(The Center Square) – According to an April-June McKinsey Global Survey poll of 60 senior supply-chain executives from across the nation, 73% encountered a shortage of suppliers – not just supplies – and 75% faced production/distribution shortfalls during the 2020 height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Florida’s 21,000 manufacturers – not to mention farmers, restauranteurs, hoteliers, retailers – were also affected by pandemic-induced supply disruptions, as they were by Hurricanes Irma in 2017 and Michael in 2018.
To mitigate disruption for the state’s $56 billion manufacturing industry, which employs about 400,000 Floridians, the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), Space Florida and FloridaMakes have formed Connex Florida, an online database to link manufacturers connect with prospective suppliers and develop business opportunities.
Connex Florida was created in 2019 after Hurricanes Irma and Michael through a series of grants from the National Institute of Standards & Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST-MEP) program. About 8,900 state manufacturers have signed on.
“The Connex Florida platform provides manufacturers with Florida operations more, cheaper and better options to improve their supply chain, provide them resiliency during disasters, find new customers for their products and repurpose their capabilities to adjust to market demands,” said AIF President/CEO Tom Feeney, a former Congressman. “It is an indispensable tool to modernize supply chains and grow Florida’s manufacturing economy.”
“Recent events have revealed both vulnerabilities and opportunities for Florida’s economic future,” Space Florida President/CEO Frank DiBello said. “Connex Florida provides powerful new networks and tools to Florida industry in an ever-competitive global marketplace.”
The third member of the partnership, FloridaMakes, represents the state’s “manufacturing ecosystem” and is led by CEO Kevin Carr, former NIST-MEP director.
Connex Florida recently gained two significant boosters – Florida Manufacturing & Supply Chain Caucus chair Sen. Tom Wright, R-New Smyrna Beach, and Tallahassee-based public spending watchdog, Florida TaxWatch (FTW).
“Connex will provide manufacturers a way to pivot to an alternate supply chain rather than having to start from scratch as supply chain disruptions occur,” Wright said. “With the amount of small manufacturers established around the state, it is vital for supply chains to remain open for these manufacturers to continue producing their products for their families and the state of Florida.”
FTW Monday released a 20-page analysis of Florida’s “supply chain resiliency” that praises Connex Florida as a “platform of resilience.”
“In the state of Florida, one tool emerges as a prime example for leaders seeking to strengthen resiliency measures: Connex Florida,” FTW states. “Connex Florida makes use of existing technology to both enhance connection between manufacturers and provides broader diversification of suppliers in the state.”
FTW said Connex Florida proved “itself to yield enormous value to the Florida economy during times of crisis and expansion, benefitting economic growth through improved company performance and resilience.”
According to FTW, $600,000 was spent through March 2020 in creating, licensing and manning the platform and “is expected to cost approximately $425,000 per year to actively maintain,” it states. “FloridaMakes can also match resources available from the state and other partners with federal resources through the MEP national network.
FTW President/CEO Dominic Calabro Tuesday called on the Florida Legislature to support Connex Florida while calling on the partnership to attract small manufacturers to the database.
“COVID-19 led to widespread economic shocks, including manufacturing shortages, production inefficiencies, and distribution channel delays,” Calabro said. “This made the value of supply chains readily apparent to consumers and taxpayers across the state, the nation, and the world, resulting in a renewed sense of urgency to establish resiliency. Florida TaxWatch believes that Connex Florida’s ability to facilitate collaboration and connectivity is essential to accomplishing that goal.”