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New manufacturing resource center launched in Utah

The University of Utah, in conjunction with the Governor's Office of Economic Development, announced Tuesday the establishment of the new Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center on campus. Above is a picture of another building on the U of U campus
The University of Utah, in conjunction with the Governor's Office of Economic Development, announced Tuesday the establishment of the new Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center on campus. Above is a picture of another building on the U of U campus
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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s manufacturing sector is getting a boost in its continuing efforts to grow and prosper economically.

The University of Utah, in conjunction with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, announced Tuesday the establishment of the new Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center on campus.

Founded by two U. engineering professors, the center is designed to deliver services to small- and medium-size manufacturing companies by providing expertise in technology, worker education and how to develop relationships with potential investors.

The local center is part of a national network and collaborative effort to help smaller manufacturers grow their businesses.

“We will not only focus on operational excellence,” said Bart Raeymaekers, co-founder of the center and associate professor of engineering at the U. “For manufacturers to be successful, you really ought to be focusing on innovation and advanced manufacturing technologies.”

The center, in partnership with other entities across the state, helps local businesses use data to identify products and markets that are growing; implement advanced manufacturing equipment and technology; develop and educate a workforce to use new technologies; connect with investors and secure government grants to support growth; and learn how to make operations more efficient to maximize profits, Raeymaekers said.

According to the Utah Manufacturers Association, there are more than 3,300 manufacturing companies in Utah, accounting for 9.1 percent of the state’s total workforce.

Today, manufacturing contributes to approximately 16 percent of Utah’s economy and has grown by 50 percent over the past 12 years, said Todd Bingham, association director.

Utah manufacturers produce goods ranging from food and product packaging to aerospace and defense parts, as well as outdoor recreational equipment, Bingham added.

Comprised of centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, the nationwide network is managed by the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.

“This new center will help Utah’s small- and medium-sized manufacturing companies compete on a global scale through services related to growth, operational excellence, or new technologies like digital, nano and additive manufacturing,” said Carroll Thomas, director of institute’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

“A major challenge and opportunity ahead of manufacturers today is positioning for Manufacturing 4.0, where the pace of change and technology solutions moves with astounding speed. The Utah center is uniquely poised to guide manufacturers through this change and deliver results with economic impact,” Thomas said.

The University of Utah center received funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, along with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Over the next five years, the center will receive $16 million in funding from both federal and state governments, as well as local industry, explained GOED managing director Ben Hart.

“The Manufacturing Extension Partnership is extremely important for our small- and medium-sized businesses here in the state,” Hart said. “We want to see about 1,000 businesses a year come into the center and better their efficiencies so that they are a stronger business, (hiring) more people and paying more in wages.”

The Utah center is headquartered in the Rio Tinto Mechanical Engineering Building on campus and will eventually employ at least a dozen permanent staff members, consultants and industry professionals, said Scott Marland, director of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center.

Satellite offices also are planned for Cache and Utah counties, along with establishing consultants in eastern Utah and Cedar City, Marland said.

“Manufacturing is one of the foundations of what American society and our communities are,” he said. “If we can keep jobs and revenues here in our communities, then it’s good for all of us. We all have higher-paying jobs and we all have happier communities.”

Marland said the key to growth in manufacturing is to spread resources and expertise across all levels of the industry and ”do what makes sense for that (individual) business.”

“As we go into more advanced manufacturing, it’s going to mean implementing cost savings and increased efficiencies,” he said. “In conjunction with that, we can help with workforce training to bring our (workers) up to the levels needed by industry. If we want to be globally competitive, then we’re going to have to do (what’s necessary) to keep those jobs here in Utah.”