New Organization Serves Austin Area Manufacturers

Economists and business leaders are seeing a new revolution on the horizon, and Austin manufacturers are positioning themselves to take full advantage of the innovations that will power that movement.

A group of local leaders recently established the Austin Regional Manufacturers Association (ARMA) to encourage collaborations between government organizations, educators and the local community, provide new employment opportunities, and strengthen the region’s economic prospects. This effort has already attracted the attention of Austin legislators: Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell addressed the first of the organization’s regular luncheon meetings on February 27 at the Norris Conference Center. Leffingwell spoke on the importance of manufacturing to the Austin area economy and the number of companies his economic development team is bringing to the city annually.

Tom Lonsdale, acting Chairman of ARMA, praised the Mayor’s team for bringing new companies to the Austin area. “While the City and the Chamber of Commerce are attracting new companies, few organizations are attracting a technically skilled workforce. Local manufacturers are forced to steal talent from one another, because the pool of well-trained employees is either too small or nonexistent. One of ARMA’s primary goals is to enable government agencies and other organizations, such as the Skillpoint Alliance, to recruit and train new workers in the Austin area.”

In the past, significant infrastructure requirements depended on massive production runs to make products competitive. Today, new technologies are enabling smaller manufacturers to design and produce a wide variety of goods quickly and inexpensively, providing unprecedented levels of flexibility and market responsiveness. This trend is expected to accelerate dramatically in the coming decade, creating new markets that view customization and flexibility as opportunities instead of obstacles. Taking advantage of these changes will require community-level action.

“Economies of scale are shifting quickly,” says Lonsdale. “New technologies are creating new opportunities for small and mid-size manufacturers. ARMA was created to provide a voice for Austin’s 1,200 manufacturers, ensuring that government policies and educational programs create a larger, more experienced labor pool and a better business environment.”

Lonsdale believes that Austin has what it takes to lead the transformation of manufacturing. “What information technology was 40 years ago, manufacturing is today. Cities, like Austin, that recognize and encourage these developments will lead the next economic boom.”