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Innovative, next generation advanced manufacturing research and development institute establishing facility in Pensacola

by FloridaWest News




FloridaWest EDA and Pensacola Escambia Promotion and Development Commission (PEDC) are excited to announce that LIFT, a national advanced materials manufacturing innovation institute, has selected Pensacola to establish its latest technology accelerator and talent development showcase facility. 

Founded in 2014 as one of the original DoD Manufacturing Innovation Institutes through the Defense Manufacturing Technology Program, LIFT is a nonprofit, public-private partnership whose mission is to “Drive American Advanced Manufacturing into the Future Through Technology and Talent Development.” Headquartered in Detroit, LIFT operates as technology accelerator, working at the intersection of materials science, manufacturing processes, systems engineering and talent development to move technologies from concept to commercialization, while preparing the advanced manufacturing workforce of tomorrow.

The $21 million project is being made possible through economic development partnerships and collaboration with Pensacola State College (PSC), Space Florida and Triumph Gulf Coast, to establish a Florida satellite of the LIFT advanced manufacturing institute. As part of the agreement, LIFT will employ 36 people in the facility over the next five years with an average wage of $113,000 and generate an estimated $32 million in new federal and industry research. 

This first-of-its-kind project in Florida is focused on bridging the gap between academic manufacturing research and product commercialization to advance manufacturing technologies and will be advantageous as a unique asset for growing manufacturing in Escambia County and throughout the region. In addition, LIFT will be a catalyst to help advance manufacturing talent and technology skills in Northwest Florida. 

What sets the Institute apart is its state-of-the-art research and development center, cutting-edge technology, and equipment available for collaborative and proprietary research and development. Once the facility is built, it will enhance and expand the existing manufacturing ecosystem of NW Florida including next generation materials research supporting aerospace, defense, automotive, ship-building and advanced manufacturing clusters. 

“As a national manufacturing innovation institute, we have a national mandate to support manufacturers and their workforce wherever we can, and that includes expanding beyond our headquarters facility in Detroit,” said Nigel Francis, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, LIFT. “There is no doubt that innovation is ‘place based,’ which means we not only plan to bring the support of our existing ecosystem to support Florida manufacturers and academia, but we plan to develop an engaged ecosystem of local manufacturers and help advance their technologies towards commercialization.”

Support from Escambia County and the City of Pensacola were integral to making the project possible. Commissioner Steven Barry and Pensacola Mayor D.C. Reeves were encouraged about LIFT’s decision to build in Escambia County and Pensacola.

“This is a major win for all the citizens of Escambia County, the city and for PSC,” said Barry. “I want to congratulate all who have worked so hard to make it a reality.”

“This is great news for the growing tech workforce in Pensacola, as well as across the region,” said Reeves. “I’m confident LIFT is going to reap lasting benefits for manufacturers and for people seeking these tech jobs.”

The LIFT public-private partnership is home to and ecosystem of more than 340 organizations across the nation working in concert to advance technologies into commercial industry and into the hands of the warfighter quickly, all while preparing the workforce for the advanced manufacturing jobs available today and better preparing it for the jobs of the future.

“Triumph Gulf Coast was created to support the recovery, diversification and enhancement of the economy in Northwest Florida following the BP oil spill. This is exactly what bringing a cutting-edge, advanced manufacturing innovation institute like LIFT will do,” said David M. Bear, Chair, Triumph Gulf Coast Board. “LIFT is developing technologies for the future and developing the next generation of advanced manufacturing talent, enhancing our economy in the Panhandle with outside research dollars being spent in our community.”

FloridaWest and the Pensacola-Escambia Promotion and Development Commission (PEDC) worked to solidify the crucial partnerships with PSC and Space Florida to help recruit LIFT, and made the official request of $6,000,000 for grant funds. PEDC chair David Peaden said their board is thrilled about the approval. PSC will provide the site and Space Florida will provide the conduit financing to construct the facility.

“PEDC worked hand-in-hand with FloridaWest to get across the finish line and the approval of this project has taken collaboration and hard work by many different entities,” said Peaden. “LIFT will truly change the future of our region for the better.”

Pensacola State College President Dr. Ed Meadows said the college was introduced to LIFT through FloridaWest and is excited for their arrival on campus.

“Having worked with LIFT to deliver its Operation Next advanced manufacturing certification program to veterans and other students in the region, we know the value a manufacturing innovation institute can bring to the region and the state, and we are looking forward to their facility being right here on our campus in the future,” said Dr. Meadows.

FloridaWest CEO Brian Hilson said the economic development community has rallied to make this project a success.

“We are thrilled to see one of the Department of Defense manufacturing institutes locate in Florida, specifically in the Panhandle, which is home to several military installations critical to our national security,” said Hilson. “Connecting those installations to an innovative institute like LIFT will not only support our warfighters, but also drive the Northwest Florida economy.”