Domestic Sites Are Advantageous for High Tech Manufacturers

Joe Weinlick
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Manufacturers keep moving operations to Mexico or China to reduce costs. However, an idea pushed by Woodward Inc. brings to light a strategy that keeps the high-tech manufacturing firm at domestic sites. Instead of sending jobs overseas, Woodward made a detailed plan that determined the firm was better off on American soil.


Woodward chose Fort Collins, Colorado, for its corporate headquarters. The building also contains areas for high-tech manufacturing. Woodward designs control systems for aerospace and energy companies, and the firm's overall plan started by looking at manufacturing facilities under construction around the world. Then, leadership chose three sites to expand Woodward's operations.

Looking Inward and Outward

In addition to researching other high-tech manufacturing plants, Woodward executives talked to internal supervisors, engineers and administrative staff for ideas. Internal staffers helped drive the firm towards a new brand identity in a competitive market. The company decided to build two other facilities aside from its corporate headquarters, including an aircraft turbine systems plant in Rockford, Illinois, and a flight control systems plant in Niles, Illinois, with a move to put people first.

Attracting Younger Engineers

Woodward noted the value of attracting top talent among a younger pool of workers interested in high-tech manufacturing. Designers of all three buildings incorporated a collaborative environment that includes a main walkway through the entire building, see-through spaces that encourage people to see and talk to each other, and three-dimensional lighting concepts that filter light among multiple points of each structure. Woodward believes open spaces foster a team environment that many manufacturers see as a necessary component to land great employees.

The business also recognizes high-tech manufacturing is moving away from grunt work and going towards employees that possess advanced degrees and high-level skills. Workers must know how to analyze data, incorporate robotics and fix machines that run vital processes. Woodward recognized that building design must include ways to attract employees.

Site Planning

All three domestic sites used strategic planning to build in areas not typically designed for manufacturers. In the case of Fort Collins, the corporate headquarters makes industrial turbomachinery in the heart of the city. Surrounding the campus are retail stores, restaurants and breweries. The location itself serves as a recruiting tool to attract younger talent. Woodward convinced city leaders to zone the area for the company's needs.

Architects drew up specific 3-D renderings to show the city precisely how Woodward would enhance the space in each city. Green spaces, landscaping and trees served as a buffer between Woodward and surrounding neighborhoods. Trails and green spaces also broke up large swaths of concrete to give campuses a parklike feel. Open outdoor spaces also made properties look better.

Woodward's initiative brings the community, employees and planners together to usher high-tech manufacturing to three different cities. If other firms follow this example, site design may represent one way manufacturers can create and keep more jobs in America.

Photo courtesy of khunaspix at


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