Gendron envisions American manufacturing ‘renaissance’

LOVELAND – Tom Gendron, chief executive officer of Woodward Inc. (NASDAQ: WWD) sees hope for American manufacturing because of advances in automation and because of the country’s educated workforce.

For a variety of reasons, Woodward said he believes a “renaissance” in American manufacturing has taken hold, reversing decades of decline.

“I’m speaking here today partially because I truly believe in that,” he said.

Gendron spoke Friday to an audience at the Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Alliance’s 2013 Manufacturing Summit. The event, at Embassy Suites in Loveland, marked the technology manufacturing trade association’s first conference.

Woodward is investing a half billion dollars in expansions in the United States, including its headquarters in Fort Collins, Gendron said.

“We’re investing heavily here,” he said.

The company, which reported $1.9 billion in 2012 revenue, makes control systems for energy and aerospace markets. Woodward employed nearly 1,500 people in Northern Colorado last year.

Despite a declining supply chain, the United States remains the largest manufacturing market in the world, Gendron said. He also sees opportunity in the nation’s labor market stability and flexibility, college-educated workforce, rule of law and intellectual property protection. He forecasts growth from low oil prices and advances in automation, as well.

Woodward, in fact, is ramping up its automation capabilities.

“This is happening,” he said. “This is where we’re going.”

Gendron sees challenges ahead, including a shortage of talented employees and attitudes favoring an economy driven by services over manufacturing. Additionally, the nation’s manufacturing supply chain, especially in electronics, has shifted to Asia.

In Northern Colorado, a lack of machining companies and laborers poses a regional challenge to manufacturing, he said. The area benefits, however, from low electricity costs.

The nation, as well as Colorado, could help the manufacturing sector by changing tax codes, which encourages manufacturers to relocate overseas, he said. Manufacturing also could benefit from recognition by Americans that “manufacturing is important and creates wealth.”

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