some eyebrows with a decision to replace some robots with humans on their production lines. “When we have people and machines co-operate…we’re much more flexible and can produce many more products,” explained Markus Schaefer, Mercedes’ head of production planning.

There is a growing realization that, however advanced, robots cannot emulate the human touch; but they can work in tandem with humans to turbocharge productivity. The cobot revolution is not expected to be limited to manufacturing; industries such as retail, healthcare, hospitality and food service also are expected to deploy legions of cobots.

Replacing the more traditional industry robots, cobots are small, light and easy (if slow) to move—a stark contrast to their bulky, often immobile and extremely complicated predecessors. Danish-firm Universal Robots (UR) has created collaborative industrial robotic arms that can “automate virtually anything,” from painting to labelling and packaging, while remaining easy-to-program, set up and deploy.

Compared to the average industrial robot, cobots are considerably less expensive. Headphone startup Kokoon Technology views cobots as an extension of the 3D printing revolution which could allow them to begin to create and test new prototypes quicker and easier than was previously possible.

The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) forecasts robotics growth of about 15 percent for 2018–2020. Stronger-than-expected growth in the global economy, faster business cycles, greater variety in customer demand and the emergence and expected scaling up of “Industry 4.0” concepts are all factors behind the optimistic forecast.

Cobots are expected to drive growth in automation. “Human-robot collaboration” is cited by analysts as the predominant trend, accompanied by simplification, ease of use and installation, light weight, mobility and low cost.

“We see a role for traditional industrial robots in Industry 4.0 setups, but we continue to expect the cobot segment to show the strongest growth, driven by trends such as accelerating demand for consumer goods that display an element of the human touch along with consistently high quality and a continued need among SMEs to automate their manufacturing easily and affordably,” says Universal Robots CTO & co-founder Esben Østergaard.

“Cobots are especially compelling today for several reasons. They work together with human workers instead of replacing them, especially valuable where the loss of manufacturing jobs is a sensitive issue. They can help companies reshore manufacturing. They are particularly useful in manufacturing setups that involve higher-margin, mass-personalized products. And for SMEs, cobots remain the best way to gain the benefits of automation,” Østergaard says.

As well as finding a place in industrial operations which have always used robots, cobots are proving popular with smaller manufacturers who may never have used robots before.

An International Federation of Robots report shows that China will likely represent 40 percent of the total worldwide sales for robots by 2019, an increase from 27 percent in 2015. China’s steady growth in spending on robotics prompted web entrepreneur (and Dallas Mavericks owner) Mark Cuban to pen an open letter to President Trump in December; Cuban said the U.S. should invest $100 billion into the robotics industry in order to compete with China.

“We have to win the robotics race. We are not even close right now,” Cuban wrote.


When it comes to modern manufacturing, Indiana delivers. For more than a century, the crossroads of America has proven that if you can dream it, Indiana can make it. As the number two state in the nation in manufacturing job growth and third in overall U.S. production, Indiana knows a thing or two about advanced manufacturing.

Across the state, the sector remains strong and is getting stronger, say several regional economic development leaders. With 25 percent of Indiana’s economic output based in manufacturing, nowhere is that more evident than in the east, central and southern half of the state where manufacturing is the bread and butter of the local economy. From Muncie to Bedford to Evansville, Indiana thrives on a strong legacy of manufacturing in industries such as automotive, food processing, furniture, agribusiness and defense.

Regional strengths promote growth and opportunity, says Jeff Quyle, President and CEO of Radius Indiana, a regional economic development partnership representing eight counties in southwest central Indiana. “The assets are here,” he says. “The expertise of our labor force, our manufacturing heritage, it all contributes to attracting and retaining manufacturing. Combined with a lower cost of living and educational advancement for skilled positions—that’s an advantage.”

Growth has been steady over the last several years throughout Indiana. For instance, the 10-county region in East Central Indiana boasts 30,514 manufacturing jobs with an average annual wage of $51,766. On the other end of the state, the gross domestic product of the Evansville metro area is $20.4 billion, with manufacturing—the largest sector—contributing $7.9 billion annually to the economy, says Greg Wathen, President & CEO of the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana.

Radius reports that 20,808 regional workers are employed in the manufacturing industry in southwest central Indiana, with an average of 400 added each year. Location quotients exceed the national average. What that means, economic development leaders say, is that advanced manufacturing likes Indiana and is here to stay.

Companies are not only staying, they often are expanding their operations to include research and development while advancing the knowledge of their workforce.

Sugar Creek Brandworthy Food Solutions, for example, includes manufacturing and R&D at its 418,000-square-foot facility in Cambridge City to foster innovations needed to meet consumer demands. Many others are doing likewise. “Combining manufacturing and R&D under one roof is a big trend we see continuing,” says Mindy Kenworthy, President and CEO of East Central Indiana Regional Partnership.

A few months ago, BrightVolt Technologies, makers of thin, flexible, lightweight batteries with applications in shipping, health care and other industries, brought their intellectual capital to the Battery Innovation Center at Westgate@Crane Technology Park in Odon, Indiana.

As technology-intensive manufacturing processes change, so, too, must the skills of the workforce, says Quyle. “Up-skilling as it is known, takes on many forms but the goal is the same—workforce improvement.”

Building a talent pipeline must go beyond traditional methods, notes Wathen. “We have to think of talent differently than in the past. If we can demonstrate a pathway to help attract talent, a company probably will invest, expand or put down roots here for the first time.”

Businesses, government, education centers and community leaders are rising to the challenge, Kenworthy says. In Madison County, the Purdue Polytechnic Institute that opened last year is creating a learning experience that produces graduates who have deep technical knowledge along with highly sought after applied skills and critical thinking and leadership skills. When Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb toured the facility in February, he was quoted as saying he’d like to see the model expanded statewide.

In southwest central Indiana, Purdue University is partnering with Westgate@Crane Technology Park to open a new educational center dedicated to furthering education, R&D and technology commercialization opportunities. The collaborative partnership announced in June includes educational opportunities from the Purdue Krannert School of Management and Purdue Polytechnic Institute, startup creation assistance from Purdue Foundry and increased tech transfer support from the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization.

Taking a more holistic approach to meet workforce needs is the model of the future, notes Wathen. “Companies used to think ‘somehow someone will find us.’ The reality is, empty nesters, millennials, gen zeros think differently. Gen zeros, in particular, seek advice from their parents. So we have to capture those connections.”

“The days of thousands and thousands of employees working for one company are a rarity. Running high-tech equipment depends on a highly skilled workforce,” adds Kenworthy. “And those jobs earn high wages.”

Advanced manufacturing remains strong in the Hoosier state, economic development leaders say, because everyone works together, right down to the local utility provider.

“Hoosiers build relationships that last,” says Harold Gutzwiller, Manager of Economic Development for Hoosier Energy, the power supplier for 18 rural electric power cooperatives located throughout central and southern Indiana and southeastern Illinois. “Global manufacturing companies know a strong power network will provide them with a safe, reliable electric supply to help them maintain their competitive edge,” Gutzwiller added.

With robust infrastructure, a highly skilled and innovate workforce and local partners who demonstrate a long-term perspective, it’s clear why advanced manufacturing companies across the globe call Indiana home.


As Michigan’s largest energy provider, Consumers Energy was awarded the Mid-America Economic Development Council’s (EDC) Deal of the Year and Marketing Program awards for our work with the Switch Data Center and our Energy Profile program, respectively.

collaborative robots advanced manufacturing
Consumers Energy’s team (Livonia employee group, pictured) works
with businesses to understand long-term goals and certify sites that
meet unique needs. (Photo: Consumers Energy)

Why would Consumers Energy be involved in economic development? The answer is simple: We’re committed to our communities in ways beyond energy to sustain Michigan’s economic future.

Businesses in Michigan enjoy several competitive advantages. Among them: a stable tax and regulatory environment, plentiful natural resources, proximity to major Midwest cities and Canada and robust research and development and engineering talent. All support a strong advanced manufacturing presence.

Targeted incentives are vital components of Michigan’s approach to business attraction and job creation. In 2017, the Michigan legislature passed “Good Jobs for Michigan” legislation. Signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder, performance-based “Good Jobs for Michigan” legislation enables businesses that create jobs to capture up to 100 percent of the new employees’ personal income tax withholdings for up to 10 years depending upon the volume of jobs created and wages paid. Measures like these help Michigan and its job-creating businesses compete to win.

Michigan is reversing the college-over-career readiness trend. In 2017, Consumers Energy launched the Michigan Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) Academy—the first of its kind in the nation—to help Michigan businesses enhance their talent sources and hire better skilled workers to meet critical short and long-term employment needs.

The TPM methodology was developed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and provides training in the proven supply chain management methodology already used within many industries, but applies those focused principles to talent acquisition and development.

Bringing the TPM Academy to Michigan is one of the strategies of the Michigan Talent Architecture Coalition. The coalition, convened by Consumers Energy, is a group of over 100 state leaders from industry, government, education, economic development, labor and non-governmental organizations focused on improving the availability of a qualified talent pool in Michigan.

Michigan ranks first for its intensity of engineers and engineering-job growth in the past five years. The state offers seven mechanical, industrial and aerospace engineers per 1,000 residents, ranking first in the nation (this also represents a concentration of 3.5 times the national average).

In February 2018, Michigan upped the ante on career readiness when Gov. Rick Snyder announced the Marshall Plan for Talent. Hallmarks include investing $100 million in new funding for competency-based certification programs, help to improve curricula and classroom equipment, scholarships, stipends and support for career navigators and teachers. Since 2011, Michigan has increased K-12 education funding by $1.9 billion, spurring investments in resources for career and technical education, middle college programs and equipment, and increased spending in STEM programs to get students excited about careers in these fields.

Consumers Energy’s job is to build confidence in Michigan site selection decisions and the siting process.

We’re working to reduce risk by offering competitive industrial rate options, natural gas prices 60 percent lower than a decade ago and robust new construction and energy efficiency incentives.

We’re proud of our deep relationships with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and local economic development agencies. No matter how a business begins the siting process, we’re at the table as a team to understand a company’s long-term goals and provide tools beyond energy to reach them, with focus on growth. We connect all the dots: education and talent, tax incentives, electric rates and natural resources and more. We work together to understand how all factors fit together for each business, and we recognize what works for one business might not for another.

The result is a seamless, from-all-angles, “we’ve got this” customer experience. That’s a major reason why leaders in automotive, medical technology, retail and other industries invested more than $126.8 billion and created more than 2,400 jobs in Consumers Energy’s service territory in 2017.

Attracting businesses to Michigan and keeping them here means keeping upfront and ongoing energy costs competitive. Our goal is competitively priced—or potentially zero upfront cost—energy infrastructure for mbusiness customers.

When it comes to keeping energy costs low over the long haul, energy efficiency incentives for current and planned upgrades have saved our customers $1 billion since 2009 and offer competitive energy- and cost-saving advantages. We also assign a no-cost energy advisor to help businesses maximize energy efficiency incentives.

Consumers Energy shares in Michigan’s quest to become a top-tier state for business attraction. We know that goal is achievable, and we’re getting better every day.

Jackson, MI-based Consumers Energy is Michigan’s largest utility and the nation’s fourth largest combination utility. Consumers Energy provides electricity and/or natural gas to 6.7 million of Michigan’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.

For more about Consumers Energy’s economic development services, contact Jeff Mayes, Director of Economic Development, at (989) 667-5284, or visit


Along the Gulf of Mexico—from Louisiana to Florida—business and governmental leaders are getting used to using a new moniker when talking about the historic economic growth occurring in the south.

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Construction at a liquefied natural gas facility in Southwest Louisiana.
LNG expansion has made the region one of the strongest economies
in the U.S. (Photo: SWLA)

During the International Council of Shopping Centers Gulf South Idea Exchange that was held in New Orleans this winter, the term “Third Coast” was tossed around with comfort as economic development policy makers noted facts that prove the region is primed to lead a population shift—if not another great migration—due to job growth and innovation.

For instance, the area from Calcasieu Parish in southwest Louisiana to Santa Rosa County in north Florida is home to an estimated 4.7 million people. By 2025 the population should rise to 5 million.

Job growth in the area is expected to grow 5.4 percent in contrast to national growth at 4.7 percent from 2016 to 2021.

Also, the area is home to advanced manufacturing, international trade, energy and tourism which are the foundation of the growth.

As good as those numbers are, the most astounding growth is occurring in the southwest side of Louisiana. Here, the biggest cumulative investments, job growth, housing increases and opportunity for commercial development reside.

The Third Coast is hot, but fuel stoking the flame consists of Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jeff Davis parishes.

“We are a tightly woven network of public-private partnerships working together to grow our region. Southwest Louisiana is made up of people who are passionate about where they live and want to share the joys associated with being a Louisianan,” said George Swift, president and CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance.

“We work. We play. We dance. We enjoy being outdoors and have more things to do than we have days of the year. When someone moves to Southwest Louisiana, they stay. We develop lifelong connections, start families and stay for generations,” Swift added.

This mindset described by Swift has helped spark America’s new petro-chemical and liquid natural gas expansion. A total of $108 billion in industrial projects have been announced in recent years and $43.2 billion in construction has already started. Almost 20,000 construction jobs are expected to be created and 18,000 permanent jobs will be open when construction is completed.

Locals like the idea of running off names like Sasol, Phillips 66, Westlake Group, Magnolia LNG, Cheniere, Trunkline LNG, when talking to people because each facility means jobs for family and friends along with spinoff entrepreneurial opportunities.

“Southwest Louisiana is a shining star in Louisiana’s economy because it’s blessed by great natural and cultivated resources, and also because it’s blessed by great leadership and an organizational will to be better and to prosper,” said Don Pierson, Louisiana Economic Development Secretary (LED).

Along with the industry growth, the region boasts the Port of Lake Charles. Its facility includes the City Docks—located 34 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico on the Calcasieu River Ship Channel measuring 40 feet deep and 400 feet wide. Interstate 10 and Interstate 210 are within miles of the port and rail service is provided by Union Pacific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Kansas City Southern.

Another asset that benefits the industrial complex is hundreds of miles of pipe used to move crude and chemicals inside and outside the area.

There are eight certified sites available for development currently.

According to LED’s website, a certified site “is a development-ready industrial site that has completed a rigorous review process by Louisiana Economic Development and URS, an independent, third-party engineering firm. Specific site details, such as zoning restrictions, title work, environmental studies, soil analysis and surveys, are assessed for compliance and authenticity.”

These properties will peak the interests of business representatives, but the helpfulness and hospitality of leaders in Southwest Louisiana are an added bonus. Nurturing relationships is important to governmental and economic development representatives in the region because diversification of the economy is one of the primary goals of those overseeing its growth.

Recently South Korea-based Lotte Chemical USA chose Lake Charles as its company headquarters. Lotte is spending $1.1 billion on the office and monoethylene glycol production facility.

Jim Rock, Lotte’s liaison director details why the company chose southwest Louisiana, “Access to a deep water port, rail and pipeline for distribution of product and pipeline for supply of feedstock in addition to a trained workforce.”

For more information about southwest Louisiana, contact George Swift at the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance at: (337) 433-3632 or


Oconee County is the “geography of opportunity” in Upstate South Carolina. Positioned in the northwestern corner of the state along the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this hot spot for business investment is located strategically along the Interstate 85 corridor between Atlanta, Georgia and Charlotte, North Carolina, with close proximity to Clemson University.

The county has a diversified economic base with an industry mix that includes healthcare, agribusiness, tourism and a heavy focus on manufacturing. Advanced manufacturing is the backbone of the Oconee County economy, from handicraft to high tech, this manufacturing sector is flourishing. It comes as no surprise, given the presence of Clemson University and its close connectivity with engineering and industrial design. Oconee County’s strengths in advanced manufacturing lie in having a top-ranked University with research partnerships like the International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Lab (AMRL), as well as the being on the Interstate 85 corridor with close proximity to the South Carolina Inland Port. This is a place where businesses want to do business.

Oconee County is also a certified “Work Ready Community” through ACT and has been named one of the top performing micropolitans in South Carolina for the past two years, ranking 6th in the nation for total National Career Readiness Certificates. The micropolitan also ranked 6th in the nation for the greatest concentration of industrial engineers and technicians in the Upstate, with numbers five times higher than the national average.

Oconee is a vibrant county of nearly 77,000 residents who take pride in their work and participate in the betterment of their community. Manufacturing is the county’s largest employment sector. In all, around 25% of the local workforce is employed by one of the 60 industries that call Oconee home. The various industries represented in Oconee County are creating products as diverse as plastic wrap for food producers and battery cases and engine valves for automotive suppliers.

Since 2012, Oconee County has announced over 1,465 manufacturing-related jobs and $432.3 million of invested capital spread across 32 project wins. Along with this, the county has developed four industrial parks that offer ready sites to future industries. This area of Upstate South Carolina is quickly becoming a magnet for growth due to its access to a qualified workforce that pulls from a labor shed of over 640,000 people within a 45-minute drive. Business leaders work closely with the local educational institutions, Clemson University and

Tri-County Technical College, to ensure students graduate with the job skills necessary to contribute to the workforce and society as a whole.

While Oconee County is the right place to work and invest, it is also the right place to live and play. The county has an unmatched quality of life, many outdoor recreation opportunities, low housing prices and one of the lowest tax structures in South Carolina. Oconee is blessed to have the wild and scenic Chattooga River, boasting some of the best whitewater rafting and kayaking in the world, along the western border of the county. The eastern and southern borders are comprised of three of the most unique lakes in the country—Jocassee, Keowee and Hartwell. These three bodies of water provide recreational fishing, skiing and boating unlike anything in the southeast.

Being nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains adds to the allure of Oconee County; between the lakes and the mountains, Oconee County enjoys the best of both worlds. With over 150 documented waterfalls, visitors can spend the entire day getting lost and finding these hidden gems. The terrain in Oconee County is so special that it drew the attention of National Geographic magazine who named the Jocassee Gorges one of their “Top 50 Destinations of a Lifetime” and one of the “World’s Last Great Places”, with only one other location in the United States earning the distinction.

The bottom line is that Oconee County, South Carolina is the right place to live, work, play and invest. With a prime location, a manufacturing history and a viable workforce, Oconee wants you to know that Oconee County is open for business. To learn more about the “geography of opportunity,” please visit


Nestled in Chicago’s prominent northwest suburbs, the Village of Wheeling, Illinois, is home to over 800 businesses, leading manufacturers and a fast-growing residential market. A diverse and dynamic community of 40,000, Wheeling is located in immediate proximity to a skilled workforce and just nine miles from O’Hare International Airport.

Transportation and accessibility are among Wheeling’s strongest assets. Interstate Highways 94, 90 and 294 enable the convenient delivery of products, goods and services, while also benefitting employees who seek to work closer to home. Wheeling is also served by a Metra commuter rail station located just steps from new, higher-end residential units. In addition to nearby airports and interstate highways, cargo can also be shipped via the Canadian National Railway.

Wheeling is home to Chicago Executive Airport, which is co-owned by the Village and offers customs services for international travelers. Recent hangar expansions reflect the high demand for airport services as more and more executives and visitors are choosing to fly direct to Wheeling.

The Westin Chicago North Shore Hotel and Convention Center also is located in Wheeling, as is Restaurant Row, which offers over a dozen culinary choices and serves as a regional dining destination. The $110-million Wheeling Town Center—a transit-oriented mixed-use development adjacent to the Metra station and the world-class recreational amenities in Heritage Park—is now under construction and will feature 100,000 square feet of retail space and 300 residential apartment units.

Employees who choose to make Wheeling home will benefit from quality parks and schools. The local high school district superintendent recently received national acclaim, as did students who are producing parts for the International Space Station. Wheeling’s wide array of community events, library and park district programs, recreational activities, and Village services and amenities are significant assets for its residents.

Over $220 million in new development projects are currently underway in Wheeling, spurred by both its strategic location and the Village Board’s commitment to promoting a business-friendly community. The vision and goals of the community’s leaders have directly encouraged manufacturers to choose to prosper in Wheeling.

Wheeling is home to several major manufacturers, including Reynolds, Handi-Foil, Richelieu Foods, Hidden Valley Ranch, SG 360° Communications, Keats Manufacturing, Champro® Sports and Creation Technologies. Wheeling has the fifth-largest manufacturing employment concentration in Illinois, after Chicago, Elk Grove Village, Rockford and Elgin.

“A number of Wheeling manufacturers produce components for NASA and the U.S. military, as well as automotive and security products,” Economic Development Director John C. Melaniphy III said. “The wide selection of products produced in Wheeling also includes metal fabricators, electronics, medical devices, food processors, printing technology and more. Then there is the everyday household item Reynolds Wrap, commonly found in most homes and proudly produced in Wheeling.”

More than 50 different sectors are represented in Wheeling’s diverse economic base, creating an innovative business community. Wheeling contains nearly 14 million square feet of industrial space, with a vacancy rate of only 4.2 percent.

Regarding the Village’s commitment to commerce and industry, Melaniphy said, “Recently, the Village saw the construction of the first two speculative industrial development projects in Wheeling in over two decades. They provide the modern amenities that industries are looking for in this ever-changing global market.”

The first of the two is a 181,000-square-foot spec industrial building at 720 Northgate Parkway developed by Hamilton Partners in response to the tight demand for industrial space in Wheeling. The facility is designed for warehouse, distribution, logistics and manufacturing uses. The project broke ground in April of 2017 and was completed in November of 2017. Because construction took place on a vacant industrial site and delivers the potential for job creation, the Village provided a Cook County Class 6b property tax incentive for the project.

The second spec industrial development, undertaken by the Sitex Group and the Missner Group, will construct an 84,000-square-foot spec industrial building at 1075 Chaddick Drive, the former ABF Truck Terminal site. The developer has targeted warehouse, distribution, logistics and manufacturing uses for the property. The project, which broke ground in the summer of 2017 and will be completed in early 2018, was also granted a Cook County Class 6b property tax incentive given its redevelopment of a blighted industrial site and its job-creation potential.

While new construction can receive Cook County Class 6b property tax incentives, vacant industrial buildings may also qualify.

Another economic development tool utilized by the Village is tax increment financing (TIF) to encourage economic growth in specific areas, including certain industrial lots.

“This is an exciting time for development and growth in Wheeling. As technology enhances manufacturing, the Village is dedicated to bringing innovative companies to experience all that Wheeling has to offer: an amazing location, outstanding community support and quality way of life,” said Business Development Coordinator Marianthi Thanopoulos.

If you are considering opening a new business, we encourage you to consider Wheeling. While Wheeling is an established suburb of Chicago, a considerable amount of property remains available for infill commercial and industrial development. For information on location or development opportunities, please visit or contact John Melaniphy, Director of Economic Development, at or at (847) 499-9094.


Situated in Upstate New York, Oswego County is located centrally to New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Toronto and Montreal. Yet, Oswego County has more to offer than an attractive location within hours of major Northeast markets.

Oswego County and Central NY has a robust manufacturing industry providing custom services for industrial, automotive, medical, aeronautics and military applications, as well as providing custom parts, fabrication and prototyping to other area businesses. This network of manufacturers creates a stable supply chain and major competitive advantage.

Oswego County has a highly skilled manufacturing workforce, with welding, fabrication and CNC experience, who are ready to work. The workforce 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 to develop training programs for advanced manufacturing. The intention of these programs is to create a pool of qualified candidates to fill available, as well as future, positions.

For those seeking entry-level manufacturing positions, Cayuga Community College offers the Industrial Skills Workforce Training Program. Aligned with the National Alliance for Manufacturing (NAM) Skills Standards, with input from Oswego County manufacturers, this non-credit program introduces students to basic manufacturing concepts. Instruction includes everything from shop safety to set-up and operation of conventional machines and CNCs.

CCC also offers an Advanced Manufacturing Certificate in Mechanical Technology. Courses include Machine Tools, Computer Aided Design and Quality Assurance. The program can be completed in as little as one year.

With the assistance of Novelis Corporation, CCC is developing an Advanced Manufacturing Institute, including an industrial maintenance technician program. When implemented, the industrial maintenance technician program will incorporate hands-on training in laboratories that will be used by Novelis employees as well as college students.

The Oswego County Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program, offered at the Center for Instruction, Innovation and Technology (CiTi), is a collaboration between Onondaga Community College, CiTi, industry partners Huhtamaki, Novelis, The Fulton Companies, Davis-Standard and Sunoco Ethanol, and all nine Oswego County school districts. P-TECH provides students, who are interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), with an advanced manufacturing career path. Students can choose to pursue either mechanical technology or electrical engineering technology. The 9th-14th grade program allows students to earn a high school diploma and an Associates’ degree from Onondaga Community College at no cost to the student or their family. Upon successful graduation from the program, students are first in line for job openings with the industry partners.

In addition to a skilled workforce, Oswego County offers convenient access to Interstates 81 and 90 which provide north/south and east/west movement. Multiple carriers provide both local and long-distance trucking to and from Oswego County. Local logistics companies provide transloading from truck to rail and offer myriad warehouse storage options, including dry, climate controlled and frozen.

The Port of Oswego, a deep-water port on the southeastern shore of Lake Ontario, provides a major logistical advantage to industry in Oswego County and the Central New York region, as the first port of call and hub in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System. The Port of Oswego provides on-dock rail and truck loading, making for a smooth transition of goods to market.

CSX offers daily rail transportation to Oswego County. Rail service is available throughout the County, with access to a nearby regional switching yard. Coupled with nationwide transloading and warehousing, CSX makes rail a very viable transportation option for Oswego County businesses.

Syracuse’s Hancock International Airport is within minutes of Oswego County. In addition to world-wide passenger transport, Hancock has facilities for air freight transport, which includes a 53,000-square-foot cargo building. The Oswego County Airport boasts two up-to 5,200-foot paved runways which are ideal for business, industry and private aviation.

Oswego County has many options for multimodal transport which are ideal for materials import and product export. As a designated Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ), Oswego County is designed for the convenient and cost-effective production of goods.

With a strong economic base in manufacturing, Oswego County is 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.

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


Cape Coral, FL, boasts a thriving manufacturing environment rich with a diverse spectrum of niche products: biotech, medical and optical, electronics, ecological and solar technologies, culinary, marine and construction-related.

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Canada-based Keltour Controls Inc. chose Cape Coral for its U.S. operations.
Keltour US opened in early 2017, with plans to expand in 2018.
(Photo: City of Cape Coral)

The Cape Coral metro area ranks as the fastest-growing in the nation—for both population and job expansion. There are several reasons why business owners choose to locate their operations in this waterfront city: large workforce, low cost of doing of business, subtropical lifestyle that lures national recruits and strategic location.

Cape Coral is the largest city in Southwest Florida, one with a manufacturing environment as varied as the city’s 175,000 residents. Here’s a snapshot of some of the innovative and eclectic manufacturers that have found their place in the sun.

Large Workforce. Cape Coral-based S4J Manufacturing Services, Inc., got its start in precision machining in 1965 and has become one of the nation’s top three manufacturers of Luer lock connectors, mini quick connects and adapters for the biomedical field. The company has grown steadily since relocating to Cape Coral in 1999, with more than 1,000 customers worldwide. “The beautiful thing about being a manufacturer in Cape Coral is that there’s a huge pool of potential employees who live in the Cape,” says S4J Manufacturing CEO Doug Guyre.

Growth Opportunities. Canada-based Keltour Controls Inc.—a global control panel manufacturer and system integrator—opened its U.S. manufacturing operations in Cape Coral in February 2017 and is already planning an expansion. The 50-year-old company mass produces and creates custom components for a wide range of businesses that use automation, from water treatment plants to the automotive, movie and audio industries.

Keltour US Inc. owners David and Cristine Jakob and their son, Gary, made a strategic decision when they chose Cape Coral. “There’s a high demand for control panels in this area of Florida,” says David Jakob. “We did some analysis of the electrical businesses and markets and it showed some good growth opportunities.”

Keltour’s Cape Coral staff works collaboratively with their Canadian engineers, software designers and administrative support. “It’s like we are a startup with a big brother—we have all of the Canadian resources available to us,” says John Parttridg, manager. “Since we have been in business in Cape Coral, we have attracted a substantial number of new customers, which has influenced us to open a new, larger facility.”

Room to Expand. Ecological Laboratories is on the forefront of national trends in sustainability: cleaning up environmental damage, improving water and soil quality and increasing traditional and hydroponic agricultural yields—without chemical toxins. Responding to growing demands, Ecological Labs recently undertook the sixth expansion of its Cape Coral research, manufacturing and distribution facility.

Ecological Laboratories got its start in New York in 1976 with a three-man crew and opened in Cape Coral in 1998. Today, the company has 60 employees—50 in the Cape, making it the company’s largest location.

For two decades, Cape Coral has proven to be the perfect location for successive expansion because of the city’s natural amenities and expansive growth opportunities. “We live where people vacation. That makes it easy to sell people to come here,” says Matthew Richter, inventory control coordinator. “We also have space to grow here—many places don’t have the land available to grow.”

Seven years of continual growth spurred AAE Glass to relocate to a 20,000-square-foot studio, warehouse and retail shop on Pine Island Road last fall. AAE specializes in teaching a proprietary fused-glass art method through renowned workshops that draw artists and learners from all over the world, in addition to selling finished artwork and supplies. AAE Glass has worked closely with the Cape Coral Economic Development Office (EDO) since its earliest beginnings. “The team has helped us with everything that goes with expanding a business,” says Mark Veit, vice president. “Knowing that the EDO has our back is reassuring.”

Strategic Location. Cape Coral-based Architectural Metal Flashings is seizing a long-term opportunity by becoming a preferred manufacturer of metal panels and flashings that’s been approved to supply its products to neighboring Babcock Ranch, where 19,500 single-family homes are being built in America’s first solar-powered town. Company owners Jeff and Darla Bonk appreciate Cape Coral’s proximity to customers scattered throughout the region. “It is very friendly for us to be in business here,” says Darla Bonk, vice president of sales and operations.

More Manufacturing Brewing. By the end of 2018, Cape Coral will be home to five microbreweries. The manufacturing of beer has become an important industry in the U.S. and in Florida. Southwest Florida is home to a dozen breweries, popular destinations for locals and visitors alike. Concerts, events and beer festivals have become commonplace and create a fun environment, enticing people of all ages and drawing tourists into the area.

New Headquarters. There is a thriving industry focused on coastal activities, such as boat manufacturers and marine suppliers, in Cape Coral. Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats is moving its world headquarters to Cape Coral, constructing a new 50,000-square-foot building and adding 100 new jobs. It joins Action Craft, the makers of custom fishing boats since 1980.

Find out more about the city’s demographics, available sites and incentives for relocating your manufacturing operation to Cape Coral.


Winston-Salem, NC has always been a city of progress. From its origins as an early Moravian settlement nearly 250 years ago and the merger of the towns of Winston and Salem over 100 years ago, the community has grown to be a center for business and technology in North Carolina and the Southeast.

collaborative robots advanced manufacturing
RJ Reynolds Tobacco has donated 120 acres and 1.8 million square feet
of their former tobacco manufacturing campus for future development.
(Photo: WSBI)

Winston-Salem was founded on tobacco and textiles, with 20th century manufacturing giants RJ Reynolds Tobacco and Hanesbrands leading Winston-Salem on the path of progress and growth with both major manufacturing operations as well as headquarters operations located here in Winston-Salem. As times have moved forward, automation and new technology coupled with new tobacco research have driven the workforce and space requirements of RJ Reynolds down from where they once stood in the late 20th century employing 13,000 at numerous facilities across Winston-Salem and Forysth County.

While Winton-Salem has traditionally been a city of progress, it has also become a city of revitalization. Left with old tobacco warehouses, empty tobacco bidding squares, and abandoned power plant facilities, Winston-Salem has reimagined a downtown area that has been revitalized to attract the young and upcoming workforce of the future.

A downtown that was once declining no less than 10 years ago is now a lifestyle center for people of all ages. Four breweries have opened in the downtown area, offering a great pairing to the numerous restaurants that have opened along every street downtown. Various parks and greenspaces have been constructed to promote walkability and an outdoor lifestyle downtown. Over 800 hotel rooms are available downtown. More than 200,000 people visit Winston-Salem for various events and conferences that take place \ year round, spurred by the redevelopment of the Benton Convention Center. Ten annual events call Winston-Salem home, each attracting over 10,000 people to the streets of downtown throughout the year. These events provide visitors with a taste of what Winston-Salem has to offer. With more than 3,000 housing units built or under construction in the downtown area, many constructed from old mills, or tobacco warehouses, there is a wide variety of options when it comes to living near the amenities of downtown. These units have consistently held very high occupancy rates and have been extremely popular in attracting the young and emerging talent required by the workforce of the future.

Winston-Salem also has seen exponential growth in the community’s life science and healthcare sectors. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Forsyth Medical Center, Winston-Salem’s two local hospitals, are the city’s major employers with over 26,000 employees between them. In addition, the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, a 240 acre research park in downtown Winston-Salem, is one of the fastest growing urban-based research parks in the U.S. and continues to attract a talented workforce of scientists, engineers and other professionals to the area.

Over the past several years, there have been some major projects to locate at the Innovation Quarter. Inmar, a data analytics and services company, moved its headquarters with close to 1,000 employees into a 240,000-square-foot, four story former tobacco processing building that they renovated for a cost of $75 million. Wake Forest also has relocated their School of Medicine’s main campus into the Innovation Quarter. This $100 million project completed the third phase of redevelopment of the former R.J. Reynolds buildings and brought hundreds of new employees and students into downtown Winston-Salem each day. Forsyth Technical Community College also has opened a satellite campus and training center in the Innovation Quarter. In all, the Innovation Quarter encompasses 2.5 million square feet of office, laboratory and classroom space and currently has over 3,000 people employed among its various companies and educational institutions.

The newest project to be completed within the Innovation Quarter is the renovated Bailey Power Plant. This once shuttered power facility used to be the home for the power generation needs of RJ Reynolds Tobacco operations in the downtown area. This redevelopment, representing $40 million of investment, now houses several floors of office space and mixed use areas that have undergone significant upfit yet still hold the character and feel that an older building can impart on its tenants. Venture Café, a local organization promoting entrepreneurship will be housed on the second floor of this building, hosting their weekly gathering of local entrepreneurs in this newly renovated space. The third floor will be the new home of CML Microsystems, a semiconductor design and manufacturing firm, while the fourth and fifth floors will house several departments of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. With several companies already announcing their presence in the building, the Bailey Power Plant has 15,000 square feet of office space left on the third floor for interested tenants. The Innovation Quarter’s vision of becoming a leading hub for innovation in biomedical science and information technology is well within reach with a plethora of existing facilities and sites totaling over 80 acres still available for future businesses to utilize.

In addition to the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, there are a number of other exciting economic initiatives taking place throughout the city of Winston-Salem, the most exciting being the recent donation by R.J. Reynolds of their former tobacco manufacturing campus: Whitaker Park. This donation consists of 120 acres and 1.8 million square feet of existing industrial buildings in what can be separated into two campuses, west and east, and is located less than a mile from US Highway 52 supplying access to the Triad region’s vast transportation network. The west campus contains two buildings totaling 1.2 million square feet with the main manufacturing building taking 850,000 square feet of that 1.2 million. This manufacturing building can be easily subdivided into six distinct sections to allow for a multi-tenant indoor industrial park feel with common areas throughout the building that could be shared by tenants of the facility. The second building is a fantastic two story building with both floors almost perfectly symmetrical at around 215,000 square feet each with 32 foot clear ceilings and 45 foot x 50 foot column spacing. Each level has truck docks, office space, restrooms and parking allowing for a single tenant feel in a potentially multi-tenant building. The east campus consists of 10 different buildings ranging in size from 8,000 square feet to 128,000 square feet, each providing their own unique value to the campus and its renovation plans, including a 50,000 square foot lab building that has been recently renovated and now is home to Virtue Labs, manufacturer of hair care products. Winston-Salem Business Inc., as the managing group of Whitaker Park Development Authority, is actively marketing the different buildings and sites to advanced manufacturers, distribution/logistic operations, biotech/life science companies and residential developers. Business leaders throughout the community are confident these properties will play a key role in the economic development and transformational growth of Winston-Salem and the greater Triad region. Wake Forest, with its campus just around the corner from Whitaker Park, will play a vital role in this redevelopment with its supply of well-educated students becoming the workforce of the future at Whitaker Park and in the greater community. It is projected that anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 new jobs could be created with the redevelopment of this historic manufacturing complex.

With all of these recent redevelopments, Winston-Salem is continuing its rich history of being a city of progress. Redevelopment is working to put Winston-Salem on the map as a place that is attracting the labor force of the future. This environment continues to attract talent with its various amenities and living options that appeal to this younger generation of employees. As this redevelopment continues to occur, Winston-Salem will only further its appeal to this generation truly setting it up as a city of progress for the future.

Mericle Commercial Real Estate Provides Homes For Companies

After completing college in Philadelphia, Robert K. Mericle returned to his hometown of Wilkes-Barre, PA with the dream of starting a commercial development company to help a community struggling for decades with above average unemployment rates. Since that time, Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services (Mericle) and its family of companies have made a profoundly positive impact on Greater Wilkes-Barre and all of Northeastern Pennsylvania. In the late 1980s, Mericle constructed the region’s first, privately-developed, speculative industrial buildings. Approximately 22 million square feet later, Mericle’s buildings provide homes for companies that together employ more than 14,500 people.

From its headquarters near Wilkes-Barre, Mericle owns and manages more than 15 million square feet of bulk industrial, office, flex and medical space and lists as tenants and clients some of the world’s most prominent companies including, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Merrill Lynch, Neiman Marcus, Sears, CVS Caremark, Core-Mark, Isuzu, Corning, Geisinger, Michaels and American Eagle Outfitters.

Mericle also serves small and homegrown businesses. Its many flex buildings provide space for dozens of companies that lease from 6,000 square feet to 120,000 square feet. Today, Mericle is forging an even brighter future. Through its ReadyToGo!™ Program, Mericle is positioning Northeastern Pennsylvania to be a preferred business location along the I-81 Corridor for years to come. Mericle is fully preparing 90 sites on 1,450 acres of company-owned land in 11 area business parks and has designed buildings totaling 14 million square feet for these ReadyToGo! Sites. Never before in history has this area had so many sites ready for the immediate construction of new buildings. Mericle is continuing to use its unique “master builder” corporate structure and its ReadyToGo! Program to provide exceptional service to its clients and move Northeastern Pennsylvania forward.

Mericle is a vertically-integrated company with close to 250 in-house professionals with expertise in all aspects of commercial real estate development and construction. The Mericle team includes licensed architects, land planners, professional engineers, surveyors, licensed electricians, plumbers, carpenters, certified public accountants, in-house legal counsel, leasing and marketing professionals, licensed brokers, property managers and more. The company’s growth and success have been based on the principle of providing quality commercial real estate at a very competitive price.

Mericle has always been the leader in securing quality tenants to fill the speculative space that it constructs and has consistently maintained the stability of its portfolio by attracting and retaining quality tenants. Mericle is proud of the fact that it has never lost an existing tenant to a competitor in its core market. That ability to attract and retain quality tenants for its portfolio has been the catalyst for the company’s growth since 1985. By self-performing virtually all aspects of development and construction, using its own in-house personnel, Mericle is better able to control costs and fast track delivery schedules to meet its clients’ needs. It fashions itself as a throwback to the “master builder” of old when experienced craftsmen self-performed all aspects of the construction process. Mericle has consistently proven its ability to build quality investment-grade commercial space at low costs by maintaining an experienced staff that, like in a manufacturing process, has been able to perfect and fine tune the efficiency of its delivery process by repetitively producing a consistent and similar product type. The result is extremely fast delivery of quality product at very competitive rates.

Mericle is the authorized Butler Builder® for Northeastern Pennsylvania. This close association with Butler Manufacturing™, the largest manufacturer of pre-engineered building systems in the United States, allows Mericle to offer its clients an unmatched level of innovation and flexibility. Mericle’s in-house design and engineering team includes some of the industry’s most experienced professionals in dealing with Butler systems. Every material, coating, part and process is tested to ensure strict compliance with exact Butler standards.

In March of 2018, Mericle was named the Butler Manufacturing™ Volume Builder of the year at a ceremony held in Kansas City. Mericle has broken ground in CenterPoint Commerce & Trade Park East near Pittston, Pennsylvania for three speculative Butler buildings ranging from 403,000 square feet to 1,023,000 square feet. Mericle expects the buildings to be especially attractive to national retailers seeking Northeast U.S. locations for e-commerce fulfillment centers. More than 51 million people live within 200 miles of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia and New York City are just two hours away. The buildings are being constructed in a LERTA zone, where real estate taxes on improvements are 100% abated for 10 years.