Seizing the Moment: The Resurgence of U.S. Manufacturing Can Bring New Opportunity for Pennsylvania's Small and Medium-Sized Manufacturers

In recent years, the United States has witnessed a resurgence in manufacturing, fueled by technological advancements and a renewed focus on domestic production. Historic federal investments, “Buy American” contract provisions, and favorable consumer preferences are creating unprecedented demand for domestically manufactured goods. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, new orders for manufactured goods rose by $8.2 billion in February 2024, alone. This resurgence offers Pennsylvania’s small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) a unique opportunity to excel in key sectors such as aerospace and defense, clean energy, and electric vehicles (EVs). With a rich industrial heritage and a skilled workforce, Pennsylvania stands poised to lead the nation in this manufacturing resurgence. Expansion of the state’s advanced manufacturing sectors means more high-skill, high-wage jobs for Pennsylvania’s families.


Now is the time for Pennsylvania’s leaders to make investments in manufacturing innovation, provide support for small businesses, and invest in new approaches to workforce development, including apprenticeship career pathways. Now is the time for Pennsylvania to seize the moment on manufacturing.


Aerospace and Defense Innovation


The aerospace and defense sector represents a cornerstone of American manufacturing, driving technological advancement and national security. In 2023, Pennsylvania received $17.9 billion in defense contracts[1], which is 3.2 percent of total U.S. defense spending, and which comprised 1.9 percent of state GDP. Top defense contractors include large global corporations and research universities. In addition, Pennsylvania’s aerospace sector is also the foundation for a thriving space sector. The global space economy is valued today at over $469 billion, with estimates projecting the space economy to grow to over $1 trillion between 2030 and 2040.[2]


Pennsylvania already has a long-standing tradition of excellence in defense and aerospace manufacturing, which is supported by a robust network of suppliers and research institutions. SMMs in Pennsylvania, such as JWF Industries in Johnstown, PA, have a significant opportunity to manufacture components for military vehicles, defense systems, aircraft parts, and much more. From humble beginnings, JWF has grown to annual operating sales of over $100 million, occupying more than 1.3 million square feet of manufacturing space and employing more than 400 professionals, mostly from the Johnstown area. This has been a significant economic contribution to the local community.


Clean Energy Leadership


The transition to clean energy is reshaping the global economy, with renewable energy sources playing an increasingly prominent role in power generation. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 will invest as much as $500 billion into new clean energy and related projects. Pennsylvania, endowed with abundant natural resources, a strong foundation of energy infrastructure, and manufacturing prowess, is well-positioned to capitalize on and participate in the shift to a new energy economy.


SMMs in Pennsylvania can seize opportunities in the clean energy supply chain by manufacturing components for hydrogen hubs, natural gas facilities, solar panels, wind turbines, and energy storage systems, just to name a few. By embracing sustainable practices and investing in clean energy technology, these companies can drive job creation and economic development while contributing to environmental stewardship.


EOS Energy Systems is located in Turtle Creek PA, and is accelerating the shift to clean energy with zinc-powered energy storage solutions. The company received a $396 million loan from the federal Department of Energy to further develop its energy storage technology, leading to 700 additional jobs at the company. Berner Air Curtains, in New Castle, PA, received the prestigious Lodestar Award, acknowledging their outstanding commitment to renewable energy practices. And, spearheaded by an overall corporate vision of a sustainable future and innovative energy-efficient product design, DMI Companies in Monongahela, PA, is the first manufacturing facility to achieve the TRUE Silver zero-waste to landfill certification in the state of Pennsylvania. These, and many other SMMs, are already benefiting from the new energy economy, but more growth is possible.


Driving the Electric Vehicle Revolution


The automotive industry is undergoing a seismic transformation with the rise of electric vehicles (EV). As consumers demand cleaner and more efficient transportation options, automakers are investing heavily in EV production and infrastructure. Pennsylvania’s manufacturing sector can play a pivotal role in this EV revolution, producing components such as batteries, electric motors, and charging infrastructure.


Based out of Pittsburgh, PA, CorePower Magnetics has already been selected for $20 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Manufacturing and Energy Supply Chains to launch a state-of-the-art domestic manufacturing facility for magnetic components and advanced metals. Targeting the reuse of a former industrial site, the new facility aims to onshore production and strengthen supply chain resilience for electric vehicles and other applications. This company and many others have the opportunity to diversify and expand into this burgeoning market.


Pennsylvania’s Industrial Resource Centers (IRCs) are Ready to Enable SMMs to Seize this Once in a Lifetime Manufacturing Resurgence


Pennsylvania’s Industrial Resource Center (IRC) program is the only state-funded program dedicated to serving and enabling SMMs to grow their business, compete globally, and retain and create jobs. For over 35 years, the IRC program has served SMMs, many of which have already diversified and pivoted from declining into thriving sectors, such as those mentioned above. In 2023 alone, SMMs served by the seven IRCs in Pennsylvania reported over $1 billion in new and retained sales, and over 8,600 jobs created and retained.


The Future is Now


Pennsylvania’s existing and established SMMs can capture a greater share of new business opportunities as a result of the resurgence of manufacturing. SMMs that accelerate investments in automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, 3D-printing, digital technologies, and cybersecurity, coupled with upskilling existing and future workers to design, implement, manage, and maintain those sophisticated systems and equipment, will drive Pennsylvania to win the economy of the future. The IRCs are uniquely positioned to partner with the Commonwealth and SMMs to make this vision a reality.


There is clearly a resurgence in manufacturing occurring in our country, and now is the time to seize the moment and shape the future of Pennsylvania by boosting investment in the state’s best tools for manufacturing.

[1] Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation — Defense Spending by State, FY 2022

[2] Keystone Space Collaborative,