by Bob Zaruta, President/CEO, NWIRC

In February 2021, data was released by the State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI), identifying the manufacturing sector as a critical component of Pennsylvania’s existing economy and future economic vitality. More specifically, the report which analyzed Gross State Product (GSP) and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) metrics from 2019, highlighted the manufacturing sector as the top producer of wealth in 31 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties and among the top three (3) sectors in 47 counties across the Commonwealth. SSTI is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving initiatives that support prosperity through science, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Manufacturers in PA typically know the important role they have to the economic growth of their communities, as do the economic development organizations (such as NWIRC) who work with companies in this industry sector. But still, it’s important to have organizations, such as SSTI, release their studies to heighten this awareness.

To further emphasize the importance of manufacturing in PA, here are some other fun facts of PA’s ranking in manufacturing:

  • 8th in products for Department of Defense (DoD)
  • 6th in provision of medical supplies
  • 4th in food and beverage products
  • 8th in total industrial output

Each day, nearly 580,000 Pennsylvanians work in manufacturing- answering the call to produce more than $95 billion worth of goods for demands throughout the world. And we aren’t just talking about huge organizations. Over 90% of the manufacturing companies in PA (15,000) have fewer than 250 employees.
All of this work doesn’t happen without a lot ‘blood, sweat, and tears’ – and innovation. We’ve all heard how businesses during the pandemic have had to reinvent themselves, manufacturers pivoting to make PPE products and hand sanitizer, or reshoring their supply chain. Innovation is in the DNA of those who choose manufacturing as a career and something that must be constantly evolving. Even iconic companies, such as Zippo in Bradford PA, has had to continually optimize their process for innovation. During a recent Manufacturing Innovation Summit hosted by MANTEC (our sister-IRC), Zippo VP of Innovation, John Sicher, outlined their evolution and how they have focused on “visibility, accountability, processes, and tools” as their key to innovation.

Innovation isn’t just about technology or invention. When it comes to manufacturing, innovation can be about changing your business model, enhancing supplier relationships, generating new leads, improving with lean, becoming green to combat energy costs, and so much more. NWIRC, as part of the NIST MEP* National Network and one of the PA Industrial Resource Centers, for over 30 years has been focused on assisting manufacturers in northwestern PA to innovate, an important role since our region of PA is at the top for manufacturing GDP.

*National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership.