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Manufacturing takes spotlight at Placer forum

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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Manufacturing is a small part of Placer County’s economy but it is an important one and it will take the spotlight at an upcoming Placer County Economic Development Board forum. This is the third year for the Manufacturers Forum, which brings together representatives from the manufacturing sector along with public officials and other stakeholders. It will be held Oct. 30 in Rocklin. This year’s keynote speaker will be Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who will discuss “An Economic Agenda for Reinvigorating Manufacturing and California Competitiveness.” “When he spoke last year at the California Manufacturing Technology Summit, we thought, gosh, he is so articulate about manufacturing and it is such as passion of his that if there was any way we could entice him to join us at the forum, it would a great thing to have him attend,” David Snyder, Placer County economic development director, said this week. Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, a member of county’s Economic Development Board, subsequently contacted Newsom and he agreed to attend. “We built the date around him,” Snyder said. “We were flexible in late October. That morning at 10 a.m. was open for him. He is a Placer County native son. He has businesses in Tahoe and grew up in Dutch Flat. His father, a retired judge, lives in Dutch Flat. He spends quite a bit of time there and serves as the Fourth of July grand marshal of their parade every year. He really has a soft spot in his heart for Placer County.” The second speaker on the program is Ryan Sharp, director of the Center for Strategic Economic Research. His topic will be the Capital Region Prosperity Plan, a blueprint for transforming the region’s economy for long-term sustainable growth, according to a press release. “He’ll present some findings from development of the Capital Region Prosperity Plan and also components of the action plan portion of the strategy, particularly advanced manufacturing,” Snyder said. The forum will include an interactive panel discussion on “Workers compensation: A look back at 2012, a look ahead to 2013.” Panel moderator is Jeremy Merz, policy advocate with the California Chamber of Commerce. He’ll be joined by Christine Baker, director of the Department of Industrial Relations, which regulates the workers compensation system in California; Barrett Steward, alternative risk director for the Warren G. Bender Company, which is headquartered in Sacramento and provides workers comp risk management planning for small to medium-size manufacturing companies; and Chris Johnson, vice president of risk management for Pride Industries. Johnson will provide a local perspective in talking about Pride Industries’ experience with workers compensation, Snyder said. “Last year we did more of a sort of over-arching discussion on regulatory environment,” Snyder said. “Our subcommittee this year really wanted to zero in on a specific regulation. Workers compensation has been in the news because the governor signed SB 863 (Sept. 19). So the question is, will it save the hundreds of millions of dollars out of the system that they proposed it would? Will it reduce fraud? Will it streamline the medical legal process? Will it provide not only benefits to injured workers but will also provide benefits for employers as well? Typically once a decade there is a reform measure like this, but the jury is out on just how effective it will be.” The Placer County Office of Economic Development is organizing the forum. “We’ve invited all 275 manufacturers countywide but then our mailing list doubled in size because you have elected officials and other stakeholders like suppliers and champions of manufacturing, along with educators and those types of folks,” Snyder said. His outlook on the current state of manufacturing in Placer County is that “it’s not growing, it’s not shrinking. It has stabilized.” It played a major role through the 1980s and 1990s, helping maintain the county’s unemployment rate below regional, state and national levels. The high point came in 1999, when it accounted for 10.3 percent of the non-farm employment. “While manufacturing decreased as a percentage of the workforce, it still accounted for more than 7,000 jobs and an annual payroll of nearly $550 million in 2010,” Snyder said in the release. “Expanding the manufacturing sector is critical today because it is an important source of primary wage-earner jobs at many skill levels.” It also offers many high-paying jobs. “The average statewide in California is $85,000,” Snyder said. “The average non-manufacturing wage is $56,000. Obviously we want to encourage manufacturing.” The forum is open to the community. Snyder is also arranging to audio record it and make it available on the Placer County website. Among the sponsors are Sierra College, Centers for Applied Competitive Technologies, Golden Sierra Job Training Agency, Harris and Bruno International. Supervisors Montgomery and Robert Weygandt, members of the economic development board, also will attend. Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com. ------------ Third annual Manufacturers Forum When: 8 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30 Where: Rocklin Event Center, 2650 Sunset Blvd., Rocklin Cost: $10 per person in advance and $15 at the door More information and registration: Kelly Kreeger at (530) 889-4016