Collaboration Advances Manufacturing Along the 78 Corridor

Few industries have been impacted more by automation and globalization than manufacturing.

Few industries have been impacted more by automation and globalization than manufacturing. Over the past 20 years, manufacturing jobs in California have sharply (then steadily) declined, while production output has rebounded to record highs. Clearly, the industry has undergone a major transformation to operate leaner and more effectively but manufacturers’ long-term success relies on their ability to remain agile and forward-thinking.

There are more than 1,800 manufacturing and engineering companies across Oceanside, San Marcos, Escondido, Carlsbad, and Vista, each at various points in their lifecycle. Innovate78 is focused on bringing these companies together to understand the complex issues they face, connect them with the right people and resources, and create a more manufacturing-friendly environment where they can thrive.

Collaboration among manufacturers along the 78 Corridor is helping them better navigate an industry in flux. Despite their differences in size and target markets, they all share common trade, production, and operational challenges, and have knowledge and experience that can benefit others in the region.

Roundtables Help Manufacturers Mitigate Bottlenecks

Innovate78 coordinates quarterly Manufacturing Roundtables to bring together manufacturers and economic development managers from the Corridor’s five cities. The events, which are organized around one specific topic, are open to all manufacturers. They typically feature an educational component followed by a group discussion. The ultimate goal is to get 15-20 manufacturers collaborating on issues relevant to their industry. It’s an opportunity to connect them with their city’s representatives and available resources, with the hope that they too will pass this knowledge onto their peers.

For cities along the 78 Corridor, these roundtables provide an opportunity to learn about the problems impeding manufacturing industry and help match them with the people and resources that can help. For manufacturers, they offer the chance to seek advice, learn something new, and create relationships that will move business forward. For example, at a recent roundtable discussion on the talent gap, a manufacturer praised the machinist certification program at Palomar College and another manufacturer with no prior knowledge of the program happened to be hiring for that very position. As a direct result of the event, an introduction was brokered between a manufacturer looking for skilled labor and a specialized talent source.

Manufacturing Roundtables held at Hunter Industries in San Marcos and Carbon by Design in Vista.

Scotty Lombardi, Senior Manager of Global Talent at San Marcos-based Hunter Industries, is a regular participant in Manufacturing Roundtables and he thinks they can be particularly valuable for companies with a few hundred employees or less.

“If someone is facing challenges where another organization has wins, they can talk through those so they can leverage the strength of the other to aid in the success of their own business,” said Lombardi. “It’s a great forum because it isn’t competitive in the sense that we aren’t going to share our secrets and we don’t want you to be successful. Because manufacturers want to see each other succeed, we aren’t going to hold what we know and what we do close to the vest.”

These Manufacturing Roundtables have focused on a range of issues that impact manufacturing like reshoring, environmental concerns and policies, and bridging the gap between education and skilled labor. Each event is hosted by a local manufacturer and often concludes with a site tour of their facilities. Past host companies include Hunter Industries (San Marcos), Carbon by Design (Vista) and McCain Inc. (Vista).

The next Manufacturing Roundtable will be on October 17, where Drew Garrison with the City of San Diego will explore the topic of Foreign-Trade Zones. For more information about future Manufacturing Roundtables or to RSVP to the October event, email Rachel Maltz at

Manufacturing & Engineering Day Aims to Inspire Future Manufacturers

Created by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), National Manufacturing Day is a nationwide effort to raise the industry’s profile and promote manufacturing activities taking place across the U.S. Every year regional events are held during the first week of October to coincide with National Manufacturing Day.

Traditionally, companies celebrate by opening their doors to the public, facilitating tours, and talking with people about their business and the different skills they require. Federal Heath Sign Company and Hunter Industries consistently hold company-sponsored National Manufacturing Day events at their North County facilities. For smaller companies with limited resources or that work with sensitive intellectual property, the San Diego North Economic Development Council offers free representation to manufacturers at their event to inspire the next generation of manufacturers.

North County Manufacturing and Engineering Day connects local manufacturers and students

North County Manufacturing and Engineering Day and Exhibition is geared towards middle and high school aged students to combat the stereotypes surrounding manufacturing and educate them about career opportunities. This year, STEM students from Cal State San Marcos will take attending students on a campus tour and the Expo will feature displays from 30 North County manufacturing and engineering companies as well as student-designed robotics from North County Trade Tech High. 1,500 students are expected to attend this year’s North County Manufacturing and Engineering Day event, which will be held on Tuesday October 1st from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Cal State San Marcos.

“We are so excited about the number of kids that come to the event from diverse high schools, some of whom travel many miles by bus to get here,” said Erik Bruvold, CEO of San Diego North EDC. “It’s a great opportunity to get them on a college campus to meet and interact with students with similar backgrounds and experiences. It inspires kids to consider the possibilities of college and what a future career in manufacturing can offer.”

Hunter Industries Supplies Leadership to Region’s Manufacturers

Hunter Industries is the largest private employer in San Marcos and an active leader in North County’s manufacturing community. The company’s irrigation and landscaping equipment is used in over 130 countries. Some of the most successful manufacturers today are those that have set up cross-border manufacturing and the ones that have transitioned their labor force to meet job requirements in the new economy. Hunter Industries has done both.

Hunter Industries’ San Marcos headquarters and manufacturing talent

With its close proximity to Mexico, North County companies can benefit from cross-border manufacturing by building or partnering with plants in neighboring Mexico. Hunter Industries started its Tijuana operations in 2004. 15 years later it is building its fourth foreign factory and employing 1300 workers in Mexico.

“Both the Tijuana EDC and our Regional EDC have done a great job in collaborating so that businesses with a presence in both regions can succeed,” said Lombardi. “The partnerships that exist with Customs and Border Patrol helps manufacturers like Hunter get sub-assembled products to Mexico then fully assembled products back to our San Marcos facilities where they are either trucked out somewhere domestically, or up to Long Beach then loaded onto a cargo ship headed to one of 130 countries.”

Hunter’s San Marcos headquarters spans 12 buildings and employs 1,000 people. While moving manufacturing lines to Tijuana has reduced jobs like production assemblers, machine operators, and material handlers, Hunter has backfilled those numbers one for one but with higher-paying professional jobs in finance, IT, HR, software development, marketing, customer service, and engineering. In addition, the company has set up internship and apprentice programs to leverage the experience of a workforce nearing retirement by pairing them with student interns who are pursuing their machinist certification at MiraCosta College for a period of 18 months. Interns receive an increase in pay every six months as long as they meet certain milestones and that has been Hunter’s succession plan to achieving a steady pipeline of machinists.

“I attend many industry and regional events on behalf of Hunter as a means to support the Innovate78 initiative in bringing folks together, and to provide that mentorship component so less established organizations can learn from us,” said Lombardi. “We are happy to share that information whether it is me personally or me connecting someone on the outside and someone here for those one-on-one mentorship and learning opportunities.”

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