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URC Report: High-Tech Manufacturing Alive And Well In Mich.

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More than 381,000 people at 11,000 Michigan firms are working in high-tech, highly productive advanced manufacturing jobs — nearly two-thirds of the state’s manufacturing base, according to a new University Research Corridor study.

URC institutions Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University support advanced manufacturing at every step of the product development lifecycle from the idea stage to design and testing to commercialization to business operations, the study shows.

In their 2009 fiscal year, the URC universities invested more than $101.9 million in advanced manufacturing R&D and had active research awards of more than $425 million. The study was released Wednesday as part of a three-campus URC bus tour showcasing the proximity between the three partners and research strength of Michigan’s world-class research intensive universities.

“The future of manufacturing can be found all around the URC, from the lab space where science turns into discovery to commercial technologies creating new companies and job growth,” said URC executive director Jeff Mason. “We wanted to quantify, catalogue and show rather than tell how our research universities can help Michigan speed up the transformation from an old manufacturing economy to a knowledge-based economy with hundreds of thousands of high-wage, high-skilled advanced manufacturing jobs.”

The report, prepared by East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group, shows Michigan’s particular strengths in research-related advanced manufacturing: a third of the research and testing jobs in the Midwest are in Michigan and more than half of the state’s advanced manufacturers are seeing productivity gains exceeding the U.S. average while employing 10 percent of the state’s workforce.

“This report provides, in great detail, hard evidence that manufacturing is alive and well in Michigan today, and that much of the manufacturing now done in Michigan is high-tech, high productivity advanced manufacturing,” said AEG founder Patrick Anderson. As jobs have been cut or moved to lower-wage markets, the state has been unfairly “saddled with a reputation for being very good at something that is no longer relevant, modern or particularly useful in the 21st century,” Anderson said.

The report acknowledges that 27 percent of the U.S. private sector jobs lost nationwide over the past decade were in Michigan and that the state’s overall manufacturing employment has dropped by more than a third since 2001. Still, advanced manufacturing fared much better than manufacturing as a whole, seeing fewer losses and greater wage gains.

“While manufacturing’s share of total employment has declined steadily since the mid-1950s, the number of manufacturing jobs has remained steady at around 20 million nationwide,” the report states.

AEG divided advanced manufacturers into three categories all with URC relationships: advanced products and processes (about half the jobs), emerging manufacturers and “research relevant” companies that have the closest ties to URC institutions.

The “research relevant” cluster employed 124,610 Michigan workers in 2007, generating average salaries of $81,175 per year, beating the Midwest and national averages.

While the auto industry has gone through a massive transformation that cut jobs, highly productive Michigan industries seeing good productivity gains include businesses such as office furniture manufacturing, medical equipment and supplies, transportation equipment manufacturers and chemical manufacturers.

The report catalogs numerous companies that have partnered with or grown out of URC research as well as 33 centers or laboratories working directly with advanced manufacturing firms.

Advanced manufacturing’s share of total employment is 10.3 percent of Michigan jobs and 16.2 percent of payroll, vs. 7.9 percent and 11.6 percent respectively for the U.S. as a whole.

Advanced manufacturing salaries rose to $64,122 in 2007 from $56.969 in 2003, vs. overall manufacturing salaries of $51,701 and $47,138 respectively and all industries’ salaries of $40,935 and $37,057.

The URC was launched by the state’s three research university presidents in late 2006 to align their resources to transform, strengthen and diversify Michigan’s economy. Previous reports have looked at other emerging sectors of promise with potential for great job growth including life sciences and new energy technologies.

Said MSU president Lou Anna K. Simon: “Manufacturing continues to play a very important role in the state’s economy, but it will require a more skilled and educated work force than was the case for our parents’ generation. Universities are helping to shape the high-tech, high-wage future of manufacturing in Michigan — through our research, our education, our commitment to tech transfer and our industry partnerships.”

Added Wayne State president Jay Noren: “This report does an excellent job of describing in detail the URC’s role in the advanced manufacturing process, from research and development through the education of tomorrow’s leaders and innovators in present and emerging high-tech fields — a comprehensive network of support that will pay off for all sectors of Michigan’s economy.”

To read the full report, visit: http://urcmich.org/news/pdf/advanced-manufacturing.pdf.

For more on the URC and its offerings, visit: www.urcmich.org

(c) 2010, WWJ Newsradio 950. All rights reserved.

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