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Manufacturing: The Resurgence of American Innovation and Jobs

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Tektite founder, Scott Mele, receiving the Export Achievement Award from the Department of Commerce. Scott Mele on left, Congressman Rush Holt on right.

Guest blog post from Miles Bodnar, Marketing Manager at Tektite Industries

Cross-posted on the NIST MEP blog

There’s something really great that’s going on in America right now: people are talking about manufacturing again. If you ask individuals from the baby boomer generation, they’ll tell you that manufacturing was a cornerstone of the economy when they were growing up. Everyone’s job was associated with manufacturing in one way or another and we were proud of our products Made in the USA. Manufacturing was a part of patriotism.

Since the baby boomer generation has grown up, the world has certainly changed. What hasn’t changed though is that manufacturing is still a pillar of our economy. America is still the number one manufacturing country in the world; we out-produce number-two China by more than 40 percent. Despite our economic challenges in 2009, America created an estimated $1.7 trillion worth of goods according to the United Nations. Manufacturing will always serve as the foundation of our economy for two main reasons: manufacturing challenges us to become more innovative and manufacturing growth creates jobs.

The timeline of our company, Tektite Industries, is the perfect example of this. Like many start ups, company founder Scott Mele founded Tektite in his garage in 1990, developing and distributing the most advanced and quality flashlight in the world. A year later, the organization was manufacturing a Chemical Lightstick Alternative® and Mark-Lite®, which was designed to reduce solid waste produced by chemical sticks there by creating a more “green” alternative.  Over the past 20 years, our company has developed into a vertically integrated LED lighting manufacturer that produces specialty lighting products, incorporating leading edge technology. From specialty flashlights, strobes, to signaling lights, we mold our parts, assemble our electronics, CNC machine, and stamp our metal parts all in New Jersey.

We here at Tektite Industries have only been able to evolve throughout the decades because of innovation. Manufacturing never stops–it just changes. Innovation is all about identifying ways to differentiate ourselves and implementing new ideas to serve new markets. While foreign products may be cheaper in price, we out perform all foreign competitors and produce the best quality available. We use technology and innovative ideas to train our workforce, becoming more efficient and productive while creating new jobs. This creates a ripple effect throughout our economy. It is estimated that for every new manufacturing job created, four to seven additional jobs are created for the economy.

Tektite understands firsthand the benefit of improving an ever-changing workforce. Our organization worked with the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, Inc. (NJMEP) to train workers in CNC machining operation. (NJMEP is an affiliate of the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership program). This training helped improve our processes which allowed us to better serve our customers. These types of initiatives helped us grow as an organization and will continue to create new jobs and opportunities. On a national scale, we must replicate these types of initiatives and continue to support the manufacturing sector, thereby assisting our entire economy in its recovery phase. On a worldwide scale we now offer our products via the Internet on our web site www.tek-tite.com.

Perhaps at some point we forgot how the American economy and manufacturing sector were so closely intertwined. Through increased awareness and pro-manufacturing initiatives, the public is hearing this message again. To my fellow manufacturers, I encourage you to contact your local MEP center to learn how you can become more competitive and profitable. To my fellow Americans, I encourage you to always remember how important manufacturing is to our history and how important it is to our future.

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