Additional investment in Industrial Resource Centers to accelerate use of advanced manufacturing technologies.
(February 4, 2020) – Governor Tom Wolf revealed his proposed 2020-21 budget for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. That budget includes a $2.5 million increase for the Industrial Resource Center (IRC) network across Pennsylvania to expand their capacity to deliver innovative services to new and existing manufacturers in areas such as talent pipeline development, robotics utilization, 3-D printing and other advanced manufacturing technologies. The increase is supported by industry input and the suggestions of independent research firms such as Brookings and Fourth Economy, both of which performed in-depth analyses of Pennsylvania’s innovation and advanced manufacturing resources. The proposed increase would be competitively awarded to IRCs based upon proposals that partner with institutes of higher education in ways that will accelerate manufacturer modernization, innovation and job creation. The proposed funding marks the first increase in IRC funding in over 10 years.
Pennsylvania’s seven IRCs serve the commonwealth’s nearly 15,000 manufacturers, 92 percent of which are small to mid-sized firms that form the economic backbone of their communities. Collectively, those firms employ more than 585,000 workers and provide annual payrolls in excess of $47.2 billion. With main offices in Allentown, Erie, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre, Williamsport and York, and regional offices throughout Pennsylvania, the IRCs cover both urban and rural communities. In many cases, IRCs are their clients’ only resource for technical assistance. Key IRC services include workforce training, continuous improvement, quality systems, innovation management, cybersecurity and industry 4.0 technology implementation.
“One of our key strategic focuses is to help manufacturers better understand, prioritize, and pursue Industry 4.0 opportunities. These additional resources, proposed by Governor Wolf, will enhance our ability to assist with selection and implementation of advanced manufacturing technologies, talent pipeline development, and connect them with college, university, and other public and private community resources. All with the goal of improving the competitiveness and efficiency of our regional manufacturers,” said Robert Zaruta, President/CEO of the Northwest Industrial Resource Center (NWIRC). NWIRC serves manufacturers in 13-counties of northwestern and north central PA.
Independent research consistently affirms the positive returns of the IRC initiative. Last month, the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research concluded that the IRCs provide a one-year return of $7.5:$1 on state funding invested in the program. Their research also suggested that in 2018, total state employment was impacted by an additional 20,272 jobs because of the IRCs’ work with Pennsylvania manufacturers. During the same year, Pennsylvania’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), statewide output and statewide personal income increased by $2.12 billion, $4.56 billion and $1.26 billion, respectively, due to manufacturer implementation of IRC-provided training, technical services and advice.