By Brad Whitehead, President, Fund for Our Economic Future, and Deborah D. Hoover, President and CEO, Burton D. Morgan Foundation
Northeast Ohio has many assets around which it is building an economy for the next century: a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem, a rich manufacturing history, a growing and innovative bioscience cluster, a robust higher education sector, a deeply-rooted philanthropic community ... we could go on. But there is one asset you've probably never heard of that could yield significant economic growth over the next decade if we dedicate ourselves to releasing its full potential. That asset is America Makes, the national accelerator for additive manufacturing and 3-D printing.
America Makes was established in August 2012 in Youngstown by a broad, cross-regional partnership. The mission of America Makes is to accelerate the research and development of additive manufacturing and to transition technology to the U.S. manufacturing industry. Since its founding, it has leveraged substantial public and private dollars to assist organizations around the country. Closer to home, Northeast Ohio has yet to tap the full potential of America Makes.
To better understand the market opportunities in additive manufacturing and 3-D printing, and how Northeast Ohio might capitalize on the technology advancements happening at America Makes, the Fund for Our Economic Future supported an assessment with the end goal of creating a clear vision and appropriate next steps. This work involved sizing the market, prioritizing focus areas, and identifying who is (or could be) involved. The result is an "Asset Map of Additive Manufacturing Opportunities in Northeast Ohio," jointly authored and released this week by a team from the Youngtown Business Incubator (YBI), Team NEO, MAGNET, and America Makes.
So, what did the report tell us?
The findings should make your head turn. And they will hopefully motivate our private, public, and civic sector leaders to take action. The bottom line: We are well-positioned to win in this market. Additive manufacturing could result in as many as 65,000 jobs over the next 15 years in the state of Ohio, improve the competitiveness of our existing manufacturing sector, shift high-value occupations into the region, and capture attractive new markets.
According to the authors, this opportunity is relevant to 1,900 metal fabricators and 800 plastic processors, who collectively employ more than 100,000 people, or about 5 percent of our regional workforce.
And what did we learn about how to seize the opportunity?
First and foremost, we must work with our local manufacturing community and the entities who serve them to drive adoption of these technologies in the face of skepticism and inertia. We also learned that we must equip our workforce and help individuals transition into the digital manufacturing era. Underlying all of this will be the development of partnerships, since no single entity can do this alone. The good news is that our region has become good at forming and managing partnerships. And that extends to the manufacturing sector. In fact, it was the preexisting partnerships of more than 50 players within the region that led to the federal designation of Northeast Ohio as the host of America Makes.
With all of this in mind, we hope to make good on the vision of Northeast Ohio as a national leader in additive manufacturing by 2023.