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Utah’s manufacturers are moving full steam ahead, with trends like lower energy costs, robotics helping to streamline processes and reshoring product development bolstering the industry. But despite these strengths, leaders say the industry is facing a workforce shortage crisis and complicated regulations that are slowing them down.
We’d like to give a special thank you to Vincent Mikolay, managing director of Business outreach and intemational trade at the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, for moderating the discussion.
Harvey Scott, Blendtec
Todd Bingham, Utah Manufacturers Association
Josh Randall, Holland & Hart
Kelle Stephens, Dixie Applied Tech College
Vincent Mikolay, GOED
Dave Sorensen, WestCamp Inc.
Craig Taylor, Blendtec
Brian Bowers, MityLite
Stuart Eyring, Orbit Irrigation
Mike Bouwhuis, Davis Applied Tech College
Wayne Stewart, PMG
Wim de Jager, Black Diamond
Norman Taylor, 4Life Research
Scott Bruce, Rio Tinto Kennecott
Mark Suchan, MOM Brands
Dana Slaughter, Ogden-Weber Tech College
Ragula Bhaskar, Fatpipe Networks
Fred Lampropoulos, Merit Medical
Danny Lee, 4Life Research
Mark Jenkins, Petersen Inc.
I don’t think most Utahns are aware of the diversity of manufacturing in Utah. Tell us what your company does. What is most important to you as a manufacturer?
JENKINS: Peterson Incorporated is a heavy metal manufacturing company. We build anything from amusement park rides to large vessels for the petro-chemical industry. We do a lot of nuclear work for nuclear power plants and decommissioning power plants.
LAMPROPOULOS: Merit Medical has 3,020 employees, of which about 1,750 are located in Utah. We do most of our research and development here. A good portion of the innovation comes from our facilities here and our engineers and scientists and people that come from our great universities. That’s why we’re here.
SUCHAN: Our primary brand is Malt-O-Meal cereal, and we employ about 250 employees in Tremonton.
BRUCE: At Rio Tinto Kennecott Utah Copper, we manufacture refined metals, which are on the front end of most of your value streams somewhere, either for your equipment or what you manufacture. We are a mining company, but 60 percent of our assets are in manufacturing after the mine.
C. TAYLOR: Blendtec employs 500 people in Utah County. We manufacture 80 percent of our blenders in Orem. We’ve got other products coming out, and having our engineers and our production capability housed together really creates a competitive edge for us. And we’re in the process of bringing our motor line here to Utah to start manufacturing our motors here as well.
BOWERS: One of the reasons that manufacturing today is exciting is the revolution that we’re seeing in manufacturing—the trend of reshoring, with Asian source products coming back into the U.S. and back into the local economy. MityLite definitely is participating in that, having brought back several products into our own facilities. So besides providing a quality product, institutional furniture, we feel like we’re participating in something that’s much bigger in our local and state economy.
LEE: 4Life Research has about 500 employees here in Utah and over 1,000 worldwide. We do business in nearly 60 countries around the world, but most of our manufacturing takes place here in Utah. What is most important to us in manufacturing is having proper quality systems, as we operate in the heavily regulated dietary supplements industry.
EYRING: Orbit Irrigation is investing in manufacturing locally to shorten our lead times, reduce our inventories. And “made in USA” matters to our customers.
DE JAGER: Manufacturing is important for us at Black Diamond, but also design and engineering because what we say is “design, engineer, make, use and then repeat.” Currently, we have a manufacturing facility here in Salt Lake City and in China. We are looking to optimize our international footprint, which means we are planning to reshore all of our manufacturing to Salt Lake City to improve the quality.
SORENSEN: WestCAMP is a nonprofit host of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership; it actually hosted the MEP when it was founded almost 20 years ago and continues to host the MEP. WestCAMP stands for the Western Center for Advanced Manufacturing Programs. We were a cofounder of Rocky Mountain Testing Solutions and recently completed a five-year, multi-million-dollar project called Smart Grid. We started and continue to expand the Rapid Product Realization Center at BYU, now also at UVU. We were cofounder of the Western Energy Training Center where we trained in a five-year period about 24,000 people in a five-state area.