In a great illustration of interstate cooperation to create jobs and spur investment, 20 organizations from across Southwestern PA, Southeastern Ohio, and Central-Northern West Virginia recently submitted a proposal in response to the Make it in America Challenge, jointly issued by the Economic Development Administration, the Employment and Training Administration, and the National Institute for Standards and Testing. Though the Power of 32 region served as the starting point for the team, Charleston, WV was included to build a stronger team.
"The conversation on regional interstate economic development is becoming more robust, deeper and more collaborative," says David Satterfield, Interim Director, West Virginia Manufacturing Extension Partnership. "We are seeing that many of our challenges and opportunities are similar. The Power of 32 is changing some of the systemic thinking and the ways we are acting and interacting. We have a greater value and greater leverage as a region."
Led by Catalyst Connection, the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board, and the West Virginia Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the $4.1 million proposal outlined the creation of the Manufacturing Power Network (MPN).
The Manufacturing Power Network (MPN) is focused on the following industry sectors:
- Energy both from a manufactured product sector with opportunities presented by shale gas in a pursuit of energy independence, as well as a cost advantage due to recent cost reductions due to impact of shale play. Shale production and lower energy costs are also opening up additional opportunities in the Chemical sector.
- Manufacturing, specifically advanced manufacturing, which is becoming catalyzed in the region through the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute and our region's emerging strength in the Robotics sector.
The MPN has been developed with the goal of providing a seamless and responsive network for manufacturers to access a host of services as they contemplate on-shoring and domestic retention of manufacturing activities.
According to Satterfield, the MPN "will identify partners and suppliers that could move closer together to save costs in the supply chain; take advantage of an inventory of regional "switch ready" buildings; and provide comprehensive workforce training, including custom OJT for high-demand occupations."
According to Petra Mitchell, President and CEO of the Catalyst Connection, regional interstate economic development is very important.
"The Manufacturing Power Network is unique because it crosses state lines," Mitchell points out. "Integrating three states, particularly around energy makes sense. We have an energy economy with the Shale Gas production. Manufacturers aren't looking at state lines, they are looking for customers that need what they have." We want to expand that geography, which would be good for everybody in the region."
The Manufacturing Partner Network has submitted a compelling proposal, and whether or not the team receives grant funding, the P32+ region has already benefited.
"The concept of the partnership is going to live with or without the grant funding," claims Mitchell. "We have already convened and discussed strategies for supporting manufacturing in the region. There is going to be a lot of benefit from the process; the interaction will continue and the region will benefit from our efforts."