Last Thursday, the Arizona Manufacturers Council (AMC) hosted the 2019 Arizona Manufacturing Summit, which featured keynote speakers in the industry and concluded with an awards ceremony honoring standout leaders in manufacturing.

In her opening remarks, AMC Chair Dawn Grove highlighted the many manufacturing firms making waves in the state and recognized others for their creation of thousands of jobs, including Intel, Raytheon, Nikola and more.

Last year, Arizona added 6,600 manufacturing jobs, with expansion in aerospace and defense, advanced technologies, electronics and more. In fact, Arizona was ranked by PricewaterhouseCoopers as the number one state for aerospace manufacturing attractiveness in 2016.

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One of the newer yet central drivers of manufacturing in the state is Nikola Motors, a hydrogen-electric semi-truck manufacturer making innovations in transportation. The startup, which has raised over $200 million in series funding rounds, announced earlier this year that it will break ground on a $1 billion, 1-million square foot manufacturing plant in Coolidge within the coming years.

Nikola president Mark Russell discussed the importance of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and the role that his company plays in achieving it. As governments are beginning to ban certain levels of greenhouse emissions, Nikola is a unicorn in the transportation industry.

“We need to do something about greenhouse gas emissions, and some governments are leading the way by saying they’re going to be illegal. There’s a tremendous amount of interest in what Nikola is doing right now because it’s a tremendous opportunity. The opportunity is perfectly fine for us and the size of the market that we’re after; the combined market in the United States for commercial transportation costs eight trucks, which is the biggest ones, is $130 billion — that’s between the fuel, the truck itself and the service and maintenance — $130 billion in the United States itself,” Russell said. “North America, as [a] whole, is $178 billion. And then the total planet is $600 billion. That’s Nikola’s invest of the market, and we’re out to transform it.”

Over the past seven years, Nikola has constructed a hydrogen fuel cell system that powers their semi-trucks and leaves no carbon footprint. Before the company launched, the only places to charge hydrogen-electric vehicles were in California; Nikola seeks to alter that by making its vehicles more universally accessible.

Nikola will provide long-haul truckers with the truck, fuel, service and maintenance for seven years or 700,000 miles. That way, customers don’t have to worry about the fluctuation of diesel prices and the accessibility of fuel.

“The major reason [we came here] is because Arizona is the best place for manufacturing that we could find in the United States of America. It really was,” he said.

Stephen Renna, the senior vice president and Chief Banking Officer of the Export-Import Bank (EXIM) of the United States gave remarks after Russell. EXIM is the U.S. government’s official credit agency for international trade. The government corporation assists businesses in facilitating exports of goods and services.

“We’re currently, unfortunately, dealing with a manufacturing slowdown here in the United States, so I think people should be encouraged to think globally about where they can sell their products and services, and EXIM bank wants to be there to help you,” said Renna.

“What EXIM does — and what was missing until recently when EXIM’s board was reconstituted — was that liquidity,” Renna said. “As U.S. companies went to bid on contracts around the world against foreign competitors, those foreign competitors had their export liquidity behind them providing financing and capital, and the U.S. competitor did not.”

EXIM provides trade financing solutions such as export credit insurance and commercial loans to foreign buyers to help facilitate trade; this is crucial for firms in the manufacturing industry.

Exports of goods and services comprised 12.1 percent of the nation’s GDP in 2017, and 56 percent of all U.S. exports were manufactured goods. In fact, exports from the manufacturing industry amounted to roughly $1.4 trillion last year, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The event concluded with a presentation of the Manufacturers of the Year awards. These were this year’s award recipients:

• Advocate of the Year: David Garafano, Executive Director of the Arizona MEP

• Legislator of the Year: Rep. Joanne Osborne (LD-13) and Rep. Jeff Weninger (LD-17)

• Excellence in Innovation: InsulTech, LLC

• Excellence in Sustainability: SenesTech Inc.

• Small Manufacturer of the Year: Interface Inc.

• Medium Manufacturer of the Year: Cassavant Machining Inc.

• Large Manufacturer of the Year: Benchmark Electronics

“I’d like to point out one comment that Mark Russell made that I think should make all of you proud, and that is that Arizona truly is the best state in the nation for manufacturing,” Garafano said. “It’s really clear and recognized not just by us in the state, but by other states, that Arizona really is a great place for manufacturing.”


This story was originally published at Chamber Business News.