Ethan Karp

Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network CEO and President Ethan Karp introduces the blueprint MAGNET devised for lasting change in Northeast Ohio’s manufacturing sector after two years of working with those who build up the sector June 8. 

The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network in Cleveland launched its visionary plan that seeks to improve and secure Northeast Ohio’s manufacturing sector through strategic initiatives tackling job growth and creation, talent shortages and racial disparities during an industry-wide unveiling at MAGNET’s upcoming location June 8 in Cleveland.

Named “Make It Better: A Blueprint for Manufacturing in Northeast Ohio,” MAGNET came together with hundreds of manufacturing CEOs, community leaders, business leaders, academics, workers, students and nonprofit leaders over two years of 150 interviews and 300 hours of conversations to discover what it is Northeast Ohio’s manufacturing sector needs to bring it into the forefront. MAGNET’s discoveries and solutions then became the blueprint, a 53-page document that breaks down plans and stories pushing for collaborative improvement in talent, technology transformation, innovation and leadership.

“Because the manufacturing sector drives half of our economy, it’s really important that we do the things that strengthen it and grow good paying jobs over the next 10 years,” MAGNET CEO and President Ethan Karp told the Cleveland Jewish News.

On top of building up almost half of Northeast Ohio’s economy, manufacturing also supports one million jobs in the area and makes up 38% of Ohio’s GDP. But a talent gap and slow adoption of innovative technologies plague the sector, Karp said.

The plan seeks to shrink the talent shortage, get thousands of people good paying, good career manufacturing jobs while creating thousands more jobs and reducing racial disparities through the involvement of hundreds in the sector.

“We would like the jobs and the future of manufacturing to look like our communities, which they do not today,” Karp said. “In technology, we want to be 10 years ahead of the curve in terms of adopting technology faster than everyone else, which will help us bolster all those other goals.”

The unveiling featured words about the plan from Karp; Steven Lovass, executive vice president and officer of strategy and corporate development at Nordson Corporation; William Gary, senior executive vice president of Cuyahoga Community College; Shilpa Kedar, executive director, digital and IoT Innovations at Cleveland State University, executive director of CSU T.E.C.H. Hub and co-executive director of IoT Collaborative; Baiju Shah, president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership and leader of the Cleveland Innovation Project; Bill Koehler, CEO at Team NEO; and Lissa Barry, president and CEO of Delta Systems Inc.

Following the blueprint’s launch, manufacturers and organizations throughout the region will make efforts to bring the plan into reality. The Manufacturing Innovation Council, which consists of leading Northeast Ohio companies, has already pinpointed key action areas in order to follow the blueprint.

The blueprint features specific strategies for companies to follow, like the lighthouse strategy where a company will show its technologies to others to spread inspiration, Karp said. Other blueprint strategies put the push for change into the hands of manufacturing companies, like bringing more manufacturing apprenticeships to high schools and seeking participation from nontraditional populations of people, where the companies are brought together and lead what needs to be accomplished.

“At the highest level, we’re showing how to do it, we’re not prescribing you will do this and how you’ll do it,” Karp said. “This is because these problems require different solutions in different locations, etc.”

Karp attributed Northeast Ohio’s manufacturing success through the COVID-19 pandemic as an uplifting, driving force to revolutionize the sector. Companies like GOJO pivoted to the pandemic as it supplied the world with much needed sanitation products, and other local companies provided personal protective equipment to frontline workers.

“Manufacturers, what they did during the pandemic was so amazing and powerful,” Karp said. “If we could just capture a little of that energy, it will be amazing.”

Companies and individuals interested in joining the blueprint’s efforts can view the report at makeitbetterohio.org and participate in quarterly calls to stay on top of new ideas.


Publisher’s note: Ethan Karp is a member of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Board of Directors.

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