Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo today urged manufacturing industry leaders to take advantage of funding provided by the state's new economic development bill to help boost their technology and the skill level of their workforces.
DeLeo, the keynote speaker at a quarterly meeting Wednesday morning of the Manufacturing Advancement Center Workforce Innovation Collaborative in Worcester, explained to industry leaders that the bill will provide about $25 million to support development initiatives within the industry.
"I'm hopeful that each of you here today will take advantage of the programs included in our economic development bill," DeLeo told the crowd of about 40, gathered in Worcester Technical High School's main conference room.
The programs will be paid for by casino licensing fees. Thirteen percent of the revenue will be used to support manufacturing development initiatives, the House speaker said.
MassDevelopment, a quasi-public agency that focuses on economic development, will oversee these programs, which are not yet active. According to DeLeo, the state is looking to hire an administrator to oversee the initiative, and he hopes programs will be up and running by the end of the year.
"We have to make sure we don't get all bogged down in bureaucracy," DeLeo said.
Manufacturing company officials interviewed after the address said the information DeLeo outlined was new to them, but they seemed interested in pursuing new grant and loan programs that may propel their companies into a new era.
"We're paying the taxes, and we'll take advantage of whatever is available," said Kenneth J. Mandile, president of Swissturn/USA, a precision machine shop in Oxford.
The most pressing issue for advanced manufacturers like Swissturn, according to Mandile, is finding workers. There are plenty of people with a few years of experience in the field, but hardly any with at least 15 years. Mandile said the most experienced workers left the field when the Great Recession hit. As the industry rebounds, it's harder to find qualified replacements.
A report card on the manufacturing industry, prepared by the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University, is expected to be released Thursday.
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