Despite popular myth American manufacturing still holds first place in the world. According to the National Association of Manufacturers the United States accounts for 21% of the world?s production; China is second with 14%, Japan 3rd with 9%.

Here in Florida, we manufacture everything from microchips to potato chips. Manufacturing accounts for 5% of our state?s GDP. The majority of our manufacturing operations, roughly 80%, employ less than 50 people. These employees are technically skilled and highly productive.

What has been missing is an understanding of the value of manufacturing in a healthy economy and an awareness of the good careers available in high tech industry. For years, Florida manufacturers have tried to make students and parents aware of potential careers in manufacturing. Careers that may not require a four year college degree, yet pay at the top of the wage pyramid. Careers that do not necessitate leaving Florida. We encourage students, teachers and guidance counselors to visit our facilities to see first hand what today’s manufacturing is really all about.

In the fall of 2005, the Sarasota Manatee Area Manufacturers Association (SAMA) applied for a grant from the Florida High Tech Corridor Council to help us facilitate tours of high tech manufacturing facilities in 11 Tampa Bay area counties.

SAMA partnered with FL-ATE, the Center for Manufacturing Education at Hillsborough Community College to design an outreach project that matched our mission with that of the High Tech Corridor Council. Together, we bring students into manufacturing facilities to observe high tech operations and explore career opportunities.

A lesson plan, designed by FL-ATE is attached to make the tours a true learning experience. Students also view the “Made in Florida? video to see unscripted interviews with young people talking about their own careers in manufacturing.

SAMA enrolls manufacturers to be tour hosts. Host company leadership, engineers and production staff spend time with students explaining various aspects of modern industry.

Since 2005, SAMA has underwritten the Made In Florida Tours financially with proceeds from our annual Golf Tournament as well as member contributions.

To date; thousands of students have participated in the Made In Florida educational outreach project. More than 13,000 have visited with inquiries about potential careers. With the recent emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) we anticipate strengthening our partnership with the education community to expose even more students to potential careers in our industry.

For more information, contact Peter D. Straw at 941-376-4272 or