#186 – Inside Our Industry – America’s High-Tech Manufacturing Rising Stars

Posted on | Inside Our Industry

High-tech no longer just means Silicon Valley or Boston. The Midwest and Southeast are now contending for the title. Following is a great report, in part, from Deborah Wince-Smith that appeared in Forbes.com.

America’s High-Tech Manufacturing Rising Stars
Deborah Wince-Smith, Contributor-Forbes-Business-Manufacturing, Jan 30, 2024

For decades, the U.S. economy has been caught in a whirlwind of global competition and rapid technological change. Some regions have soared, while others have seen their manufacturing economies crushed by competition from lower-wage countries.

Leaders in struggling regions have often looked to America’s high-tech superstars—such as Silicon Valley and Boston—for models to revitalize their economies. Yet, new centers of innovation and high-tech manufacturing are emerging and thriving in perhaps unexpected corners and regions across the United States, like Tennessee, South Carolina, and Indiana.

Tennessee

Tennessee’s universities and institutions are collaborating in a whole-state approach, snowballing into a hub for advanced mobility and next-generation automotive manufacturing. Volkswagen, Eastman and other companies have located operations at the University of Tennessee’s Research Park, where industry, university faculty, graduate students and post-doctoral students collaborate. Ford picked Tennessee for its new electric truck factory—a $5.6 billion investment called Blue Oval City—in 2021. That site was prepared for economic development years ago in cooperation with the Tennessee Valley Authority and ready to go when Ford searched for a new site. LG Chemical announced a $3 billion battery plant nearby the following year.

South Carolina

South Carolina has been building a new economy anchored in partnerships with automotive manufacturing, aerospace, and next-generation energy industries. Electric vehicle and battery-related companies have announced billions of dollars of investments in the state.

Both Clemson and the University of South Carolina came together with other partners from the state’s academic and industry community, including the Savannah River National Laboratory, to form the SC Nexus advanced energy consortium. SC Nexus recently won federal designation as a high-tech hub in clean energy supply chain, making it eligible to compete for a federal grant worth $50 to $75 million.

Indiana

When you think about microchips, Indiana probably does not come to mind. Yet, Purdue University is catalyzing a semiconductor ecosystem in Indiana. The university created a semiconductor degrees program, where corporate leaders serve on a Semiconductor Degrees Leadership Board to ensure education programming is relevant to industry. Purdue welcomed Skywater to build a $3 billion “baby fab” on campus, and Imec, Europe’s premiere center for semiconductor innovation, opened an R&D center on campus. Recently, Indiana was awarded $32 million to develop a hub for the Department of Defense Microelectronics Commons to support microelectronics development and production.

Competitiveness Conversations

These communities and regions are expanding and deepening America’s geography of innovation and high-tech manufacturing—and there is a lot we can learn from their distinct approaches. The Council’s National Commission on Innovation and Competitiveness Frontiers is launching a new, three-year initiative called “Competitiveness Conversations Across the County,” beginning in April in Tennessee. We will analyze and examine these new engines of innovation and growth, and identify cutting-edge and emerging best practices that can be scaled and adapted to regions and cities across the United States. We aim to bring new hope to people and places for a better, more prosperous future.

Full story

Deborah Wince-SmithPresident & CEO of the Council on Competitiveness, a national leadership organization of CEOs, university presidents, labor leaders and directors of national laboratories