Virginia has all the Ingredients a Manufacturing Ecosystem Needs to Flourish

September 25, 2020 / Blog

CCAM’s new President breaks down his decision to choose the Old Dominion

Coming from Connecticut, John Milton-Benoit chose to pursue an opportunity at Virginia’s Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) as its new President because he saw that all of the pieces to create a great public–private partnership for a vibrant manufacturing ecosystem were already in place and ready to grow.

“I’ve led innovative research and strategic technology development, and I’m really passionate about the process,” John says. “We have amazing manufacturing talent and people at CCAM, in addition to great university partners in Virginia’s higher education system with Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia State University as well as Old Dominion University.”

CCAM is a resourceful and IP-friendly environment that creates solutions to complex advanced manufacturing challenges and grows a qualified workforce in that sector. The organization is the center of an academic, government and industry ecosystem where partnerships create real economic value. Staff and researchers at CCAM play an active role in developing the most talented manufacturing workforce by providing a diverse and industry-driven educational pathway.

Another important ingredient to the mix which caught John’s interest is CCAM’s strong partnership with the state in terms of the General Assembly as well as economic development and innovation partnerships. CCAM also has strong industry partners such as Airbus, Siemens, Rolls-Royce (Reston headquarters), Newport News Shipbuilding, and their newest member Northrop Grumman.

“We have government customers as well, so when you have all the elements of the public side and all the elements of the private side, great support and industry, and CCAM can be in the center of all this — it’s an outstanding opportunity to deliver real value to our stakeholders.”

VGR is a manufacturing hub, CCAM’s location in Prince George County fits

Virginia’s Gateway Region (VGR) is well-suited for a number of advanced manufacturing subsets from industrial, chemicals and pharmaceutical, to food and natural products.

In 2020, Phlow Corporation announced its partnership with AMPAC Fine Chemicals in the City of Petersburg through a $354 million federal government fund for advanced manufacturing and rapid production of America’s most essential medicines at risk of shortage, including ingredients for pharmaceuticals for the COVID-19 pandemic response. This project not only has the possibility of becoming a pharmaceutical cluster for VGR, but for the Commonwealth of Virginia as a whole.

“Phlow has huge potential for the advanced manufacturing sector here in the Gateway Region. From CCAM’s side, we have a long history of being a strong member in the community, and our goal is to be that resource for industry not just globally but regionally as well, such as with Amsted Rail.”

John said that CCAM has skills and programs they’re working on such as data analytics, inspection and assessing, additive manufacturing and intelligent factory application, which includes distributive local manufacturing.

“So, we’re looking at the data pipeline and how you actually distribute where you can print or manufacture a component anywhere.”

CCAM has a lot of digital skills and if they align with an industry in the region, then, John says, they are there to help the community solve its complex challenges. He thinks their skillset is such that they can serve a variety of the industrial sectors.

“I’m excited and energized about seeing something significant and making it even better. All the pieces are together; now it’s about putting that vision in motion and coming together as a community to really create a vibrant coffer; that’s what keeps me up, thinking about the opportunities, working with the universities — we just recently won a robotics program with VCU and trying to leverage all of those capabilities around creating significant programs that can greatly impact the state.”