South Florida Manufacturers Association: A key player in spurring international trade through workforce development training & advocacy

South Florida Manufacturers Association (SFMA) is a formidable voice for manufacturers in south Florida. Since its establishment in 1960, the organization has been a leading resource for manufacturers “saving its members time and money through workforce development, advocacy and networking.” The organization prides itself in being a leader in promoting international trade initiatives in the region, and serves nearly 5,000 of the 14,000 manufacturers in Florida.

Central to its mission in serving diverse needs of local manufacturers is its emphasis on workforce
development. Tom Kennedy, president and CEO of SFMA says connecting workforce needs with training and education is what completes the circle in terms of meeting industry needs. Given SFMA’s expertise in the areas of workforce and economic development, and legislative/regulatory advocacy, Kennedy hopes to serve as the leading resource “manufacturers look to when they are confronted with issues that need to be addressed.” He views international trade as a promising spot for the sunshine state, and sees SFMA as a key player in demystifying international trade. “Getting that manufacturer to take that first step past the international trade arcade will be part of SFMA’s mission to facilitate and break the inertia with respect to conducting international trade” Kennedy said.

SFMA’s commitment to economic growth is evidenced in the organization’s multi-dimensional projects. Heeding the growing need for skilled machinists on a state and national level, SFMA has recently launched a formal machinist apprentice program. The organization has also built a strong alliance with Workforce Florida to conduct gap analysis, hosting seminars on international banking and trade, tax seminars, organizing plant tours for members, assessing availability of grants, and administering MSSC CPT Certification training and testing. SFMA works closely with the National Association of Manufacturing’s Manufacturing Institute to provide workforce development and training to its members, and helps monitor regulatory/legislative advocacy issues to spur growth in manufacturing throughout the state.

“From helping develop a skilled workforce, to recognition of excellence, to networking, SFMA brings value and opportunity to its member companies.” The organization is gearing up for its three part annual meeting comprised of a symposium, recognition ceremony, and a scholarship golf tournament. “Future of Florida Manufacturing”—the theme of this year’s symposium—will focus on workforce development, economic development, education and international trade— key tools/building blocks needed to secure a future in manufacturing. The event will be held at the Coral Springs Marriott on Sep. 26. In keeping with SFMA’s focus on fostering international trade in the region, Emily DeRocco from the Manufacturing Institute will shed light on workforce development and skills certification needed to compete in a global marketplace. DeRocco will also discuss the importance of and strategies for forming close alliances with local schools, and building inroads for establishing articulation agreements. Other distinguished panel of speakers and presenters include Gov. Rick Scott, Florida Secretary of Commerce, Gray Swoope, renowned author and entrepreneur, Raul Pupo, and Dr. David Altig from the Federal Reserve to name a few.

As a unified force representing common interests of manufacturers, SFMA has “served as a GPS in helping companies navigate through their everyday needs.” Its success and legacy lies in its strong connection/association with leading organizations—the movers and shakers of manufacturing in Florida. Working with other regional manufacturers, SFMA helped establish the Sterling program in Florida, and helped establish the Manufacturers Association of Florida—a premier platform representing the voice of manufacturers in Florida and throughout the nation. SFMA also shares a close partnership with FLATE, and points to FLATE’s manufacturing advertorial and its “Made in Florida” outreach campaign as effective tools in reaching out to local schools, students, and manufacturers. Kennedy applauds FLATE’s efforts in taking a leading role to establish and offer curriculum and training programs that are industry-centric as well as sensitive to the needs of manufacturers throughout the state. He sees tremendous potential, and would like to work with FLATE on collaborative projects like a “road show” to convey the “manufacturing message,” especially in south Florida. “FLATE has given students and educators the tools to pursue careers/educational pathway that have high return on investment personally, economically as well as financially” Kennedy said.

For information on SFMA and manufacturing initiatives in south Florida contact Tom Kennedy at, or visit For information on FLATE and its outreach efforts throughout the state contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at, or visit and

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