Though currently a very small part of the regional economy, it is alive and growing, as this article from Comstock’s Magazine profiles.
Research and development is the foundation for regional manufacturing growth Like an oil derrick with arms, the school-bus-yellow robot is the center of attraction in an otherwise colorless room dominated by metal castings and concrete floors. Moving like a mime on a street corner, the robot picks up a metal casting, holds it to a computer-run camera and then places the part and the fixture that holds it on a machine for tooling.
The ultimate product will be larger than a typical car and weigh more than a couple multi-ton trucks. But at the Mori Seiki manufacturing plant outside Davis, practically every modern convenience, including products as small as toasters and cell phones, begins to take shape.
This is ground zero in the world of manufacturing, the place where machines make parts to make other machines, says Adam Hansel, a chief technical officer at Mori Seiki. The company’s $50 million investment, operating at about one-third capacity, is one of the newest bright spots in an economic sector that has been losing ground throughout California. It also is indicative of future manufacturing growth that is more about software than smokestacks.
The Sacramento Area Commerce and Trade Organization (SACTO) estimates that manufacturing represents 4.1 percent of regional employment. Those 34,800 jobs are far fewer than the 48,200 of a decade ago. The California Manufacturers and Technology Association contends the state is losing manufacturing jobs at a faster clip than the rest of the country due to costs. Nationally, manufacturing output increased 4.4 percent since 2010, while California’s growth has been stagnant at 0.4 percent, according to Geno DiCaro, the association’s vice president of communications.