WIRE-Net's first Manufacturing Outlook survey of 2011 finds reason for
optimism, as over half of the responding manufacturers project adding new
employees in 2011, and 66% project sales increases of 5% or more in the coming
187 companies responded to the survey, conducted by WIRE-Net and GLWN. A
majority reported both positive hiring experience in 2010, and optimistic hiring
projections for 2011. According to John Colm, WIRE-Net's President and Executive
Director, "51% of our manufacturing leaders reported adding people in 2010,
compared to just 7% in the middle of 2009. Additionally, 56% project adding more
workers in 2011." Colm noted that 66% believe 2011 will be a better year for
profits than in 2010, whereas just 6% believed so in mid-2009.
As for priorities, manufacturers report that "Growing Sales" remains the most
critical issue, but finding appropriately skilled workers is creeping back in to
the equation. 42% of respondents said sales growth was their top issue (it was
68% in August 2009), and 20% said labor skills and availability was the top
issue, compared to just 8% in August 2009. Colm noted that almost 70% of the
firms had sales below $11 million. "These small and midsized firms have the
toughest time finding the right talent," Colm said. "It's tough competing with
bigger firms, and finding good talent also requires having good recruitment and
assessment procedures in place. Small firms are challenged on both fronts."
The profit picture for 2010 was better for 66%, compared to just 6% of
respondents in 2009.
Colm said that WIRE-Net is responding to these issues by expanding and
developing two market development initiatives to help companies grow their sales
by diversifying into new growing or emerging markets. "In 2007, we launched our
Great Lakes WIND Network, now just GLWN, to connect North American firms to business
opportunities in the wind industry. In 2010, working with our colleagues at
MAGNET, we are developing the New Markets Initiative to develop pathways to new
markets for more companies," Colm said. "We are talking now to customers in the
medical manufacturing, solar energy, water and aerospace markets to identify
market segments where they have ‘pain in their supply chain' and where there may
be opportunities for domestic manufacturers."
Ed Weston, Director of WIRE-Net's GLWN, said that his team is also
undertaking a market expansion effort. "The recession led to a stall in new wind
farm development in 2009-2010," Weston said, "yet developments that were already
in the pipeline were moving forward and there is also significant repair and
remanufacture business developing as installed turbines come out of warranty."
Weston said that GLWN saw an opportunity to help more manufacturing and
construction firms identify new business opportunities." GLWN began delivering
its technical workshops on the repair, maintenance, construction and
installation side of the wind business late in 2010, and is now expanding its
programs into other states, including West Virginia, Montana, Illinois and
Indiana. GLWN is working in partnership with the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation
and each of the state's Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEP) to help
domestic manufacturers learn about the requirements of the wind market.