we have people who can get to manufacturers anywhere in the country within some reasonable time and effort.”
For example, he said, Hawaii’s MEP center, directed by Janice Kato, is actually located within the state’s High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC), near the University of Hawaii’s main campus in Manoa. The HTDC works with a team of partners including the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; the State of Hawaii Foreign Trade Zone #9; the Hawaii Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies; the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation; and others.
Moving Beyond Cost Reduction to Product Development
This MEP-HTDC partnership emphasizes product development in the higher-tech areas. “I’ll be honest with you,” he said, “Hawaii is steps ahead in this emphasis. It’s good to see other centers around the country still focused on cost reduction and the lean manufacturing elements, which are necessary. But if a state isn’t thinking about growth, as you are, it’s probably going the opposite direction. You have to be thinking about the next product, the next service, and how do I get that into the hands of my customers.”
From a general manufacturing perspective, he said, trends have been changing, partly due to globalization. He described the MEP’s response to three of them:
1. Most manufacturers today are not selling directly to consumers; they sell to another company that integrates the product into something else. Hence manufacturers have to focus on the relevant supply chain and position themselves appropriately. A company does not have to do this alone, he noted; partnerships and business organizations can help a firm develop a new product with high sales potential.
2. The MEP now focuses more sharply on technology adoption by manufacturers, because rates of technology adoption in small firms still lag those of larger firms.
3. A rapidly growing trend is that of sustainability—not only from an environmental or energy conservation perspective, but from the need to build a business model that both satisfies those requirements while helping the bottom line.
In its survey of businesses, the MEP asks about challenges. From a national perspective, he said, companies were focused on controlling costs. In the case of Hawaii, he said approvingly, the top priority was product innovation and development, followed by identifying growth opportunities. “A lot of our effort in dealing with the manufacturing client is getting them to go beyond just cutting costs. We