NERETA Summit Will Help Establish Regional “Eco-Systems” to Spur Manufacturing Renewal Across the US

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The NERETA Summit being held in Clinton, NJ April 27-29, will teach local leadership (workforce development, economic development and higher education professionals) how to align their resources and capabilities to focus on growing manufacturing in their regions. (

We seem to all be coming to the same conclusion: increasing the amount of manufacturing done in the US will require regional leaders to align strategies that optimize the growth of inter-related industries (called clusters). Simple, right? No. This is easier said than done, which is why the North East Regional Employment and Training Association (NERETA) is hosting a national Summit in Clinton, NJ, April 27-29 ( to teach workforce development, economic development and higher education professionals how to align their services to address the needs of manufacturing employers. In addition, NERETA is providing a follow-up course through the end of 2016.

“Collaboration at the local level between workforce development, economic development and higher education does not happen easily because they each have very different missions, very different stakeholders and honestly do not understand each other very well,” said Colleen LaRose, President and CEO of NERETA. “NERETA is presenting this Summit to bring all of these entities together in a cross-training platform to help them understand one another better so that they can align their goals and strategies and create a sustainable commitment to growing manufacturing in their region.”

Regions from around the country are forming teams of at least four people to attend the Summit. Recommended team participants are:

  • A workforce development representative
  • An economic development representative
  • A higher education representative
  • And a career counselor

but anyone interested is welcome to register to attend.

“We are thrilled to see the excitement building around this event and conference course,” said LaRose. “We already have teams attending from Texas, Michigan, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. We have even had inquiries from other countries that plan to send teams to this Summit!"

Eric Hansen, President of Economic Transformations Group, Inc. (ETG), well-known internationally for establishing cluster strategies and one of the four founders of The Competitiveness Institute, the world association dedicated to cluster development, is the big draw and will be leading the strategy session for this initiative. “But the Summit is brimming with highly respected presenters,” beamed LaRose. “Our presenters include Wharton’s Peter Cappelli, Greg Leroy of Good Jobs First, Scott Paul from the Alliance for American Manufacturing, Dr. Ali Houshmand, President of Rowan University, the US Department of Commerce, MEP-NIST, and the US Department of Labor…to name just a few!”

“This Summit is critical right now because the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) which was enacted in July 2015 requires workforce development professionals to do outreach to employers differently. Now, they must reach out to employers by industry sectors, rather than to individual businesses. Economic development and higher education have already employed some of these sector strategies, but because they have differing goals, these entities have not typically aligned their employer outreach efforts. They also tend not to share what they learn about local businesses with one another. “We are teaching alignment because alignment goes beyond cooperation and collaboration,” explained LaRose. “Cooperation and collaboration means entities will work together, but alignment requires a strategic assessment to be made upfront of organizational strengths and then a plan devised to share responsibilities based on those strengths to maximize efficiency and effectiveness. Supporting industry growth requires a focused and aligned strategy,” LaRose explained.

As Amy Liu, Vice President and Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at The Brookings Institution stated, “(Economic development) success is dependent upon local leaders’ ability to effectively set goals, organize firms, and reach out to target populations in ways that result in a new job for a worker and a skilled hire for an employer. It’s time to expand the goals and vision of economic development—beyond one-time job creation schemes or siloed, one-off programs.” ...(with) an approach that (instead) prioritizes the innovation, skills, and infrastructure needs of existing industries over efforts to recruit businesses from another state or municipality, which far too frequently generate few jobs at high taxpayer expense. …

Liu continues, "This kind of economic development is harder work. It involves high-level business and public engagement, co-designing efforts with partners across sectors. It requires…finding common language to build a shared future. The reward is …transformative, long-term change. It makes the skills and education of workers and the role of opportunity-rich neighborhoods essential ingredients to economic competitiveness, not simply a social agenda.”

Proposed bipartisan, bicameral legislation, the Made In America Manufacturing Communities Act, ( introduced on February 9, 2016 concurs with the thoughts of LaRose and Liu on this topic. This legislation would create a permanent program that designates local regions as 'Manufacturing Communities,' which would give them priority to receive federal economic development funding for the purpose of investing in regional manufacturing. But, to earn the designation of ‘Manufacturing Community,’ regions would have to demonstrate the significance of manufacturing already present in their region and develop strategies to use the designation in making investments in six areas:
1. Workforce and training;
2. Advanced research;
3. Infrastructure and site development;
4. Supply chain support;
5. Trade and international investment; and
6. Operational improvement and capital access.

“NERETA is excited that the proposed Manufacturing Communities Act coincides with the timing of NERETA’s Manufacturing Summit! The work of the NERETA Summit will clearly help regions prepare to become Manufacturing Communities. We agree with Amy Liu,” said LaRose, “the reward of finding a common language to build a shared future truly is transformative and long-term change.”

For more information about the NERETA Summit, go to or call NERETA at (908) 995-7718. Individuals and teams are welcome to attend the NERETA Summit.

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Colleen LaRose
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