published on February 24, 2016 - 8:28 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff
The Advanced Manufacturing Cluster Initiative was recently bolstered by an investment from the City of Fresno as it heads into its second-annual summit next month.

The Fresno City Council earlier this month approved a $75,000 contribution to the manufacturing cluster that will allow the group to hire a full-time business development director. The director will be responsible for business development as well as conducting the outreach efforts — especially with educational partners — to strengthen local career technical training programs, said Mike Betts, chairman and CEO of Fresno manufacturer Betts Co.

Betts is also chairman of the Advanced Manufacturing Cluster Initiative, which is administered through the Office of Community & Economic Development at Fresno State.

It is the first time the City of Fresno has contributed to the cluster, Betts said, and the new director who is expected to be hired soon will be the first person devoted full-time to the effort.

“The business development director will help us grow and strengthen the cluster in the future,” Betts said.

The second-annual Manufacturing Summit will be an all-day event March 3 at the Fresno Convention Center. Betts said about 450 people attended the summit last year, and cluster officials hope to draw 1,000 this year.

The summit, presented by the San Joaquin Valley Regional Industry Clusters Initiative, will host 16 informational breakout sessions as well as planned presentations by Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin; Jay Williams, assistant secretary of the U.S. Economic Development Association and Brent Weil, senior vice president of The Manufacturing Institute.

The summit is geared toward manufacturing executives, business owners and organizations that work with manufacturers. Individual attendees can make up to four breakout sessions with topics including 3-D printing, robotics, advanced materials and sustainable manufacturing.

Betts said the manufacturing cluster has about 100 members, adding that strengthening career technical training at local schools is one of the group’s biggest goals.

He said the cluster also seeks to give a voice to an industry sector that typically sticks to its own silos.

“Manufacturing surprisingly doesn’t have a voice in the Valley,” he said.

“What is happening here in this region is better than most,” he added.

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Clean Energy Cluster to host event

Another industry cluster conference, this time for the clean-energy sector, is being planned for April 8.

Daryl Baltazar, chair of the Clean Energy Cluster, said the event will have a special emphasis on best practices in the food-processing sector. Scheduled speakers include Paul Hughes with The Wonderful Co., Mark McAffee with Organic Pastures dairy and Marty Pitman with Pitman Family Farms.

It will be the first time since 2014 that the cluster has hosted the On-Site Energy Conference, which will include breakout sessions on co-generation, energy storage, solar energy and food waste to energy.

All proceeds from the event will help fund scholarships for local students, who will also participate in job-skills exercises during the event.

“We want it to be as real-world as possible,” Baltazar said.

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