City of San Jose Launches MFG:SJ to Support Area Manufacturers

April 5, 2018 by Elisabeth Handler

This week saw the culmination of years of regional discussions on the future of Bay Area manufacturing. The City of San Jose, in partnership with SFMade, a San Francisco-based not-for-profit, will provide San Jose manufacturers with support, connections and workforce development opportunities, through Manufacture: San Jose (MFG:SJ).

Chris Burton, OED, opens MFG:SF launch event with Mayor Liccardo and Piranha CEO Walkup.

The announcement of MFG:SJ was made on the factory floor of Piranha EMS, a North San Jose manufacturing plant that is responsible for re-shoring the assembly of a wide range of components for clients as diverse as a security equipment company, a guitar amplifier manufacturer and departments of the U.S. government.

In remarks at the event, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo pointed to key challenges faced by San Jose and the rest of the Bay Area – the growing income disparity and the shrinking of a skilled workforce so critical for a healthy middle class. He said the Manufacture: San Jose program is necessary to help underserved youth and adults into “very important middle-skill jobs that will help drive their path to the middle class and help provide innovation in our valley.”

San Jose’s Office of Economic Development has been working for several years with SFMade to focus more resources on supporting the critical manufacturing ecosystem in the Bay Area. For background see the report on the Bay Area Urban Manufacturers Summit, 2016.  As MC of the launch event, Chris Burton, OED Deputy Director, welcomed the support from SFMade and the funders in creating a vital support system for local manufacturers.

Kate Sofis, SFMade’s CEO, pointed out: “For me, Manufacture: San Jose is not about bringing SFMade to San Jose. It’s really about taking some of the principles of community building that we have found work up north and exploring what that means for this incredible community and city that is the largest manufacturing city, the largest city in Northern California.”

MFG:SJ will have an office in San Jose and a director for the program is being sought. Funding for the program is coming from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the James Irvine Foundation, as well as support from Bank of the West, Citi Community Development and Wells Fargo.

For local business owners like Richard Walkup, the CEO of Piranha EMS, MFG:SJ is a welcome effort to help local manufacturing be more competitive and keep more jobs in the United States.

Mayor Sam Liccardo, left, and Piranha EMS CEO Richard Walkup at the launch of MFG:SJ.

“I believe that government and private enterprise getting together in collaboration, giving us that opportunity to scale this model event more effectively, will be very dynamic,” Walkup said, adding that it would send a signal that “Silicon Valley is going to be back here building a lot of products for the whole world. It started here. It should stay here. I think we build and produce some of the best products in the world, bar none.”

MFG:SJ is an outgrowth of a project called the Bay Area Urban Manufacturing Initiative that began in 2015 when the mayors of San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland got together to collaborate on a regional approach to workforce training. Today, 27 cities across the region are part of that effort, Sofis said.

“What we hope to bring now, with Manufacture: San Jose, is really the next step of an ecosystem to be, as I often say, the yenta to connect the city, the municipality, to think, how do we engage the school district, how do we think of land use and planning and zoning to make sure we have space for manufacturing,” Sofis said.

For more information on MFG:SJ, contact Donovan Lazaro, Business Development Officer, OED.

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