Volusia Manufacturers Association Defines What It takes to be a Leading Voice for Local Manufacturers

Regional Manufacturers Associations play a significant role in reflecting the interests and translating the needs of local manufacturers. Volusia Manufacturers Association (VMA), located in Ormond Beach FL, has been a leading voice in promoting manufacturing through education, training, outreach and networking opportunities. Since 1980, the organization has served as a focal point in providing tools to help manufacturers succeed in a local and national arena.

What defines VMA is its extended array of outreach initiatives, and its cohesive network of partnerships with local industry leaders and educators. The organization enjoys 37% market penetration whereby access to a local manufacturer, education facility, or legislator is almost instantaneous. Jayne Fifer, president and CEO of VMA says the organization has developed a strategic plan of action that is geared to address the national and local shortage of skilled laborers in manufacturing. Fifer says the plan centers on building awareness among young people, and propagating the message that “manufacturing still exists in the USA” and is thriving in Volusia and Flagler counties.
To kick start its strategic plan of action, VMA has a pipeline of outreach projects and has partnered with local engineering and manufacturing related academies. The “Poster Project” at the Advanced Technology College, for example, is designed to showcase manufacturers and their products. Participants are currently working on designing large posters that tell who they are, showcase their products and list all the careers and jobs it takes to run the company. The posters will be unveiled during a special unveiling ceremony at VMA’s general membership meeting in August. The “Adopt an Academy” program is yet another outreach initiative for local manufacturers to adopt a local manufacturing-related academy.
In keeping with its goal to foster education and community awareness initiatives, VMA has devised a structured outreach campaign targeted to raise awareness among students, educate the educator about manufacturing, and connect them with local manufacturers. The organization is a member of the Career Connections Cadre which represents a partnership between Volusia County Schools, area business and industry, the Center for Business Excellence and Volusia colleges and universities.VMA is currently actively involved with Volusia County Schools and the Cadre in charting a five year strategic planning process targeted to bring more business input into the development and redesign of its career and technical education programs. The initiative is also geared to help career academies “keep pace with demands of the business community.” Other VMA initiatives include monthly plant tours, meetings and seminars that emphasize business growth, human resource issues, excellence in manufacturing technologies, financial and accounting issues.
“Raising awareness of manufacturing is a grassroots effort” says Fifer.  In keeping with this, VMA has organized a Manufacturers Speakers Bureau whereby members are scheduled to give several presentations to teachers at local engineering/manufacturing related academies, ERAU engineering classes and DSC STEM classes. A total of 22 presentations have been scheduled for June 19. Fifer outlines the initiative as a pathway to inform teachers and help them raise awareness about manufacturing and the tremendous opportunities it provides. The expectation, she says, is if students, teachers and parents hear about manufacturing in a focused campaign, they will share their ideas with others.  In essence the idea is to “win one person at a time, producing a ripple effect.”
To keep industry continually engaged with its efforts VMA has also planned a “Manufacturers Mentoring Day” in September. Each academy is set to send six students to participate in a two hour, job shadowing experience with a local manufacturer. VMA has also planned a manufacturers’ expo to increase visibility of manufacturers in the community, and to connect them to the community at large. The expo will be held in October at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, FL.   
Given its array of programs and partnerships, VMA enjoys a robust partnership with FLATE in promoting manufacturing education and excellence in Florida. In 2008, VMA actively participated in the FLATE-led campaign to produce three 30 second public service announcement to showcase and educate the community at large about educational and career pathways in high-tech manufacturing in Volusia County. Fifer commends FLATE in taking the first step to create state of the art programs for local manufacturers, and equipping local manufacturers with resources to help them succeed.

For more information about VMA contact Jayne Fifer at jayne.fifer@vmaonline.com, or visit www.VMAonline.com. For information about FLATE’s partnership with regional manufacturers associations in Florida, and its outreach initiatives kit designed to promote regional manufacturing activity contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org, or visit www.madeinflorida.org and www.fl-ate.org. 

Snapshot of the 2011 VMA Expo

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