Overhaul Support Services, an aerospace company, bought this building at 18 Connecticut South Drive in East Granby a year-and-a-half ago and is now constructing a 30,000-square-foot facility down the street. The state has seen several large industrial real estate deals since then.

It’s not necessarily one of the bright spots in Connecticut’s economy, but the Connecticut Business & Industry Association is trying to put a spotlight on manufacturing by educating the state’s young people about the industry.

The CBIA earlier this month introduced a new campaign to educate Connecticut’s students about manufacturing careers. The campaign is in partnership with the state’s Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing and is called “Manufacturing: It’s not what you think.” The idea is to attract students and young adults to careers in the industry.

“Connecticut manufacturing has changed from its old image of dirty and noisy factories to one of clean rooms, new technologies, developing products and greater participation in the global marketplace,” said Lauren Weisberg Kaufman, CBIA vice president for education and job training and executive director of the association’s Education Foundation, in a prepared statement. “Today’s students and young adults don’t know about all these changes and the high-tech jobs available to them in the manufacturing field. This campaign is geared toward educating students about the high-paying, high-tech careers available to them in manufacturing.”

“Anytime you can get more people involved in manufacturing, it’s a good thing,” said Tim D’Addabbo of Cushman and Wakefield’s Hartford office.

Manufacturing companies are leaving the state faster than they’re coming in, but the manufacturing workforce in Connecticut is still good, D’Addabbo said. Some skilled workers left years ago, when a lot of manufacturing companies moved to the South, where the cost of doing business was cheaper.

“A lot of labor followed,” D’Addabbo said.

These days, manufacturing companies are moving to fast-growing places where the cost of doing business is cheaper than in New England, such as Nevada, or out of the country. But Connecticut’s workforce is still healthy.

“Thankfully, my manufacturing clients still rave about the labor here,” D’Addabbo said.

But a survey by CBIA found that some manufacturers have had a hard time filling several key positions. Some of those positions include tool and die makers, computerized numerical control programmers, engineers, computer-aided design workers and computer-aided manufacturing workers. CBIA’s survey also showed that the demand for those jobs will continue over the next two to five years.

CBIA therefore hopes its campaign will get young adults interested in manufacturing careers.

“Manufacturing is more productive, innovative and critical to Connecticut’s economy than ever,” according to CBIA. “The association points out that Connecticut has about 5,300 manufacturing establishments, which employ nearly 200,000 workers. These workers earn $11 billion in wages and salaries annually. Each new manufacturing job creates the need for up to three additional jobs in our economy. Manufacturers bring new money into the state by selling their products outside the state’s borders, which helps grow the state’s economy for everyone.”

A ‘Broader’ Market

The campaign involved radio and television spots, along with Internet advertisements. It is meant to encourage students to look at new technologies and fields in the industry. The first phase of the four-year campaign began earlier this month.

It includes a 30-second television commercial on major cable stations like MTV, Comedy Central, Nick at Nite, A&E, Spike and Discovery. The commercial will run until the end of June. The campaign also includes radio commercials on statewide stations; online advertisements on careerbuilders.com, monster.com, ctnow.com and courant.com; and an informational Web site at manufacturingcareers.com.

Many young people who have careers in manufacturing have started their own businesses in the industry, according to Bob Daglio, a senior vice president and partner at CB Richard Ellis in Hartford. In the past 10 years, there has been a decline in manufacturing jobs in the past 10 years, but many young people in the industry are looking to start their own businesses, he said. So most new manufacturing companies in Connecticut are start-ups. But at the same time, the industry is changing, Daglio added.

Buildings that used to house manufacturing plants or warehouses are increasingly being converted for sports uses, from indoor soccer fields to gyms, Daglio said.

“The industrial [real estate] market is broader than before and I think it’s growing,” he said.

But land is at a premium. Many companies Daglio works with would like to be centrally located in the state for distribution purposes, but most of the available land is north of Hartford, near Bradley International Airport.

“That’s the difficulty of someone new coming in,” he said.

Daglio expects industrial real estate to stay steady as the economy improves and interest rates remain low.

D’Addabbo has seen some people showing more interest in industrial real estate lately, he said.

“It seems in the last 18 months that for the manufacturing – especially on the high end – there have been some people kicking the tires,” he said.

Although the state loses more manufacturing than it gains, some pockets in the state are seeing growth and some industries continue to thrive.

“Optimistically, that will spread out,” D’Addabbo said.

Hartford and New Haven counties have been popular locations for industrial real estate, especially north of Hartford, where there are big blocks of space available.

“It seems there’s the most growth there,” D’Addabbo said.

There were several large deals in industrial real estate last year. Eppendorf Manufacturing of Hamburg, Germany, relocated a large plant to a 175-square-foot building in Enfield in the middle of 2004.

“That was obviously a big coup,” D’Addabbo said.

The fuel cell industry, despite lagging some last year, continues to do well, he said. The aerospace industry in Connecticut – particularly small subcontractors – are also doing well. One aerospace company, Overhaul Support Services, bought a building a year-and-a-half ago in East Granby, and is now constructing a 30,000-square-foot facility down the street from that.

“Our market is stable,” D’Addabbo said.

The biggest problem for manufacturers in Connecticut is the high cost of doing business. Health care costs, transportation costs and the price of land can make relocating to Connecticut – or staying there – difficult at times.

“It’s tough for many manufacturers,” D’Addabbo said.

But CBIA hopes its program will make a dent in several manufacturing workforce shortages.

Additional sponsors of the “Manufacturing: It’s not what you think” campaign are the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, United Illuminating Co., Northeast Utilities, Blum Shapiro, Capital Workforce Partners, Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, New Haven Manufacturers Association, Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, Regional Growth Partnership, Workforce Alliance, Greater Meriden Chamber of Commerce, Smaller Manufacturers Association, Associated Industries of Massachusetts and Business & Industry Association of New Hampshire.