Making a case for full inclusion in advanced manufacturing


OPINION AND COMMENTARY

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Diversity and equity are vital to the region's manufacturing future, says competing competition for grant

Diversity and equity are vital to the region’s manufacturing future, says competing competition for grant

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The urgency for driving the adoption of smart manufacturing solutions in our region is matched with the importance of moving forward with a clear, unwavering focus on equitable inclusion.

That is why the South Kansas Coalition came together under the leadership of the National Center for Aviation Research and Wichita State University with the vision of Driving Adoption: Smart Manufacturing Technologies.

Our regional consortium of industry, government and economic development leaders represent 27 counties and is one of the 60 finalists out of 529 applications for the Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge Grants.

As one of the many coalition partners, we are grateful for Wichita State University’s leadership in this effort and for their realization that our collective vision for this proposal cannot and will not be realized without an integrated equity strategy at the heart of our plan.

In fact, it is an essential source of competitive advantage for our region’s economic future.

It is crucial that we meet these transformative changes in the manufacturing foundation of our region, state and the entire country by ensuring all people, especially those in marginalized groups, have a seat at the table.

The advancement of technological tools, manufacturing processes, products and services has provided society with numerous benefits.

Our region has been at the forefront of innovation by bringing people together through flight.

But for a variety of reasons, not everyone in our community has had the ability to enjoy the same access to these benefits or experiences during the development, adoption and implementation of these capabilities.

Now the business community has the opportunity to develop products with consideration for how hidden biases affect design choices and data sets, which will lower barriers to the full access and functionality of technology within marginalized communities.

This is one of the most important reasons why equity, inclusion and accessibility are as critical to the transformation of our regional economy as is the adoption of emerging technologies in advanced manufacturing.

We need everyone. We need different perspectives and a variety of skills and backgrounds to make successful products without barriers. The more everyone is engaged in this work, the more successful our region will be.

Working together, we go farther. This is at the foundation of the coalition’s work.

We are the only finalist in Kansas remaining in the competition for the transformative Build Back Better grant. We hope to be awarded $50 million early this fall to advance the components of this project that will drive job and wage growth.

Our region has a unique manufacturing market within the United States. We are embracing advanced manufacturing and it is changing how we work and how we work together.

We also take full responsibility for engaging the entire community because full engagement is vital to our success.

Sarah Lopez is a Sedgwick County Commissioner representing District 2

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