Archives For Manufacturing & Production

A sweet fact—14 percent of the nation’s sugar is processed right here in Maryland.

Domino Foods, a mainstay of Baltimore’s skyline for over 90 years, refines more than 6.5 million pounds of raw sugar a day. Its facility, which blends new technology with historic factory space, employs roughly 620 people. And according to refinery manager Stuart FitzGibbon, these jobs are unique.

“These jobs provide a level of income where you can further your family’s position in life,” FitzGibbon said. “The type of income you can earn in manufacturing without an education is unparalleled. This is the fundamental difference between manufacturing and service sector jobs.”

FitzGibbon, a 26-year veteran of the company, is a cheerleader for Maryland manufacturing, which he calls a “lynchpin in the economy.”

He tells of employees who first starting working on the factory floor over 30 years ago. At the time, very few had college degrees and some hadn’t finished high school. Decades later, even as the plant has become increasingly automated, they’ve remained working, advanced their positions and sent their kids to college.

“It’s a model that’s created the American middle class,” he said.

Governor Martin O’Malley shares FitzGibbon’s enthusiasm for manufacturing. The Governor chose the plant as the backdrop for a recent job numbers announcement.

“There are hundreds of jobs here at Domino but there are also hundreds and hundreds more that are part of this ripple effect, so you’re standing in the sweet spot of the Baltimore economy,” Governor O’Malley said.

Governor O’Malley has supported manufacturers through infrastructure improvements on roads and rail, and expansion efforts at the Port of Baltimore. He also spearheaded the State’s EARN Maryland Program, which gives industry leaders access to state funding to coordinate worker training programs, with an emphasis on advanced manufacturing skills.

FitzGibbon urges Marylanders to take pride in using products made by Maryland manufacturers and support initiatives to revitalize the industry.

“Maryland has the opportunity to grow its manufacturing sector because we have the Chesapeake Bay, we have railroad service, great roads, and a supportive legislative environment,” he said. “I think this is a key thing for Maryland—we’ve got to grow private sector maritime manufacturing.”



A preschooler peels back the label on a Crayola crayon. A happy hour-goer grasps a chilled bottle of Yuengling. A young mother reads the nutritional facts on a canister of Walgreens brand snacks.

They’re all handling a range of easily-overlooked Maryland-manufactured inputs—the labels.

Since 1896, Gamse Lithographing Company, has produced and printed labels for millions of everyday items in the United States, Canada and Latin America. Based in Rosedale in Baltimore County, the company’s clients include Crayola, Heinz, Yuengling, Walgreens, Walmart and others. In recent years, its manufacturing capabilities have extended beyond labels to include lids, wrappers, foil, embossing, die cutting and a range of other services.

Coordinated by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, Governor Martin O’Malley recently toured Gamse Lithographing Company with president and owner Daniel J. Canzoniero. The governor used the opportunity to meet some of the company’s 150 employees and to learn more about the innovative printing technologies that set the manufacturer apart.

“In this day and age, where there have been a lot of companies closing and a lot of downsizing and rightsizing, we haven’t been through that. It’s really nice to have some recognition for the stability that we’ve shown here over the years,” Canzoniero said.

Part of Gamse Lithographing Company’s secret to longevity is a dedication to the employee. The company has a long history of offering quality health coverage to workers, in addition to a competitive living wage. Canzoniero said the company is constantly working to expand each employee’s skillset through the use of new equipment and training programs.

“We’re strong believers in the fact that there need to be employers in Maryland for high school educated and trade school educated employees, not just those who were fortunate enough to get college educations, masters and Ph.D.s,” he said.

Canzoniero praised Maryland for its exceptional workforce and central location, which eases product development and negotiations with clients.

“We have good geographic synergy with a lot of the major Fortune 100 companies, being in the Mid-Atlantic,” he said.

See the above video to learn more about Gamse Lithographing Company.

Governor Martin O’Malley spotlighted Gamse Lithographing Company's dedication to providing employees a living wage and reliable health coverage.

Governor Martin O’Malley spotlighted Gamse Lithographing Company’s dedication to providing employees a living wage and reliable health coverage.

Since 1896, Gamse Lithographing Company in Rosedale, Maryland has made labels for commercial items across America.

Since 1896, Gamse Lithographing Company in Rosedale, Maryland has made labels for commercial items across America.

i-Lighting

Scott Holland, owner of i-Lighting, displays a machine that allows him to complete circuit boards in-house. The company formerly imported from China.

It wasn’t just another business competition for Scott Holland, it was the realization of a life-long dream.

Holland’s startup i-Lighting, a novel easy-to-install indoor and outdoor LED lighting system, was awarded $100,000 and other prizes in April 2013 during the inaugural InvestMaryland Challenge, a prestigious business competition by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. Following weeks of rigorous judging and mentoring, his company beat out dozens of others, ranging from high-tech manufacturers to smart phone app developers, in the general category.

The i-Lighting team celebrated victory at a ceremony with Governor Martin O’Malley, along with RedOwl Analytics, winner of the information technology category, and Graybug, winner of the life sciences category.

For Holland, it was only the beginning of a new life for the company he had been nurturing since 2005. Over the course of the following six months, by fall 2013, the company experienced rapid, profitable growth.

i-Lighting Growth Since InvestMaryland Challenge Victory

Spring 2013 Fall 2013
Number of employees 3 full-time and 2 part-time 6 full-time and 3 part-time
Location and work space Home-based 1,600-square-foot space with living room office Newly constructed 5,000-square-foot office and warehouse space
Annual estimated calculated and projected revenue $500,000 in 2012 $1,000,000 in 2013$3,000,000 in 2014
Commercial product lines 3 6
Number of manufacturing machines 2 4
Work benches 2 10
Parts production outsourced to China Yes No
i-Lighting

i-Lighting offers a novel indoor and outdoor LED lighting system.

Pre-competition, a major challenge for Holland was convincing a bank to help finance his business. He was deeply passionate about his product, but knew he needed a jump-start.

“As a small business, it’s virtually impossible to just borrow from a traditional bank. They don’t want to take the chance,” he said. “But the cash injection from the InvestMaryland Challenge gave us the funds we needed to basically take us over the hump. That was a major hurdle we overcame after winning.”

But i-Lighting’s win offered far more than the cash prize.

“The exposure has been phenomenal. We weren’t known before. Now everyone knows about us. We gained legitimacy. Sometimes home-based businesses are looked down on. Having our own facility now, we’re able to entertain clients,” Holland said.

But one of the greatest benefits of participating was how it forced the young company to streamline its goals.

“Our business plan was mostly in our heads. It was on paper but it wasn’t highly refined. In order to qualify and compete, we had to create an actual realistic business plan. It forced us to focus and develop that plan. Now we’re implementing what we developed—and that’s huge,” he said.

Holland is especially proud of the fact that his company is no longer dependent on Chinese manufacturing. While it represented a substantial up-front cost to the company, Holland purchased a new machine that allows circuit board production for the lighting system to be completed in-house.  He described the independence and reliability of using his own machinery as liberating.

“Not everything made in China is poorly manufactured, but it’s true that you get what you pay for … You don’t have control over quality, you can’t see your product being made, so you don’t know the environment it’s being made in,” Holland said. “The initial basic product might be cheaper, but by the time you pay expedited airfreight, it’s extremely expensive, and you also have to pay duties and taxes for importing it. At the end of the day, we have control and I can deliver a better quality product to the market, almost always cheaper, and I can place ‘Made in the USA’ on it.’ ”

Holland urges other startups, whether they’re already located in Maryland or interested in moving to the state, to submit their applications for the second-annual 2014 InvestMaryland Challenge.

“Even if you don’t win, it gets your name out there in front of professionals,” he said.

InvestMaryland Challenge applicants receive free admission to networking events, social media promotion, scoring and feedback from judges, and exposure to venture capital firms and angel investors. Categories have increased from three to four to include life sciences, information technology, cybersecurity and general industry. Each category winner is eligible for a $100,000 grand prize. Others will take home smaller grants, incubator space, consulting services and other cash and in-kind prizes, bringing the total available competition prizes to $600,000.

Applications must be submitted by Dec. 6.

Additional details and a video message from the governor are available on the 2014 InvestMaryland Challenge website.

The next time you’re filtering through airport security, consider that the equipment scanning you and your luggage was likely produced right here in Maryland.

Smiths Detection, with its U.S. headquarters in Edgewood, is the world’s leading supplier of an array of tools used to detect weapons, explosives and chemical threats.

“Talk to any of our employees, we take great pride in keeping people safe,” said Mike Castek, site head of the Edgewood plant. Smiths Detection employs roughly 230 Marylanders, about 10 percent of the global division’s workforce, operating within United Kingdom-based Smiths Group.

While the majority of Americans will interact with a Smiths Detection scanner or x-ray machine at an airport, products also cater to elite security groups like the United Nations’ Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Weapons inspectors used Smith Detection products during their most recent investigation of chemical warfare in Syria. The group’s mission helped secure them the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

The focus on chemical weapons detection is part of the rationale behind its Edgewood location. Aberdeen Proving Ground, just a stone’s throw from the plant, houses the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, which uses several Smiths Detection products. Military and first responders to chemical threats have utilized the company’s unique Chemical Biological Protective Shelters.

“It’s crucial to be close to our customers and to be able to get the products to the right place as quickly as possible,” said Brian Boso, chief scientist at the plant.

Leadership at the Maryland location also take advantage of their proximity to Washington, D.C.

“We talk to the CIA, TSA, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals and the Department of Defense on a constant basis, trying to work with them to figure out what the future threats are and to develop new techniques,” Boso said.

“Unfortunate events” have contributed to Smiths Detection’s rapid growth in recent years, company leadership said.

Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, threat detection equipment represented a very small portion of Smiths Group’s global operation. Through acquisition of another company, it then produced 100-150 desktop explosive detectors per year. Three months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, however, the Transportation Security Administration placed an order for 6,000 desktop explosive detectors to be issued at airports across the nation.

“It’s a very event-driven industry. As the terrorists change their mode of operation, we have to adapt,” Boso said.

Increased demand for security equipment caused Smiths Group to name Smiths Detection a separate division in 2003. In recent years, the Edgewood plant’s footprint and workforce has doubled.

Smiths Detection was at the forefront of developing on-site detection tools for “white powder incidents,” often suspected of involving anthrax, he said. More recently, the company has developed a scanner for liquid, which will enable TSA to restrict only threatening liquids carried on by passengers, clearing harmless ones.

The Edgewood plant’s workforce reflects the changing face of new-age manufacturing, where the laboratory is as important as the factory floor.

A large number of employees are electronic test technicians, who typically have a two-year associates degree with an electrical engineering focus. Members of the research and development staff tend to have advanced degrees.

“It can be a challenge sometimes to find highly technical scientists, but we’ve been able to take advantage of Maryland’s educated workforce and also attract people here,” Castek said.

As opposed to historic perceptions of a dangerous factory, Smiths Detection’s next-generation manufacturing methods focus on protecting the employee.

“The workplace is designed around the people as much as it’s designed around the equipment, which was not the case years ago,” Boso said.  “We pride ourselves that our products help keep people safe, so we certainly don’t want anyone getting hurt building our products.”

Smiths Detection is poised for growth in Maryland. Already, its technology is used at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, BWI Fire & Rescue Department and fire departments in Harford County, Cecil County, Prince George’s County and Baltimore City. Multiple courthouses and federal buildings in Maryland also use Smiths Detection weapons scanners.

Boso said the company is well integrated with governmental and public safety institutions across the country, but there are new opportunities emerging in commercial and critical infrastructure markets.

Corporate headquarters, schools, mass transit stations and prisons are becoming customers for threat detection equipment, including x-ray machines, metal detectors, scanners used to secure checkpoints.

“We see a fair amount of expansion in those areas, for sure. Smiths is optimistic about the future market,” Boso said.

 

The second annual InvestMaryland Challenge is in full swing. If your business is in need of a jump start, check out this site for more information about the national business competition. The Challenge offers applicants free admission to networking events, social media promotion, scoring and feedback from judges, exposure to venture capital firms and angel investors and the chance to compete for more than $600,000 in prizes. Winners of the Life Sciences, IT, Cybersecurity and General Industry categories will each win $100,000 awards. Others will take home smaller grants, incubator space, consulting services and other cash and in-kind prizes. Applications are due by Dec. 6.

Judges include a distinguished lineup of industry leaders and experts in a variety of fields. Meet a selection of judges below.

Meet The Judges:

IT-robDoub

ROBB DOUB

Robb Doub joined New Markets Venture Partners in 2003. Robb is the lead administrative partner and serves as a board director for eCoast Sales Solutions and Appfluent Technology, and is lead partner or board observer for K2 Global, Kroll Bond Ratings, Navtrak, Three Stage Media, CSA Medical and TidalTV. He also serves on the board of Egeen International and the Conflicts Advisory Board of the off-shore hedge funds.

IT-daphneDufresneDAPHNE DUFRESNE

Daphne Dufresne joined RLJ Equity Partners from Parish Capital Advisors, where she was a Venture Partner managing the direct investment and co-investment program. Formerly, Ms. Dufresne was a Principal at Weston Presidio Capital with $3.4 billion of assets under management. She also served as Associate Director in the Bank of Scotland’s Structured Finance Group. Ms. Dufresne received her B.S. from the University of Pennsylvania and her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

LS_Christy_W_WyskielCHRISTY WILLIAMS WYSKIEL

Christy Williams Wyskiel is an entrepreneur and investor with 20 years of experience focused on the life sciences and healthcare industries. Previously, Christy was Managing Director at Maverick Capital, an equity hedge fund with $12 billion under management. She co-founded GrayBug, an ophthalmic drug-delivery company. In 2012, Christy joined the Johns Hopkins Alliance, a board charged with evaluating the commercial viability of research projects at JHU.

CS_Frederick_FerrerFREDERICK J. FERRER

Frederick J. Ferrer has over three decades of experience in the National Security, Intelligence Community (IC), Homeland Defense and Cyber. Mr. Ferrer holds a Master’s of Science in Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University and serves in a number of leadership capacities, including the Maryland Commission on Cybersecurity Innovation and Excellence; National STEM Consortium Advisory Committee; and Chesapeake Regional Tech Council.

GEN_Deb_TillettDEBORAH TILLETT

As the Executive Director and President of the Emerging Technology Center in Baltimore, Ms. Tillett is responsible for management of budgetary, administrative, programmatic functions and strategic planning. Prior to joining ETC, Ms. Tillett served as president and co-founder of Immersive 3D, LLC, a technology start-up providing web-based 3D computer gaming solutions for K-20 education and offering contract-based technology services.

See the full list of judges and submit your application on InvestMarylandChallenge.org.

Maryland government agencies have a history of funding worker training projects, but never before has training been made so widely available across an entire industry.

Under the direction of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, the EARN (Employment Advancement Right Now) Maryland Workforce Training Initiative is now offering an unprecedented opportunity for business leaders to form partnerships and offer the type of training needed to significantly increase worker productivity.

The first step is filling out an EARN Maryland Planning Grant application, which first became available on Oct. 15 and must be submitted by Nov. 12, 2013. Lead applicants will apply for $25,000 to fund the creation of a Strategic Industry Partnership Workforce Training Plan. There is no limit to the number of these grants the state will issue.

Between November 2013 and April 2014, the funding will assist the lead applicant in forming a partnership with fellow key players in their industry. Many will take advantage of professional membership organizations that already join business leaders together according to their shared interests. Through conferences, meetings and training sessions, they will determine the type of training needed most among workers in their industry and submit their requests for training programs.

By May 2014, DLLR will award implementation grants for approved Strategic Industry Partnership Workforce Training Plans.

The lead applicant for the initial $25,000 planning grant can fall into any of the following categories:

• Employer
• Nonprofit organization
• Two- and four-year institution of higher education
• Local Workforce Board
• Industry association
• Labor union
• Local government
• Local or regional economic development entity

While the initiative is the first of its kind in Maryland, similar programs have succeeded in Colorado, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and have already assisted workers in industries including aerospace, healthcare and clean energy. More information on their best practices is available through DLLR.

Those seeking more information should consider watching webinars on the program through DLLR’s website or attending a statewide Pre-Proposal Conference at 1 p.m. on October 18 at the Anne Arundel Community College, Robert E. Kauffman Theater, 101 College Parkway, Arnold, MD 21012.

BALTIMORE, MD (September 25, 2013)Governor Martin O’Malley announced today that Weather Analytics, a startup that provides comprehensive, worldwide climate and weather intelligence, has moved to Maryland from Virginia and has been awarded a $500,000 investment from the State’s InvestMaryland program, part of the State-run Maryland Venture Fund (MVF). The company, which moved to the State to take advantage of the resources available for small businesses and entrepreneurs, currently has 10 employees in an office in Silver Spring and plans to add additional employees this year. The investment is part of a $2 million fundraising round for Weather Analytics that was led by the MVF in partnership with Kinetic Ventures and other local investors.

“InvestMaryland allows us to nurture Maryland’s innovation economy by supporting startups like Weather Analytics, which help to strengthen Maryland’s position as a hub for big data, IT, cybersecurity and the life sciences,” Governor O’Malley said. “Our highly-educated workforce and abundance of federal facilities will provide the company with an outstanding opportunity to grow and create jobs, and we are excited to welcome them to Maryland.”

“We look forward to working with Weather Analytics as they take root in Maryland and grow here,” said Thomas Dann, Managing Director of the Maryland Venture Fund. “Weather Analytics is just the type of company InvestMaryland was designed to help. They have a strong management team, an innovative technology platform and the potential to be a market leader.”

“Maryland is a great and natural choice to base Weather Analytics,” said Weather Analytics Chairman and CEO Bill Pardue. “The headquarters of the National Weather Service is in Montgomery County and the University of Maryland is building a terrific program in meteorology. We’ve just recruited two outstanding scientists from their graduate program. In addition, many of our investors live in Maryland and the leadership of the Maryland Venture Fund in our recent capital raise is key to building our national and international expansion programs.”

Founded in July 2012 and led by an executive team with big-data experience at LexisNexis, Weather Analytics delivers climate and weather data from every country on the planet to a range of customers, including U.S. intelligence agencies. Earlier this year, Weather Analytics signed a partnership and investment deal with In-Q-Tel, an independent, strategic investment firm that identifies innovative technology solutions to support missions of the U.S. intelligence community. Weather Analytics processes more than 6 billion weather measurements every day from a worldwide network of more than 45,000 sensors, including ground stations, buoys, ships, aircraft and balloons. Those measurements are combined with more than three decades of historical weather information to develop the company’s proprietary indices and forecasts.

Created by Governor O’Malley and passed by the General Assembly in 2011, InvestMaryland is the largest venture capital investment initiative in Maryland’s history. The program is being administered through the Maryland Venture Fund and DBED. In March 2012, the State raised $84 million for the program through an online auction of tax credits to Maryland insurance companies. Under the InvestMaryland banner are also investments being made through the Maryland Venture Fund’s Enterprise Fund and the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), as well as events like the InvestMaryland Challenge, a national business plan competition designed to celebrate innovative companies and connect entrepreneurs with resources.

Through InvestMaryland, two-thirds of the funding – $56 million – is being managed by carefully screened private venture firms that will invest the funds and, if successful, return 100% of the principal and 80% of the profits to the State’s general fund. The remaining third of the InvestMaryland capital is largely allocated to recapitalizing the state-run Maryland Venture Fund, with 25 percent going to the Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority.  Including Weather Analytics, the Fund has invested in companies that include e-commerce, biotechnology, online education, social media and IT/communications. Over its 17-year existence, the MVF has invested $25 million into more than 100 startup and early stage technology and life sciences companies, generating a $67 million return, 2000 jobs and more than $1 billion in private investment.

ABOUT DBED

The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development stimulates private investment and creates jobs by attracting new businesses, encouraging the expansion and retention of existing companies, and providing workforce training and financial assistance to Maryland companies. The Department promotes the State’s many economic advantages and markets local products and services at home and abroad to spur economic development and international investment, trade and tourism. For more information, visit www.ChooseMaryland.org

Robert Walker is Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

Supporting Maryland manufacturing is a top priority here at the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, and a recent event organized by Walmart shed some light on revitalizing industry in our state and across the nation.

Walmart has a goal of creating $50 billion in new manufacturing in the United States over the next decade, much of it by encouraging its suppliers to bring outsourced manufacturing back home. This plan was detailed in a summit attended by more than 1,500 participants, including the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, the Honorable Penny Pritzker, and eight governors, as well as the CEOs of General Electric, Walmart, Sam’s Club and other corporate leaders.

The Good News: U.S. exports in the first six months of this year were $1.2 trillion, the total of all U.S. exports in 2003. Increased exports means increased manufacturing jobs as well. The output of U.S. workers is up 9 percent on average since the 2008 recession due to improved productivity, continuing innovation, research and development and the important economic development activities of U.S. universities.  Manufacturing processes are being done with less labor, cheaper natural gas and at a lower cost of credit (thanks to the Federal Reserve).  And three jobs are created for every one manufacturing job.

One speaker said we hear a lot about China’s robust economic growth and how it will “sink” the U.S. economy. The same thing was said of Japan in the 1970s. Today, the U.S. has 2.5 times more manufacturing value-added than five years ago. Chinese labor costs continue to rise, although still well behind average U.S. wages. However, the cost of transporting products continues to rise. In addition, import duties and delays in backfilling orders makes U.S. manufacturing increasingly more competitive with the fully-loaded cost of Chinese imports. In the case of flooring material, the U.S. now has a $.03 advantage over China and the product can be delivered to buyers within a matter of one to three days.

Some of the governors said they have eliminated state taxes on utilities, cut corporate taxes by 20-plus percent, provided tax incentives, improved infrastructure and implemented programs to provide the workforce needed to meet the demands of tomorrow’s job market. In fact, all of the governors who spoke said that the quality and availability of the workforce were the most important factors for companies looking to expand or relocate to their states. One governor spoke of a high school program in his state that allows qualified students to also complete a two-year associate degree at the same time that includes a mandatory internship in the skill area chosen by the student. Another state provides a certificate of “readiness” that confirms for an employer what it is that the prospective employee can do as a result of education and on-the-job training, certified by a professional trained in that skill area.

The CEO of General Electric commented that the U.S. can compete with any country anywhere in the world, and that manufacturing is getting better. The speakers concluded that we are at a tipping point and we should challenge our old assumptions about the capability and capacity of U.S. manufacturing. U.S. manufacturing can and will rebound and grow in light of U.S. leadership in research and development, innovation, productivity improvements and changes in China and elsewhere that will work to our advantage.

The good news that Maryland added 1,800 manufacturing jobs in July, the most of any job sector in the state, underscores the vitality of, and opportunity for, manufacturing in Maryland.

TEDCO - Maryland Technology Development CorporationUniversity labs and entrepreneurs are apt at developing great ideas—but getting those ideas to market can often prove challenging. That’s where the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, known as TEDCO, stands ready to help.

TEDCO, through its Maryland Innovation Initiative, recently awarded $2,960,466 to 29 ventures, including nine start-up companies and 20 university projects in the therapeutic, software, medical, mobile and online technologies industries. The Maryland Innovation Initiative is a partnership between the state and the University of Maryland, College Park; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; University of Maryland, Baltimore; Johns Hopkins University; and Morgan State University.

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Jan Baum at Towson University's Object Lab

Jan Baum directs Towson University’s Object Lab.

Dozens of intricate objects, from plastic coil springs to plaster trophies, line walls and tables. The small workshop, known as the Object Lab, is housed in Towson University’s Center for the Arts. It hums with the sound of multiple 3D printers and laser cutters, and the bustling students and interns who operate them.

The Object Lab opened in 2011 under the direction of Jan Baum, a renowned jewelry maker turned professor turned industrial designer. What started as a request for a single 3D printer for student use has evolved into a cutting-edge production resource for Maryland businesses, organizations and educational institutions. From digital files, the machines can carve or construct nearly any design.

“The whole world is engaging the design process. What designers do naturally, the world is now engaging because they need a different way to solve problems,” Baum said, explaining the growing need for her students’ and interns’ digital design and 3D printing skills.

Most of the students and interns associated with the lab are pursuing bachelor of fine arts degrees, but Baum said their training and understanding of the digital workflow will enable them to enter a variety of industrial fields.

“With this kind of lab, with six machines with four different printing technologies, we’re really training workforce leadership. These students really understand client-to-consumer products, from automotive to medical. They have the ability to apply these skills across industries. They’re really going to be heads and shoulders above others who may only have an engineering background,” she said.

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CCBC Catonsville Fab Lab

Jeff Fuchs, chairman of the Maryland Advisory Commission on Manufacturing Competitiveness, records video of a 3D printer at the CCBC Catonsville Fab Lab.

Manufacturing may conjure up images of massive warehouses and assembly lines, but a small workshop at the Community College of Baltimore County Catonsville demonstrates a simpler approach.

A laser cutter, a 3D printer, a router and various other tools line the walls of the Fab Lab Baltimore, a joint effort of CCBC and the United States Fab Lab Network, which opened in 2011. The lab and its creative network are available to anyone upon completion of a four-hour training course.

The Maryland Advisory Commission on Manufacturing Competitiveness on Thursday explored the lab and spotlighted its potential to help entrepreneurs and small manufacturers create custom product prototypes.

“Maryland manufacturing is very diverse, and in order to meet the needs of that diverse population, resources like this are very important, so we need to make more people aware of them,” said Jeff Fuchs, chairman of the commission. “People can bring their ideas here, without a lot of capital and without a lot of effort on their part, and get connected with some of the tools to make their ideas a reality, and maybe turn those ideas into a business.”

The commission, which was appointed by Governor Martin O’Malley in 2012, toured the lab following a roundtable discussion on the influence of community colleges on Maryland’s manufacturing workforce.

Lab users, which include students, designers, artists, makers and inventors, are almost entirely self-directed. Building materials may be brought in or purchased in-house. 3D printing is priced at $10 per cubic inch of plastic, one of the lowest prices in the Baltimore area. according to lab manager Kelly Zona.

The high-tech production tools don’t have to intimidate, Zona said: “We’ve had 7-year-olds comes in and use these machines, just to give you an idea of how accessible it is.”

On Thursday, lab user Todd Blatt, was using an engraver to print a map of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth on a stretch of leather. Blatt, the founder of Custom 3D Stuff, has made a living out of creating customizable manufactured items. The lab offers him a unique and affordable opportunity to test new techniques, he said.

“They have machines here that I could never afford on my own because of the expense,” he said.

Zona said she judges the lab’s progress by its growing number of users and its “success stories.”

Makers of prototypes for hair clips, an adjustable curtain system and a pop-up shop display have each pushed their products to market. Perhaps the most successful prototype produced at the lab was a camera lens cap holder called CapGorilla—with the help of a Kickstarter campaign, hundreds have since sold in 24 countries.

“A large part is the educational aspect. Many people don’t realize they can come to a place like this and use these resources to make their visions a reality,” Zona said.

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The Port of Baltimore is a hub for exporting in Maryland.

The Port of Baltimore is a hub for exporting in Maryland.

A growing number of products and services are traveling the world through Maryland’s borders­, and several programs are available to help continue that trend.

In 2012, Maryland’s exports reached a record $11.8 billion. It was one of few states to increase its number of goods and services launched into the international market. Still, according to Deputy Secretary Bob Walker of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, just 3 percent of Maryland companies are involved in exporting.

“You can imagine, if we were to adjust that needle to 4 percent, how many more dollars we could bring into this economy, how many more jobs we would create and how many more companies could improve their bottom line through revenue and sales and so forth,” Walker said.

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