That was the message to local industry leaders from the president of the state organization that represents them to government.
Catherine Glover serves as president of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as the Tennessee Manufacturers Association
She was the keynote speaker for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce’s annual Industrial Showcase and Industry Appreciation luncheon Wednesday afternoon at the Museum Center at Five Points.
Glover said the state is seeing many advances in industry and the Bradley County area is finding itself well positioned to take advantage of the growth.
“There is a trend in manufacturing in the state. It is a huge renaissance amid one we are taking full advantage of,” Glover said.
She noted Tennessee has been chosen as one of the 12 states named by the Environmental Protection Agency to receive Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership grants.
The IMCP program encourages communities to develop comprehensive economic strategies designed to strengthen their competitive edge for attracting global manufacturing and supply chain investments.
“This is really big for us,” she said. “This gives us the opportunity to focus on automotive manufacturing in particular.”
She said a recent Brookings Institute study stated Tennessee’s competitive advantage in manufacturing comes from the automotive industry.
“This is going to mean a lot of money and a lot of opportunities,” she said.
Of the 80,000 businesses in Tennessee, 6,700 are in manufacturing.
“Fifty percent of the total state output is in manufacturing,” Glover said. “That is also 12 percent of [Tennessee’s] workforce.”
She added the state’s total manufacturing output for 2012 totaled $41.4 billion — nearly 15 percent of Tennessee’s total gross state product.
Glover noted one problem that must be overcome is the stereotype of the “dirty jobs” associated with manufacturing.
She said the new age of advanced manufacturing offers significant pay and benefits, but there is a major skills gap.
“It is a crisis and we need to realize it,” Glover said.
TCCI will begin a new program in October designed to promote and encourage careers in the manufacturing sector. It is called “Dream It. Do It. TN.”
“People aren’t being encouraged to do manufacturing,” she said. “Our youth don’t find it exciting. Parents grow up thinking it’s dirty.”
The program will focus on youth ages 16-26, guidance counselors, career professionals and parents.
“We have to convince parents that advanced manufacturing is not only a very good job with very good benefit, but it is also not the backbreaking jobs they’ve grown up thinking they are,” she said. “And in the state of Tennessee, it pays $26,000 more than most non-farm jobs. Seventy-five percent of those jobs do not require a four-year degree.”
She said she is hopeful “Dream It. Do It. TN.” will change the way people think about manufacturing in the state.
Ross Tarver, vice president and general manager of Tarver Distributing and the chairman of the Bradley/Cleveland Industrial Development Board, said the county can be proud of its business accomplishments.
“Our local economy is strong and that may be because of so many here in this room,” Tarver said. “It is very important to notice that a community our size has a dozen Fortune 500 companies.”