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ED Now Feature: Helping Manufacturers Get Certified is a Powerful BRE Strategy
Eli Dile   on Monday, November 20, 2017 at 9:01:00 am

By Katherine Long, Ponca City Development Authority

The staff of the Ponca City Development Authority (PCDA) strives to keep close working relationships with our primary industries. Yet the key to a successful retention and expansion program is not just understanding the needs of businesses, but acting on them.

As part of Ponca City’s business retention and expansion program, we visit leaders of key local businesses to discover what challenges they’re facing and proactively resolve impediments to growth. In 2011, our BRE director Laurence Beliel kept hearing a common theme during site visits: Many of our manufacturers lacked common industrial certifications, such as ISO 9000, API, CE, and QS 9100. These global standards that ensure product quality and safety are mandatory to secure many large domestic and international contracts for manufactured products. We had small companies competing in the global market, and though they were getting along okay without such certifications, they were sacrificing significant growth potential without them.

In further discussions, these companies acknowledged they were losing out on profitable contracts and would continue to do so, but cited as an impediment the onerous time and expense of training employees to pass an audit. Beliel sat down with these companies to explain and simplify the certification process and emphasized the benefits. Beliel, a Six Sigma Black Belt, lean manufacturing implementer, and certified ISO auditor, also offered PCDA assistance in creating and implementing quality systems and audits to ensure companies had the standards in place to make a go at certification.

From this experience, PCDA decided to formalize the process into what would become the Industry Certification Assistance Program (ICAP). ICAP provides technical and financial assistance for any Ponca City business interested in pursuing an industry certification. With some refinement and the approval of the PCDA board of trustees, ICAP became official in 2012.

PCDA’s Industry Certification Assistance Program provides technical and financial assistance to help companies obtain industry certifications that will help grow their business.

Common certifications include:

  • ISO 9001
  • ISO 14000
  • ISO 22000
  • AS 9100
  • API
  • C C European Conformity
  • S.M.E. "A," "S," "U," "PP," and "H" stamps

How it works

For local companies seeking certification, ICAP will pay 50 percent of the cost of an audit, up to $6,000. For smaller manufacturers, this figure seems to be the tipping point that will justify the investment.

But helping defray the cost of certification is just a small piece of the program’s success. The working knowledge and hands-on assistance provided by our BRE director is critical. If a company needs additional assistance, we pull in our higher education partners at the Pioneer Technology Center. Without these interventions, our local manufactures would be leaving unknown dollars and growth potential on the table.

Five companies have taken advantage of ICAP so far (one of them twice). One of these companies had never come to PCDA for assistance before. QuarterTurn Resources (QTR), a large oil and gas valve manufacturer with ties to Italy, firmly believed that bootstrapping and freedom to run their business their way was more important than any government-offered BRE support. However, in early 2015, several QTR clients, many European, began inquiring about API standards, specifically 60/QI. 60/QI is a particularly expensive certification costing $8,000 to $10,000 to obtain, and is custom-designed to the company pursuing it. QTR heard about ICAP and approached us for more information. With PCDA’s help, the company was successful in obtaining 60/QI, enabling it to retain current clients and expand contracts in new markets.

Log10, a food safety and probiotic manufacturer, has been leasing a PCDA spec building for three years. Log10 utilized the ICAP program, receiving $4,000 for an ISO 17025 certification for its laboratory. It then invested $250,000 in building out its manufacturing areas to use the entire 23,000-square-foot building. The company has grown its workforce from five to 25 and offers an average salary of $45,000.

Lessons learned

PCDA has learned in this program that it’s important to work at the company’s speed. Getting certified is an involved process that can take up to two years. We have to be responsive to their schedule, no matter what other projects we have in the pipeline. Also key to success is the “pre-audit” to make sure the company has a viable certification strategy from the outset, before investing precious time and resources.

PCDA’s commitment to cover half of certification costs is a powerful incentive when speaking with a company that is considering relocating to or out of Ponca City.  The money can be used to pay for an auditor, or in the case of one of our companies, to purchase and ship a piece of equipment needed for use during the audit.

“The Industry Certification Assistance Program has been well received and appreciated by our local industry,” said Beliel. “PCDA has enjoyed the close working relationships and trust which have developed through this program. Nothing says a community cares about a local company more than walking them through these types of challenges, developing programs to meet industry needs, and facilitating new business opportunities.”

***

The Ponca City Development Authority’s Industry Certification Assistance Program won a Gold Award from IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development Awards in the Business Retention and Expansion category.

Comments

ICAP benefits from a half-cent sales tax, which goes to fund the Ponca City Development Authority's activities.
Posted by: Eli Dile on November 21, 2017 at 5:04:51 pm

How did you fund the program?
Posted by: iMISmember on November 20, 2017 at 1:42:12 pm

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