The Mid-FL Regional Manufactu-rers Association, MRMA, (affectionately referred to as “Mr. Ma”) was established in 1992 as a networking organization for the executives of local manufacturers in Marion County Florida. Over the years however, it has evolved into something much more and covering a greater area of Florida. Focus of the organization includes networking for all levels of management in manufacturing and logistics companies, both customized and general training for all employees, and advocacy at the national, state, and local levels. The organization covers Levy, Marion, Citrus, and Sumter Counties.
The success of the organization lies in the strategic partnerships it has made with the local workforce board and the schools in the areas as the need for a trained workforce is the highest concern for manufacturing and logistics companies in the area. This area of Florida has the highest growth rate in manufacturing jobs in the state of Florida. MRMA first partnered with the College of Central Florida, CF, in the mid 1990’s during which a $500,000 training grant was jointly applied for and received to help manufacturers upgrade skills of their employees. MRMA also at this time started an endowed scholarship program for CF students that continue to this day. CF has since greatly expanded its offering to include an AS degree in Engineering Technology with specializations in Quality, and Advanced Manufacturing as well as certifications in Simulation and Automation, Engineering Technology Support, Lean Six Sigma, and Mechatronics. Students can continue to their Bachelor degree in Engineering through on-line classes and lab work at the college. CF has also recently added both Associate and Bachelor degree programs in Logistics as well as certifications in Warehousing and Forklift Operation. MRMA works closely with the college in developing non-credit classes supporting manufacturing and logistics. The most recent school term offered over 20 classes that ranged from Supervisory training to CNC training to Motor Control classes. To insure that curriculum is current and applicable to the needs of local companies, MRMA has assisted in pulling together industry advisory committees for both the Engineering and Logistic programs at the college. Additionally Rob Adamiak, the Executive Director and 30 year manufacturing executive, sits on CF’s President’s Executive Advisory Committee and the faculty hiring committees for the Engineering and Logistics programs.
MRMA worked closely with the Withlacoochee Technical College in putting the Automation and Production Technology, APT, program together-from assisting in finding an instructor, to developing the curriculum, and pulling an industry advisory program together to provide continuing guidance and oversight. Graduates from this program go on to be technicians in a variety of companies that build anything from circuit boards to dental fixtures. The college also offers programs in Industrial Machinery Maintenance and Repair, Welding, and CNC Operator.
Seeing the need to reach children at an earlier age in order to develop a trained workforce, MRMA partnered with the local school system. Recent trends during the last decade or two have seen the elimination of vocational programs in the high schools throughout the United States. This resulted in a great shortage of young people entering careers in the trades and technical areas which are at the same time seeing tremendous growth. Reviewing current US job requirements and comparing them to the 1950’s show that in the 1950’s approximately 20% of the positions required Bachelor or higher degrees, 20% required technical training, and 60% of the positions were low or no skilled jobs. Today that mix has changed: four or more years of college is still needed for 20% of the jobs, but technical training is needed for 65% of the positions, leaving only 15% of the positions being low or non-skilled positions. The great increase of skilled jobs requires more training by the community colleges and technical programs in both the high schools and post-secondary schools. MRMA spearheaded the creation of a manufacturing career academy in the new Marion Technical High School, MTI. The “Robotics, Automation, and Design Academy” prepares students to directly enter the workforce upon graduating or with the completion of the MSSC-CPT certification (Manufacturing Skills Standards Council - Certified Production Technician) they are given 15 credits toward the Engineering Technology Degree program offered at the College of Central Florida. The high school also created a Logistics Academy with the help of MRMA and donations of equipment by MRMA members. MRMA donates thousands of dollars each year and provides industry advisory committee members to this school to support equipment and curriculum needs as well as guidance for these vocational programs.
The partnership that allowed MRMA to take many of the initiatives discussed was the strategic partnership with the local workforce board, CareerSource Citrus, Levy, Marion, CSCLM. In 2012, CSCLM agreed to fund the majority of the costs to bring a 30 year plus manufacturing executive who ran two of the larger manufacturing companies in the area to take the Executive Director position for MRMA and to then contracted with MRMA to coordinate training for all manufacturing and logistics companies in the three counties that they serve. As an experienced manufacturer, he speaks “the same language” of these industries and understands their needs more clearly. He also gains the confidence of both the employers and the schools because of his expertise. He can go into a business, suggest training, assist in developing curriculum, and source qualitied instructors. He also provides free consulting services to the companies, connects them with suppliers, sub-contractors, and new customers; and advocates for them with government agencies at all levels. CSCLM also provides support by being the event sponsor for Manufacturing Month every year, which busses over 500 middle and high school students to 15 plus manufacturing plants to tour. T-shirts and surveys are distributed to the students to measure interest in careers in manufacturing and logistics. CSCLM also funded much of the project to make 50 second videos of manufacturing and logistics companies to show what they do and careers available to encourage interest in these industries. These videos are being shown to students in both the middle and high schools.
MRMA is currently working with a consortium including the local school foundation, school administrators, CSCLM, Chamber and Economic Development professionals, and college and technical schools in putting together two Youth Career Expo’s-one for middle schools and one for high schools. Students will be bussed in from all local schools to an expo which will include exhibitors and panels from local companies who will share career opportunities at their places of employment. The various schools with manufacturing and logistics programs will also have exhibits and people to share educational opportunities to prepare them for these careers.
Partnerships are the key to success for this regional manufacturing association in meeting the primary needs of the manufacturing and logistics industries in northwest central Florida. This synergy creates an environment that attracts new business to the area as well. This is seen recently with the building of a new 400,000 square foot FedEx distribution center that opened in the fall of 2016, and new major distribution facilities for Auto Zone and Rural King which have started construction. Yes, northwest central Florida is a great place to do business with the Mid-FL Regional Manufacturers Association and its business partners at your back.
To provide an environment for manufacturing companies, suppliers and educators to exchange ideas, share knowledge, discuss opportunities and share problems for the mutual benefit of the manufacturing environment in North Central Florida.
The Mid-Florida Regional Manufacturers Association (MRMA), was initially formed in 1992 as a means of local manufacturing executives to meet and network with each other on a monthly basis. Membership was limited to manufacturing company presidents, general managers, and chief operations managers. It was a small group of people, but they were successful in legally setting up the organization, drawing up by-laws, and sparking interest in a regional manufacturing organization.
In the mid 1990’s, the organization formed an alliance with CF – College of Central Florida and focused much more on educational programs and tours of local manufacturers. Eventually, the Mid-Florida Regional Manufacturing Institute at CF was formed and the number of classes to meet the needs of local manufacturing companies was greatly expanded. Along with these changes, the monthly meeting and tours were opened to any employee at member companies. MRMA has become a resource to all departments with in the member companies.
In 2004, MRMA joined the Manufacturers Association of Florida and became much more active in legislative issues in Tallahassee and Washington. MRMA members participate in lobbying efforts at the local, state, and national levels to improve the business environment for manufacturing in Florida.
In 2012 MRMA formed a partnership with CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion, the local workforce board, which allowed MRMA to hire an Executive Director. Besides managing the business of the association, this position works much more closely with our members and all manufacturers and distribution centers in Citrus, Levy, and Marion Counties to understand their training requirements, helps identify training providers, and helps to identify grants to assist the member company in funding the training. The Executive Director also directs outreach activities to schools regarding careers in manufacturing and logistics to help fill the pipeline with future employees for the manufacturing and logistics industries.
The Mid-Florida Regional Manufacturers Association is truly an advocate of manufacturing in Marion, Levy, Alachua, Citrus, and Sumter counties.