GrowFL Now Accepting Applications 2017 Florida Companies to Watch Awards

Second-Stage Businesses Compete to Earn Prestigious Honor

Applications are open for the seventh annual Florida Companies to Watch® awards program. The event will honors 50 select second-stage companies from throughout the state for developing valuable products and services, creating quality jobs, enriching communities, and creating new industries throughout Florida.

Eligible applicants must be privately held, second-stage commercial enterprises. Qualifying companies must also be headquartered in the state of Florida, employ between 6 and 150 employees, and earn between $750,000 and $100 million in annual revenue. A selection panel of judges representing areas of finance, technology, entrepreneurship and small business select honorees that have demonstrated past and future growth opportunities, entrepreneurial leadership, product innovation, community responsibility and competitive business practices. Applications are open through May 6, 2017.  CLICK HERE to start the application process.

Economic Impact of 2016 Winning Companies

$421 million in total annual revenue in 2015 29 percent increase in total annual revenue compared to 2014 2,171 full-time equivalent employees 30 percent increase in 2015 total employment compared to 2014 719 net new jobs projected for 2016

Increasing Impact

From 2012 through 2015, these companies generated more than $1.1 billion in revenue and added nearly 1,200 employees, reflecting a 119 percent increase in revenue and 122 percent increase in jobs for the four-year period. That translates into a 30 percent annual growth in both revenue and employees.

These companies project continued growth in 2016, with a 30 percent revenue increase and 33 percent growth in employees compared to 2015. If their projections hold, these companies will have generated $1.7 billion in revenue and added more than 1,900 employees over the last five years — a 186 percent increase in revenue and 196 percent increase in jobs since 2012.

Aerospace Technologies Group
American Elite Molding, LLC
Analytics Partners
Automotive Broadcasting Network
Bracken Engineering, Inc.
CO2Meter, Inc.
Commercial Acoustics
DynaFire, Inc.
Findsome & Winmore
Gator Cleaning Solutions
Hell’s Bay Marine, Inc. dba Hell’s Bay Boatworks
Interventions Unlimited, Inc.
IT Authorities
iVenture Solutions, Inc.
Jeremiah’s Italian Ice
Jerry Harvey Audio
JK2 Construction & Scenic
JMX Brands
Karins Engineering Group, Inc.
Key Lime Interactive, LLC
OZNaturals, LLC
Pegasus Transportation
PrimeGroup Insurance
Private Label Skin
Progressive Dental
Science First
TerraCom Direct
That’s Us Technologies
The Spice Lab
Wicked Dolphin Distillery
Widerman Malek, PL
Wood’s Fisheries, Inc.
Woof Gang Bakery
X-Link Medical Software Interfacing
Xeleum Lighting, LLC

Interested in being a part of the elite list? CLICK HERE for more details on the 2017 Florida Companies to Watch.



​Massive Navy expansion may be easier said than done for U.S. shipbuilders

Courtesy of Jacksonville Business Journal

The shipyards of General Dynamics Corp. (NYSE: GD) and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. (NYSE: HII) are going to be busy if President Donald Trump follows through on his repeated pledges to massively increase the size of the Navy— but that won’t come without its challenges.

Increasing the fleet from 274 ships to 350, as Trump plans to do, might provide a revenue boost to the likes of General Dynamics. But it also entails some “operational risk,” according to a Thursday report from credit analyst firm Moody’s Investors Service Inc. The reason? “A build-up (let alone of such magnitude) has not occurred for many decades.”

I spoke with Bruce Herskovics, a senior analyst at Moody’s, about the big challenges the nation’s two shipbuilders will face in meeting Trump’s quota, and he said it largely comes down to the labor force.

Naval shipbuilding has slowed down so much in recent years that it even prompted Huntington Ingalls to close its shipyard in Avondale, Louisiana, in October 2014. That lends fewer resources to a larger job.

“It’s a big industrial manpower effort when you’re going to build a large number of ships coming off of a low base level,” Herskovics said. “You need to have a whole supply chain of labor that extends from high schools all the way to trained tradespeople willing to step up the volume.”

Navy ships are massive undertakings involving a lot of skilled labor. In the time it takes to build a single project, big chunks of the workforce can move on, and shipbuilders didn’t need to replace them given they were working on increasingly fewer ships. Now shipbuilders must ask themselves, “How do we get the supply chain of our labor force back to a level it needs to be at so we can meet this uptick in work?” Herskovics said.

Couple that with Trump’s plans to aggressively cut costs on the actual ships — and higher labor costs at a lower product price could be a tough calculus for shipbuilders.

Navel Ship

“We’ve gotta get a good deal,” Trump told workers at Huntington Ingalls’ Newport News shipyards during a visit Thursday. “If we don’t make a good deal we’re not doing our job. The same boat for less money. The same ship for less money. The same airplanes for less money. … It means we’re going to get more of them and we can use them.”

Herskovics agreed any increase in shipbuilding is likely going to involve multiyear, fixed-price contracts that lock in contractors.

“An administration that’s new that’s seeking to ramp up the build rate is likely looking to buy the ships at a price that is reasonable, so the Navy is going to be smart about what it pays for,” he said. “For the contractor, they have to be careful when they’re ramping up the workforce that they can make sure that they meet the cost that they baked into the bids that they put forward.”

Shipbuilders are already preparing for potentially lower margins. Huntington Ingalls, for example, plans to invest $1.5 billion in the next five years to help contain costs.

“We are focused on reducing costs in all of our shipbuilding programs,” Huntington Ingalls spokeswoman Beci Brenton wrote to me in an email. “We see the most progress in reducing costs in those programs that are mature and where we are have stable requirements, can leverage the economic advantages of block buys, and are in serial production.”

The good news? Navy officials have indicated that the major shipyards have the capacity to up their production.

“These yards have the ability, even in their existing facility and footprint, to dial up the production rate,” General Dynamics CFO Jason Aiken told investors last month at Barclays Industrial Select Conference in Miami.

James Bach covers federal contracting.

The State of American Business: Help Aviation Fly High

Plane in Flight

Courtesy of The US Chamber of Commerce

In his State of American Business speech U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue noted that aviation was an important part of “making America’s infrastructure the best in the world.”

Ahead of the 16th U.S. Chamber Aviation Summit on Thursday, let’s take a brief look at the state of American aviation and what policies are needed to support it.

Like a carbon fiber wing, the state of American aviation is strong.

Airlines as a business are healthy. In 2016, the number of domestic passengers increased by a little more than 3%. There’s plenty of confidence in the industry. A Gallup poll found the airline industry has its highest positive rating in 15 years. What’s more, the top four domestic airlines generating reliable profits has attracted America’s most-famous investor, Warren Buffett.

Air cargo is also healthy. Domestic air freight increased by 3.75% in 2016—its biggest gain since 2010.

There’s also strength in aircraft manufacturing. Through complex, job-supporting global supply chains, Boeing delivered 748 planes in 2016, and Airbus opened their first U.S. factory in Mobile, Ala. in 2016.

American aviation is also stretching beyond our atmosphere with private sector companies innovating and pushing the boundaries of space travel. The United Launch Alliance regularly launches satellites for NASA and the U.S. military, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX supplies the International Space Station white striving for a bigger goal: Mars.

There’s much that policymakers can do to support the continued health of this vibrant, innovative industry.

Airports are a key component to our infrastructure, so investing in improvements and modernizing the roads connecting them with cities and communities will ease the movement of both passengers and cargo. Any infrastructure-improvement legislation should include improving air travel.

In addition, later this year, Congress will need to pass legislation reauthorizing the FAA. This legislation needs to continue work toward a modernized Air Traffic Control System, and it should continue to grow Airport Improvement Program investment to meet infrastructure needs.

Doing these things will make air transportation more reliable, safe, and secure, and it will ensure that aviation continues lift our economy into the future.

Brazilian company opening first U.S. manufacturing facility in Jacksonville


Courtesy of Jacksonville Business Journal

Reporter Derek Gilliam

A Brazilian plastic bottle recycler has signed a lease for 100,000 square feet in Jacksonville to open its first U.S. facility, according to JaxUSA Partnership.

Mike Breen, a senior director with a focus on international projects for JaxUSA Partnership, said Clodam do Brasil signed the 100,000-square-foot lease at a warehouse at  5220 New Kings Road in Northwest Jacksonville.

The company will invest $7 million in the facility and hire 30 people to operate it.

The company will operate under the facility as Florida Plastic Recycling LLC.

“They have brought in two gigantic machines they purchased in Germany,” he said. “Those are the ones that do the cleaning, sorting, chopping up and production of plastic flakes.”

Breen said the company did not seek public incentives and was attracted to Jacksonville because of the transportation infrastructure in place. Specifically, Breen cited access to Jacksonville’s port and the interstate system.

“One of the key factors was the logistical location where they could easily reach their customers,” he said. “It wasn’t just Jacksonville as a region. The port, the interstates and the rail was very important. … They can bring plastic in by rail, road and ship.”

Clodam do Brasil plans to ship in plastic bottles to the Northwest Jacksonville site, where the company will then produce plastic chips to be used by other companies.

JaxUSA Partnership worked with Clodam do Brasil for about a year. He said the company was looking across Northeast Florida and South Georgia for an appropriate facility.

Jacksonville was also picked, he said, because of workforce availability in technology fields. He said the fact that Jacksonville is a city that recycles also helped attract the company.

The main questions that company officials had for JaxUSA Partnership centered around navigating the city’s bureaucracy, Breen said. He said the company officials did not encounter difficulties once they were directed to the right resources.

“They were very pleasantly surprised about how easily it was to work through that process,” he said.

Welcome to the Automation Revolution

robot-hand-clicking-buttonCourtesy of USA Today

by Nathan Bomey

BALTIMORE — The patter of automated machinery fills the air inside wire-basket manufacturer Marlin Steel’s bustling factory in a rugged industrial section of this city.

Maxi Cifarelli, 25, of Baltimore, peers through safety goggles at a flat screen, her left knee bent and heel resting on her chair.

Two years after earning a fine arts degree from Towson University with a specialty in interdisciplinary object design, she now spends her work days working with a personality-free machine with a name to match: a computer numerical control, or CNC, router.

With automation poised to sweep through the economy, some fear that it will kill more jobs than it creates.

But Cifarelli’s experience is the opposite. She befriended automation, instead of fighting it, and she has a job because of it.

“I haven’t named it,” she said, peering over at the robotic machinery. “I should name it.”

Cifarelli is one of 33 employees at Marlin Steel, which has undergone a transformation. Employees used to make wire baskets by hand. Now automation has taken over. High-tech machines do most of the work — and the plant needs workers willing to adapt their skill sets to survive in a rapidly changing economy.

Automation has allowed Marlin Steel to thrive, but across the country, workers feel threatened. Donald Trump catapulted into the White House by giving voice to those fears and promising to save American factories and jobs by rewriting trade deals, taxing imports and removing regulations.

Futurists have warned for years that automation will take your job. Now it’s happening, albeit in pockets, at manufacturers, warehouses and even some labor-intensive white-collar professions.

As the political debate rages over how to inject fresh energy into the American economy with Trump taking office, automation presents perhaps the greatest threat to the American economy.

But it may also reflect its greatest opportunity if workers take the Cifarelli route and embrace robotics, artificial intelligence and automation. Either way, it’s poised to accelerate — and if not here, then in foreign countries that will reap the benefits while the American economy suffers a competitive disadvantage.

About 49% of worker activities can be turned over to some sort of machine or robot, increasingly helped along by artificial-intelligence software, according to consultancy McKinsey.

About 58% of CEOs plan to cut jobs over the next five years because of robotics, while 16% say they plan to hire more people because of robotics, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey.

As artificial intelligence programs proliferate, automation won’t be confined to the factory floor. Positions that involve a substantial amount of predictable work, such as data processing, could succumb to automated software and artificial intelligence.

McKinsey counted more than 70 entire professions in which at least 90% of activities can be automated, ranging from mail clerks to ophthalmic lab technicians, tire-repairers, butchers, food preparers and bakers.

But many Americans don’t think they need to adapt, with 80% saying their job definitely or probably will exist in its current form in 50 years, according to the Pew Research Center.

“We often think about automation as applying to front-line, low-wage, low-skill activities and jobs — and what we’ve discovered is there are some activities that are high-wage, high-skill that are actually very susceptible to automation,” said Michael Chui, a McKinsey Global Institute partner in San Francisco who studies the issue. “Almost every job in the economy has a significant percentage of activities that can be automated.”

The professional service robot industry expects to sell a third more units from 2016 through 2019 — 333,200 in all — than it sold in the past 17 years, says the International Federation of Robotics. They could be used in place of professionals, whether it’s medicine, agriculture, hospitality or even the supermarket down the street.


Restaurant workers. In fast-food, San Francisco-based Momentum Machines already makes a hamburger-flipping robot. Several chains are gradually introducing self-ordering stations.

Shelf stockers. In stores, San Francisco-based Bossa Nova Robotics has developed a robot that is checking shelf inventory in a test at Lowe’s, the home-improvement chain.

Journalists. Automated Insights has created a software suite called WordSmith that writes thousands of automated stories every month, including Minor League Baseball game accounts and earnings reports for the Associated Press, basketball game recaps for Yahoo! Sports and financial content for dozens of other clients.

Bookkeepers. Accountants — perceived as a steady 9-to-5 job with an average salary of $67,190 in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — are poised for a total makeover. About one in five people in the finance and insurance sector primarily perform data processing — and about 85% of that work can be automated, McKinsey estimates.


“The basic gist of it is the more certainty your job entails the more likely is to be automated out,” said Mary (Missy) Cummings, a Duke University professor and director of the Humans and Autonomy Lab.

In other words, the more predictable your daily routine is, the more likely your job is to go away.

It’s already happening. Walmart announced plans in September to cut 7,000 bookkeeping and store accounting positions as it automates cash management and centralizes the process at its headquarters.

In accounting, nimble firms will transition their focus to advising clients based on insights gleaned from automated data. Audits may go from an annual process to a continuous action. Software will increasingly handle the “high-volume, routine, non-judgmental” activities in real time, said Bill Brennan, audit transformation leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

PwC is now hiring employees for its auditing business with backgrounds in science, technology and engineering.

“We need those individuals to help us as we get into data analysis, analytics, data security, cloud computing. The future employee is going to have a combination of those skills,” Brennan said.

Cifarelli knows. At Marlin Steel, her college-level education pays off in production work. Pecking periodically at a computer mouse, she delivers detailed instructions, programming the machine to carve small canyons in wood to hold wire that is later welded together with automated equipment to make precision wire baskets, accurate to within 2/1000ths of an inch.

She’s bonded with her CNC, which she has come to think of as a robot companion.

“I need the robot to ensure consistency,” Cifarelli said. “Over the past year, I’ve become really accustomed to the sounds and the movements of it. I can really predict what’s gonna happen. We’re kind of a team.”

For Marlin Steel, the problem was straightforward: Automate or die. In the early 2000s, factory workers at the 48-year-old company were forming the big metal baskets typically seen in bagel shops by hand-bending wire at a rate of 300 bends per hour in a grueling manual process.

“They all had huge right arms,” Marlin Steel CEO and owner Drew Greenblatt said.

When emerging overseas competitors swooped in and undercut the company on labor costs, producing baskets for less than $6 each to Marlin’s $12, sales cratered.

“Our entire business model blew up and we were hemorrhaging,” Greenblatt said. “China was exporting baskets into Manhattan for cheaper than I could buy the steel.”

To fight back, the company purchased robotic wire-forming machines and other automated equipment to manufacture precision wire baskets and other metal products for customers that required a higher-quality product, such as Boeing, General Motors, Harley-Davidson and Disney.

Because of automation, Marlin Steel nearly doubled its workforce over the last decade to 33 employees and boosted pay from minimum wage when Greenblatt acquired the company to at least $15 per hour today, with some employees making more than $30.

“It’s only viable because my employees are like on steroids,” Greenblatt said. “All of a sudden they’re super productive and it’s because we’ve given them the tools — it’s robotics and automation. Thank God for robots. If it wasn’t for robots, these guys would be unemployed.”

Foreign competition

Marlin Steel may have been ahead of its time.

Industrial robots have hit an inflection point — powered by cost reductions and technological improvements in visioning, sensing and gripping — and are poised to accelerate. Although they only perform 10% of tasks in manufacturing today, they will perform 25% by 2025, according to a study by Boston Consulting Group.

In one tangible sign of increased automation, those technological improvements have ushered in the dawn of the “collaborative robot,” unleashing automation from protective cages and placing the machinery right next to humans, with sensors protecting the worker and ensuring efficiency. Barclays analysts estimate that global sales of so-called “cobots” will balloon from 4,100 units and $120 million in 2015 to 701,000 and $12 billion in 2025.And it’s happening globally. China, for example, is not wasting any time. Amid all the political consternation over alleged currency manipulation and global trade advantages, China is expected to double its installation of industrial robots from 75,000 in 2015 to 150,000 in 2018, nearly four times the rate of North America, according to the International Federation of Robotics.

Trump has repeatedly pledged to bring manufacturing back to the U.S., even suggesting that Apple’s iPhone could be made here and exhorting Apple CEO Tim Cook to do so. But that might not be possible without massive automation to make it cost-effective to manufacture in the U.S.

Apple’s iPhone manufacturer, Foxconn, in fact, has already begun automating certain work that was previously done by hand. A Chinese government official told a Hong Kong newspaper in May that Foxconn had replaced 60,000 workers with robots at one factory there. And the company is receiving incentives north of Shanghai in the eastern-central Jiangsu Province to accelerate investments in robotics to replace human labor, according to Chinese state media organization Xinhua.

As automation advances, globalization will enter a new chapter in which low-cost labor becomes increasingly irrelevant. Unlike humans, robots don’t get paid an hourly wage. So it’s not much more expensive to operate a machine in a developed economy than it is in the developing world.

That could be good news for America because it may slow the outflow of investment to other countries.

“The fastest growing robotics user in the world is China because they understand that they want a lot of this manufacturing based on low-cost labor, but that’s not the whole game,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of the Association for Advancing Automation. “The game now more than ever is quality, speed and flexibility — and low-cost labor alone is not gonna do it.”

The downsides

Automation is a double-edged sword, though. Take the example of family-owned Ramsey, Minn.-based injection molder Dynamic Group.

The company recently boosted its production by 400% after installing robotic arms made by Universal Robots.

Automation bolstered the company’s capability to produce lower-volume, highly complex products that would otherwise not be profitable because the company could not afford to hire workers to craft and manufacture devices with limited commercial appeal.

“It’s really hard to be able to be competitive nation- and worldwide coming from this market and having to do that type of labor,” said Joe McGillivray, CEO of Dynamic Group, whose father co-founded the company in 1977. “We’re able to do more work, which will allow us to make more money and pay you better.”

Still, the downsides of automation are impossible to ignore. As advanced manufacturing companies adopt more automation, many workers won’t be needed.

McGillivray said that by installing robots, Dynamic Group expects to reduce its reliance on temporary workers. In the past, the company had occasionally hired up to 20 temp workers to aid its permanent staff of 106 workers.

Artificial intelligence

If automation evokes imagery of robots replacing humans, then its close relative, artificial intelligence, conjures fears of computers taking dominion over humans.

But those fears, while perhaps not unfounded in the distant future, fail to reflect AI’s emerging role as an assistant to people in the workplace.

At Boston-based start-up Lola, two executives who were almost single-handedly responsible for replacing travel agents with computers — that is, one of automation’s most obvious examples of displacement — are reviving the travel agent through artificial intelligence.

The 50-person company has developed an AI-based system — which basically just means a bunch of software algorithms — to aid human travel agents in making recommendations to travelers, booking accommodations and addressing itinerary hiccups.

“We think most travelers would rather talk to a human because the human will understand them 100% of the time, so we use the bots to back them up,” said Lola CEO Paul English, who co-founded travel listings site and served as the company’s chief technology officer. “If we’re successful we’ll have thousands of travel agents, perhaps tens of thousands of travel agents working exclusively for Lola.”

The AI, which English affectionately refers to as a bot, can crawl through a user’s email inbox, for example, to identify travel preferences and scheduling quirks. Those insights are translated into intelligence that the travel agents use to improve their customer’s experience.

For Lola Chairman Barney Harford, former CEO of travel booking site Orbitz and former executive at Expedia, it’s a sharp turn from his previous life ushering in the age of do-it-yourself travel.

“We are bringing humans back into the picture,” Harford said.

New York-based GRACE Aerospace to bring 25 jobs to Jacksonville

Grace Electronics Will Relocate Manufacturing to JacksonvilleAF-6 Flight 57Courtesy of Jacksonville Business Journal

New York-based GRACE Aerospace, formally GRACE Electronics, is expanding its operations in Jacksonville.

Grace is investing in its product manufacturing operations in Jacksonville and will be adding more than 25 jobs in the aviation sector over the next several years.

Founder and CEO Robert Carlo said GRACE is excited to be able to expand its operations in Jacksonville. He added that it is a privilege to be able to support the Navy and Fleet Readiness Centers and respond quickly to their needs.

GRACE Aerospace manufactures wire harnesses and other electronic equipment for military aircraft and has been in business for 26 years.

The company opened a satellite office at the Cecil Commerce Center about three years ago and currently leases 1,500 square feet. The expansion plan could see the aerospace manufacturing company expand its footprint by occupying about half of a 26,000 square foot facility.

The company lists Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems among its clients.

GRACE Electronics applied for a qualified target industry incentive that would grant the company a $5,000 tax rebate per job that it creates from the expansion project.

The city’s would be responsible 20 percent of the QTI incentives or $1,000 per job up to a total of $25,000.

Junior Skepple

Manufacturing Sector Contributes 33% Higher Wages


Courtesy of FloridaMakes

State’s Three Rural Areas of Opportunity

(ORLANDO, FL) Sept. 30, 2016 – A new study conducted in rural areas of Florida reveals that wages earned by those working in the manufacturing sector were among the highest locally compared to other industries and were almost 33 percent higher than average earnings in 2015.  The finding was part of a study conducted by FloridaMakes, the state’s national manufacturing extension partnership program, under a grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), to assess opportunities for retention and/or expansion of existing manufacturing firms in rural communities.

“This study provides new insight on the impact that manufacturing has in Florida’s three Rural Areas of Opportunities, as well as an analysis of the industry clusters that currently exist in those areas,” said Kevin Carr, FloridaMakes CEO.  “The results of this study will enable FloridaMakes and DEO to identify strategies and services to support manufacturing and further economic growth opportunities for these regions.”

The State of Florida has designated three Rural Areas of Opportunity as priority regions for the Rural Economic Development Initiative.  The Rural Areas of Opportunity are defined as areas that have “been hurt by an extraordinary economic event, severe or chronic distress, or a natural disaster or that present a unique economic development opportunity of regional impact.”  Florida Rural Areas of Opportunity, all of which were included in the study, are:

  • Northwest Rural Area of Opportunity (Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty, Wakulla, and Washington counties; and the City of Freeport in Walton County);
  • North Central Rural Area of Opportunity (Baker, Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, Putnam, Suwannee, Taylor, and Union counties); and
  • South Central Rural Area of Opportunity (DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, and Okeechobee counties; cities of Pahokee, Belle Glade, and South Bay-Palm Beach County, and Immokalee in Collier County.

Manufacturing from the three rural regions contributes nearly $1.8 billion to Florida’s economic output and represents 8 percent of the region’s total Gross Domestic Product.  In addition to supporting more than 16,000 jobs that pay over $800 million in earnings, manufacturers in these regions also pay $70 million a year in production taxes, generating a large impact on the regions in which they reside.

Manufacturing companies also purchase significant inputs from many other sectors including agricultural products and other production inputs, materials and supplies, professional services, and transportation services. And because manufacturing is a large exporter, it attracts outside dollars to the region while providing jobs and economic growth to those communities.

Among the study findings:

  • Each region has a high percentage of very small manufacturers, with fewer than five employees.
  • The North Central region is the most industrialized with more companies and more workers in manufacturing.
  • The wood products industry is significant in both the Northwest and the North Central regions.  Products derived from the yellow pine forests in northern Florida comprise the most important industries, including commodity product sawmills and pulp and paper mills, as well as higher value products such as trusses, millwork, and cabinets.
  • The chemical industry is important to all three regions.  More than 80 percent of the chemical firms have fewer than 50 employees.
  • Transport equipment, mostly boat building and servicing in the north, life rafts and airboats in the south, is also relatively important.
  • Cement and concrete products include blocks, bricks, roof tiles, septic tanks, and other finished products that pose more manufacturing challenges than ready-mix are important in the South Central region.

The full report, Rural Area Manufacturing Study:  An Assessment of Manufacturing in Florida’s Rural Areas and the Opportunities for Growth and Expansion, can be accessed on and click on ManuFacts.

For information about FloridaMakes and its services for manufacturers, visit or call (407) 450-7206.

FSCJ Receives America’s Promise Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor for Workforce Partnership Development

Courtesy of Florida State College at Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) was awarded the America’s Promise Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to strengthen and expand job training partnerships for the community. The only college in Florida to receive this grant, FSCJ will use the $1,804,656 award to support the School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics through advanced manufacturing training opportunities, specifically in mechatronics and welding technologies.

The grant was inspired by President Obama’s America’s College Promise plan to allow two free years of community college for responsible students. Designed to accelerate the development and expansion of workforce partnerships that provide a pipeline of skilled workers in specific, in-demand sectors, the grant requires partnerships that include industry leaders, senior-level leadership from workforce and economic development organizations, secondary and postsecondary education institutions, elected officials and other community stakeholders.

FSCJ’s regional workforce partners include Anheuser-Busch, First Coast Manufacturers Association, Kaman, FabTech Supply, Now Hiring Heroes, Pal-King, Remedy Staffing, Florida Advanced Technological Education Center of Excellence, Ameri-Force, NOVA, CareerSource Northeast Florida (First Coast Workforce Development), JAX Chamber, JAXUSA Partnership, United Way of Northeast Florida, Early Learning Coalition, City of Jacksonville Military Affairs and Veterans Department, Fresh Ministries, FSCJ’s Adult General Education Program and State of Florida Vocational Rehabilitation.

The grant award allows for a project that aims to develop and implement:

  • An accelerated 10-week core fundamentals boot camp focused on building essential manufacturing workforce skills as identified by employer partners;
  • A Core+ upskilling training component that can be customized to employer needs;
  • An America’s Promise Manufacturing Open Lab featuring effective hands-on and simulation skills assessment; and
  • Skills attainment through Work & Learn paid internships.

Over the four-year project period, FSCJ will serve a minimum of 250 participants from various populations, including low-income individuals, unemployed and underemployed workers, individuals with limited English proficiency, individuals with disabilities, military veterans and their spouses, and disadvantaged and underrepresented populations with barriers to employment. Credentials to be awarded include: OSHA 10, OSHA 30, MSSC-CPT, NIMS Level 1, Autodesk Certified User-AutoCAD, Autodesk Certified Professional-AutoCAD and AWS Basic Welder.

Already one of the most affordable options in the nation, FSCJ is working toward reducing students’ dependence on loans by offering many low- and no-cost options such as dual enrollment and scholarship opportunities for qualified candidates, developing paid internship and apprenticeship opportunities in key areas of employment to assist with paying down student loans and providing career mentorship programs translating to higher job placement and satisfaction.

“FSCJ is committed to providing access to the education and training necessary that enriches both the lives of our students and the communities we serve,” said FSCJ President Dr. Cynthia Bioteau. “To be the only college in Florida recognized in this way reinforces the need to continue working alongside our tremendous partners to create valuable and affordable learning opportunities that elevates the workforce of tomorrow and generates a secure, prosperous future for all.”

Caterpillar could move 800 production jobs from Aurora plant

Caterpillar Inc. announced Wednesday it is considering moving as many as 800 production jobs from its Aurora, Illinois-area plant to facilities in Decatur, Illinois and North Little Rock, Arkansas.

If completed, the move would put an end to manufacturing operations at the suburban Chicago plant, which is actually located in Montgomery despite its Aurora name.

Production of large wheel loaders and compactors would shift to downstate Decatur and medium-wheel loaders to North Little Rock.

The Peoria, Illinois-based heavy equipment maker has struggled in recent years, beat up by tough emerging market conditions, drops in commodity prices, and unfavorable foreign exchange rates. All of those headwinds have combined to sap demand for Caterpillar’s products, forcing the company to lay off thousands of workers domestically and overseas.

“Faced with lower demand, we continue to evaluate our global manufacturing capacity,” Denise Johnson, Caterpillar’s resource industries group president, said in a news release. “We must use our existing space in the most efficient way possible while maintaining the ability to meet demand when it returns.”

Local officials expressed concern over the possible loss of jobs and offered to work with Caterpillar on the issue, the Aurora Beacon-News reported.

“We want to engage them as much as we can,” Aurora Mayor Robert O’Connor told the Beacon-News. “We value the jobs, and the presence the company has had in the community all these years.”


Improve Processes and Efficiencies as a Production Manager


A production manager typically works in a manufacturing or industrial setting, directing internal processes and ensuring the successful completion of a project. This professional might bring products to market or assemble tools and machinery for industrial use. Whatever the project’s goal, a production manager takes responsibility for each resource and process.

What Is a Production Manager?


From vehicles and consumer electronics to garments and energy production, nearly all industries need production managers to direct a plant’s or facility’s projects. The production manager oversees each project from start to completion and makes changes to meet budgetary restrictions and respond to the employer’s needs. As a production manager, you might perform the following duties:

  • Find ways to source materials less expensively.
  • Decide when and how to use equipment and machinery.
  • Allocate human resources to specific tasks based on skill level and project demand.
  • Hire and terminate employees.
  • Train newly hired employees for specific tasks.
  • Ensure each employee knows and respects the company’s safety protocols.
  • Develop budgets for each project, often with feedback from senior management.
  • Communicate and negotiate with vendors.
  • Ensure quality control at every stage of production.
  • Create and execute production schedules.
  • Set and meet production targets.
  • Create cost-control rules to reduce overall spending.
  • Meet regulatory guidelines, such as those created by OSHA.
  • Monitor product quality and make adjustments as needed.
  • Collaborate with marketing, advertising, and purchasing staff to meet production targets.

Work Environment

Production managers might work part of the time in offices, but they also spend much time on the floor in the manufacturing plant or industrial facility. These managers monitor their employees’ output and check production rates based on established targets. In the office, they might focus on other administrative tasks. In addition, production managers also call vendors, clients, suppliers, and other third parties to arrange meetings and negotiate terms for service.

While working on the floor or in a production area, production managers have to follow the same guidelines that their employees follow. For instance, manufacturing plants often create somewhat dangerous conditions, so management staff must wear hard hats, safety glasses, and other gear to protect themselves and set a positive example for their employees.

In most facilities, the production manager maintains an office next to the plant or facility floor. This location can reduce transit time and allows the manager to respond to emergency situations quickly. The work can prove stressful, especially when working under tight deadlines, and production managers must realize that they’re responsible for their employees’ safety.

Depending on the facility, the work environment can prove hot, humid, and dangerous. In chemical plants, for example, production managers must protect themselves from exposure to harmful substances. Staying hydrated and taking breaks can help managers and other staff members deal with hot work environments.


Most production managers work full-time, regular business hours. However, during peak production periods or when facing deadlines, they might have to work overtime or take administrative work home to complete. Additionally, manufacturing facilities often stay open long after regular business hours, so management team members occasionally must work swing shifts and weekends to make sure they don’t fall behind.

Additionally, if something goes wrong on the production floor, the manager must respond, especially during overnight hours. Setbacks such as machinery breakdowns and emergencies, including worker injuries, need immediate attention. In some cases, however, companies hire production managers and production assistants, in which case the manager can sometimes delegate after-hours tasks.

What Qualifications Are Required to Become a Production Manager?


The education requirements for production managers vary from one company to another. Smaller manufacturers and industrial companies might hire managers with bachelor’s degrees or significant industry experience, while bigger companies often look for professionals with master’s degrees and more work experience. Most companies don’t specify a specific type of degree, but you might get a job faster if you focus on specific concentrations, such as the following:

  • Business administration
  • Production and operations management
  • Industrial design
  • Industrial engineering
  • Business management

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree can help you secure more high-level jobs. Additionally, some schools now offer degrees in specific types of production management, such as fashion, agriculture, and electronics.

You might receive on-the-job training to learn about your employer’s specific production goals. Training helps you acclimate to the workplace and gain process or product knowledge.


Few production managers start their careers with a management title. They often work as assistants, buyers, materials clerks, or production area specialists before they get promoted. Advanced education can speed up this process and earn you a management job after graduation, but you might have to start with a smaller company, fewer employees, and less autonomy.

What does a production manager do to get hired quickly? You can broaden your job search to include companies in niche markets and use your online network to find out about opportunities that haven’t been advertised publicly. If you’ve recently graduated from school, consider using your alma mater’s career services office to help you look for job openings.


You’ll need several skills to succeed as a production manager, whether you’re applying to a new employer or seeking a promotion from within your current company. Each employer will look for different skill sets, but employers who hire production managers share expectations in many areas. To increase your chances of getting hired, focus on learning the following skills:

  • Budgeting: You’ll prepare, analyze, and oversee the budget for each project.
  • Communication: Your great ideas won’t matter unless you can help other people understand them. Additionally, you have to give clear orders to your staff.
  • Problem-solving: When a problem occurs on the production floor, you must find a solution quickly to make sure your production stays on time and on budget.
  • Product and process knowledge: Your in-depth understanding of manufacturing quality standards, regulatory requirements, and other information will help you manage production more efficiently.
  • Negotiation: To stay on budget, you’ll negotiate with vendors, clients, and other third parties.
  • Time management: If you can’t meet deadlines and manage staff effectively, you’ll fall behind on deliverables.
  • Information technology: You’ll need a working knowledge of product management software.
  • Flexibility: You must make quick decisions and adapt to changes on the production floor.
  • Motivation: Inspiring your staff to meet production targets and improve their output quality can improve your performance.
  • Presentation: The best production managers deliver clean, inspiring presentations on suggested changes to the production team and production processes.
  • Math: If you can perform complex mathematical equations, you might excel more rapidly in this career.
  • Attention to detail: Whether you’re walking the production floor or reviewing proposals in your office, you must spot potential problems and areas for improvement, even with the smallest details.

Salary Expectations

How much does a production manager make? According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), industrial production managers can expect to earn about $93,940. Certain industries, such as chemical and transportation equipment manufacturing, offer greater salary potential, and the top 10 percent of product managers earn about $162,240. If you’re starting out in this career, your salary might begin at around $56,640.

Since production management is highly results-based, your employer might create a bonus structure to inspire you to meet specific benchmarks. A bonus can increase your take-home pay, although employers often offer a lower base salary when they give bonuses.

Job Outlook for Production Managers

Projected Growth

The BLS expects careers in production management to decline by 4 percent between 2014 and 2024. Manufacturing processes and equipment have become far more advanced and efficient, which decreases the need for management professionals on the production floor. Reshoring, the process of moving manufacturing and industrial initiatives back to the United States from foreign countries, could help curtail this decline, and you might garner more job opportunities if you have significant experience or advanced education.

Career Trajectory

You can apply for a job as a production manager as soon as you graduate from college or a trade school. However, you might have to work up to this position by proving your skills and abilities in a role with less responsibility. For example, if you’re a foreman on the production floor or if you take a job as a production assistant, you can fully learn the requirements of the job and apply for a promotion later.

You’ll gain supervisory experience as a production manager, which can create new advancement opportunities. The most successful professionals in this field can become chief operating officers (COOs), an advancement which leads to greater job security and salary potential.

A career in production management could create financial security and a sense of accomplishment. While you might face declining job opportunities depending on your location and other factors, many manufacturers and other industrial employers will still need production managers to staff their facilities. If you have the necessary skills and education, start searching for your next job in production management today.