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Region receives federal grant to boost manufacturing firms

LOS ANGELES — Southern California is set to receive an economic boost with the announcement July 8 of a $2.5 million U.S. Department of Commerce grant designed to strengthen the region’s manufacturing base.

Commerce Department Assistant Secretary Jay Williams announced the funding at USC, which is one of 89 partners that make up the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership for Southern California (AMP SoCal).

The consortium includes the city of Compton; the city and county of Los Angeles; Riverside and San Bernardino counties; Cal Poly Pomona, UC Riverside and other academic institutions, economic and workforce development agencies and the manufacturing industry.

Williams said the partners would provide technical, management and research assistance to aerospace and defense manufacturing companies “to build organizational capacity and to increase investment in them.”

Compton Mayor Aja Brown, who was on hand for Williams’ announcement, said her city is positioned to take advantage of the initiative.

She said Compton is home to several booming industries, including transit and distribution, high technology, home and life style products, metals, financial services and textile manufacturing.

“We’re partnering to transform the aerospace and defense industry with a focus on advanced manufacturing technologies — from additive manufacturing to model-based engineering and design,” she said.

She said she would highlight the city’s partnership in AMP So Cal as part of her State of the City address scheduled for July 10.

Brown also said she would emphasize crime reductions and the city’s other economic development accomplishments and the new vision for Compton.

“We’ve already begun to implement the revitalization strategy. It’s centered in part on economic development and infrastructure growth,” Brown said.

Participants in the roundtable discussion at USC noted that community colleges and high schools no longer teach shop courses in woodworking, metal or print.

In the past, those courses traditionally were a pathway to skilled jobs.

Employers now are faced with the pending retirement of older, skilled employees and employees who need training or retraining.

Williams said AMP SoCal will improve opportunities to increase sustainable employment for the region’s manufacturing workforce.

Practically speaking, the Commerce Department is addressing the void by “making sure the employer is a part of the conversation early on and working with community colleges and nonprofit agencies to design industry-led training programs,” he said.

“In Detroit, employers provided some of the same or very similar equipment to the community colleges that is used on the shop floor. The colleges used it to train students or the unemployed or incumbent workers who need additional training.

“The program had inordinate success. There were not enough classes to produce enough students. When students finished the training, they went straight into jobs. We’re looking to ensure that people that are going through the federal programs have the skills and industry-recognized credentials,” he added.

Kelli Bernard, Los Angeles’ deputy mayor for economic development, said that many people don’t recognize the manufacturing strength and heritage of Los Angeles.

“It’s part of our history and future. The city is investing over $1 billion in our port to help our businesses and manufacturing export to the rest of the world. We’re bringing rail to the airport, investing $8.5 billion in improving it, and with that, we’ve created thousands of jobs.”

“It’s how we are working with Southern California to fortify the pipeline for the aerospace and defense supply chain,” Bernard added.

County Supervisor Hilda Solis said the grant provided the opportunity to “celebrate, collaborate and revitalize the aerospace and defense industries in Southern California.”

“We’ve gone through so much with the last recession and we’re creating a tremendous force with leadership from USC, Cal Poly Pomona, the city and the county, and all 88 cities,” she added. “Southern California is among the largest producers of scientists and engineers and we need to be reminded why people keep coming here and to keep that train running.”

AMP SoCal is one of 12 federally designated manufacturing communities’ nationwide. It is a part of the federal Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership Initiative designed to reinvent how economic development is done in manufacturing.

Williams said an additional 12 communities had been designated manufacturing communities, including California’s Central Valley AgPlus Food and Beverage Manufacturing Consortium led by Fresno State University.

In August, USC’s Center for Economic Development will partner with AMP SoCal, to host an advance briefing event at USC.

The briefing will “inform and prepare potential participants to engage in the first-ever National Aerospace Foreign Direct Investment Expo, to be held in Los Angeles Oct. 26-28.

The expo will match foreign investors with U.S. firms and organizations seeking capital to better engage in the growing global aerospace economy.

For more information, contact Dion Jackson at USC (213) 740-9494, or visit