On Thursday, Florida TaxWatch (FTW) released an economic commentary entitled “Built for Success: Manufacturing’s Role in Florida’s Economy.”
The report evaluates the significant impact of manufacturing on Florida’s economy and outlines opportunities for growth, which the taxpayer research institute notes will require a collaborative approach, involving both the public and private sectors, as well as strategic investment in human capital.
Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro weighed in on the report.
“Florida has a robust economy that continues to thrive despite the COVID-19 pandemic. To build on that success over time, manufacturing must be a priority, and we must focus on new technology and workforce development, while promoting a favorable business climate,” he said.
“Fortunately, manufacturing in Florida is already strong, as there are more than 22,000 establishments producing a variety of goods across urban and rural areas,” Calabro added. “And despite the pandemic, there are currently 405,000 workers in the industry, an increase of over 16,000 since February 2020. These jobs pay approximately 116 percent of average annual wages in the state, stimulating considerable economic activity and a ‘multiplier effect’ on other sectors, such as trade and logistics. In fact, for every $1 in manufactured goods, $3.60 is produced throughout all other sectors in Florida.
“Moving forward, our primary goals should be to maintain a well-equipped talent pipeline capable of adapting to rapid technological shifts, which can be accomplished through initiatives like FloridaMakes’ Industrial Manufacturing Technician apprenticeship program and training grants offered by CareerSource Florida, and also reauthorizing performance-based programs in targeted industries to support the state’s diversification, resilience, and ability to competitively recruit manufacturing business. Though ongoing developments in international trade and supply chains may present challenges, Florida TaxWatch stands ready to engage in these efforts, as appropriate, and help ensure our state remains an economic powerhouse in a post-pandemic world,” Calabro continued.
According to FTW, between 2015 and 2019, Florida added manufacturing jobs at nearly three times the national rate, and in 2021, the industry contributed $56.1 billion in direct economic output (after adjusting for inflation), with durable goods, such as electronics and vehicles, accounting for 64 percent and nondurable goods, including food and chemicals, constituting the remaining 36 percent.
FTW notes that, from 2010 to 2021, productivity growth in the manufacturing industry grew by 17 percent. Though impressive in historical context, this rate lags when compared to other heavy industrial states – in 2021, the national average for manufacturing productivity (output per worker) was $188,879, with Florida’s measuring $144,481.
Government, the business community, and education partners will be integral to bolstering this sector and ultimately Florida’s success in the years ahead. FTW recommends tapping into underutilized adult talent pools – veterans, individuals with disabilities, etc. – and attracting the next generation of manufacturers in K-12 settings to dismantle any negative perceptions or stigmas surrounding manufacturing careers.
FTW also suggests incorporating “Industry 4.0” technologies – powering interconnectivity, machine learning, real-time data, automation, artificial intelligence, and other smart manufacturing methods – into core curriculum in order to provide students the necessary skills for future manufacturing.
Moreover, the benefit of economic development tools with a proven return on investment (ROI) to the manufacturing industry cannot be overstated, particularly the Qualified Targeted Industry (QTI) program. The QTI program expired in 2020 despite having an impressive ROI of 5.3 – the largest of any statewide economic development program – which FTW asserts puts Florida at a disadvantage when competing with states like Georgia and Texas.
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