The state's economic development agency unveiled yesterday a new strategy it hopes will be the first step toward reversing the decline of manufacturing in Maryland.
"I want to emphasize that this is just a beginning; it needs input from you," Mark L. Wasserman, secretary of the state's Department of Economic and Employment Development, told more than 200 people at the Annual Maryland Manufacturer's Symposium. The symposium was sponsored by the Foundation for Manufacturing Excellence Inc. in collaboration with DEED and the Maryland Manufacturers Association.
Key points of the strategy include:
* Encourage and nurture new manufacturing ventures. That would be done by consolidating DEED services into its Business Resources Division, which would better coordinate the agency's financing and counseling efforts. Those services include support from the Small Business Development Center Network, the University of Maryland Dingman Center, the Technology fTC Extension Service and the University of Maryland at Baltimore's Law and Entrepreneurship program.
* Accelerate the modernization of manufacturers. DEED plans to work with the Foundation for Manufacturing Excellence, the Maryland Center for Quality and Productivity and the Baltimore Area Labor Management Committee to teach companies how to improve their products.
* Support the improvement of the work force. DEED will work with community colleges, universities and business groups to promote increased vocational training and to provide customized training programs for companies.
* Help manufacturers strengthen markets and gain access to new markets. A data base will be created to identify markets and suppliers for Maryland manufacturers. The Mary land International Division will help state manufacturers sell their products overseas.
The plan also calls on deputy secretaries of various state agencies to study how state regulations and taxation affect manufacturing.
"We need you, the manufacturing community, to work with us and with the General Assembly to identify issues that present barriers to your growth and stability," Mr. Wasserman told the symposium, held at Martin's West.
In the past three decades, the percentage of Marylanders with manufacturing jobs has dropped from 34.5 percent, which was close to the national average, to 11.5 percent, far below today's national average of 20 percent.
State officials, led by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, want to focus on manufacturing, which it sees as necessary for a strong economy.
Although manufacturing has declined, the quality of Maryland's work force should be an attraction in coming years, said Stephen J. K. Walters, an associate professor of economics at Loyola College.
According to his study of nine factors that indicate the quality of a work force, Mr. Walters said Maryland ranked second among the states, excluding Alaska and Hawaii. Only Delaware ranked higher, he said.
Some of the factors used in the ranking were the percentage of high school and college graduates in the general population, the number of trained scientists and engineers, the number of lost days because of strikes and the level of productivity.
The keynote speaker at the symposium's luncheon was Aris Melissaratos, vice president of quality for Westinghouse Electric Corp. in Pittsburgh and former general manager of the design engineering and manufacturing operations division in Westinghouse's Linthicum operation. He was also an aggressive promoter of Maryland manufacturing and was one of the founders of the Foundation for Manufacturing Excellence.