The Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce is making strides towards enhancing our local economy and resources. The Chamber is pushing for local manufacturing, and also also pushing public policy to improve the business climate, such as recommending changes to lower utility rates charged by Gainesville Regional Utilities.
From The Gainesville Sun - By Anthony Clark
Local manufacturers heard from people who are trying to seize opportunities at the state and local level Wednesday evening as manufacturing returns to the U.S. from overseas.
“The notion that we’re losing our manufacturing base is false,” said Al Stimac, president of the Manufacturing Association of Florida. “If anything, I think we’re seeing more reshoring.”
Stimac addressed about 50 people at a meeting of the Advanced Manufacturing Association of North Central Florida at the offices of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Stimac said a tremendous number of companies are coming back to the U.S. as they look beyond cheap labor costs to savings in costs of natural gas and shipping.
He said the U.S. also protects intellectual property, which is a problem in countries such as China and the U.S.
The sentiment was echoed by two people in the audience, including Mark Davidson of Florida Tech Toybox, a Gainesville nonprofit that helps companies make prototypes before manufacturing.
“I’ve had two clients in the last several months who have come to me and said, ‘I need you to help me get out of China. We’ve lost our designs. China won’t give them back to us. Our manufacturers and the people across the street are stealing them from us and we need you to redo our designs.’”
Stimac said the state association lobbies legislators to push for tax breaks, training funds and reduced regulations.
The state organization’s top priority for 2014 is for legislation to fund matching grants for universities to conduct research and development, Stimac said.
Deborah Bowie, vice president of chamber development, said she recently returned from a meeting with state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater where he emphasized that the state is making a big push for manufacturing. One reason for the push is that manufacturing has the largest multiplier effect of any industry with each $1 spent leading to $1.35 in additional economic activity, she said.
She said the chamber is trying to increase awareness about local manufacturing.
County Commission Chairman Lee Pinkoson cited a report showing that manufacturing accounts for 3.3 percent of the local economy, about half the state average.
“There’s no reason we can’t compete in Alachua County and the city of Gainesville with Innovation Gainesville and all the incubators we have,” he said. “Those people create ideas. Hopefully what we can do is create an environment where they want to stay here.”
Susan Davenport, vice president of economic development for the Chamber and Council for Economic Outreach, said manufacturing and information technology were the top sectors based on the number of economic development projects she handled last month.
Of 38 projects, 13 were in manufacturing, including seven potential relocations, five expansion and one retention project of a business that is thinking about leaving.
The Chamber is also pushing public policy to improve the business climate, such as recommending changes to lower utility rates charged by Gainesville Regional Utilities.
Mayor Ed Braddy said he has been working with the Chamber to implement 27 recommendations from small businesses to city government through a small business task force.
“But I need help,” he said. “So this is my plug for being conscious of more pro-business candidates who run for local office.”
Pinkoson said he is interested in having the Chamber take a look at county government “once they get the city all squared away.”