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Missouri Association of Manufacturers' public policy task force, led by Bob Edmonds, is focusing on eight key areas, including work-force development. Edmonds, president and CEO of Edmonds Dental Prosthetics, examines product with Summer Pendergraph, a crown and branch designer.
Missouri Association of Manufacturers' public policy task force, led by Bob Edmonds, is focusing on eight key areas, including work-force development. Edmonds, president and CEO of Edmonds Dental Prosthetics, examines product with Summer Pendergraph, a crown and branch designer.

Manufacturers broaden reach, eye legislative priorities

Posted online
Just months after the Southwest Area Manufacturers Association changed its name and expanded its reach statewide, the organization is solidifying its legislative priorities and putting in place plans to represent its members in Jefferson City.

Now known as Missouri Association of Manufacturers, MAM was founded in 1993 as the Springfield Area Manufacturers Association and expanded to become the Southwest Area Manufacturers Association in 2002.

The board approved a statewide expansion and name change to MAM in March, announcing the change to members at the Sept. 21 fall member meeting in Springfield.
The organization represents 170 member companies and 11,000 manufacturing jobs, said Executive Director Rita Needham.

Since September, she’s been busy taking MAM’s message statewide and polling Missouri manufacturers about what matters most to their companies through the Manufacturing Matters campaign, which will continue through December.

There are more than 7,000 manufacturers in Missouri, representing 280,000 workers and $32 billion, or 13.5 percent, of the state’s economy, Needham said.

MAM hopes to harness that collective strength, but the expansion to statewide membership is in the early stages and MAM hasn’t yet gained new members in other parts of the state, Needham said.  

Legislative concerns
While the group works to expand its membership across the state, it also will spend time reviewing key pieces of legislation that affect manufacturers, making its members’ views known and tracking legislators’ voting records.

Focusing on public policy and advocating for manufacturers isn’t new to the organization, said Bob Edmonds, chairman of MAM’s public policy task force.

“Over the years, we became inactive on political positions.” said Edmonds, who also is president and CEO of Edmonds Dental Prosthetics, 2065 W. Woodland St.

“But especially in these economic conditions, we thought it important to take a stand,” he added.

He said the eight-member task force has identified eight public policy focus areas for MAM: trade; regulation; energy policy; taxation; education and work force development; labor and industrial relations; health care; and environmental concerns.

MAM board President Mark Harper said not all issues will be on the list for the long term.

“We will review them on an annual basis to determine if they are still applicable,” said Harper, who is vice president at Window Technology Inc. in Monett.

Harper said MAM doesn’t yet have specific bills in mind to track, but workers’ compensation and enforcement of cap-and-trade and health reform are among the issues he expects to crop up in 2011.

“We plan on tracking our legislators’ voting records and making that public for our members,” he said.

While most of MAM’s public policy work will be focused at the state level, some issues, such as cap-and-trade, would reach into the national political arena, Harper said.

Needham serves on the board of the National Association of Manufacturers, a position that enables her to represent MAM at a national level.

Advocacy connections
Armed with a mission to promote, preserve and advance manufacturing, the group now called MAM has in recent years created health care consortiums that give individual employers group buying power for health care coverage.

The first consortium, dubbed SAMA I, was a pilot project specially permitted by Missouri’s Department of Insurance in 2007, with a second added in 2008.

The newest consortium, which covers 23 companies, was added in July, and there are now more than 60 participating companies, Needham said.

Some MAM leaders and members already have worked with legislators, particularly to get necessary state law changes to be able to create the consortium, she said.

“When they were working on the health care consortium, they were tireless,” said Jay Wasson, a state representative for Missouri’s 141st district and senator-elect for the 21st seat in the Missouri Senate. “They were very polite and patient, and they told their story until I’m sure they were tired of telling it.”

Needham said several lawmakers and candidates attended MAM’s September meeting, and group officials plan to visit lawmakers in Jefferson City as key issues arise.

While Wasson said there are a lot of special interest groups that try to sway lawmakers, he thinks MAM will do well with its efforts.

“That type of advocacy works,” Wasson said. “The whole idea is to stay in contact and keep issues on the front burner.”

The Manufacturing Matters poll will run through December, collecting feedback on challenges or opportunities in 10 areas, including access to capital, skilled work force and energy, at www.missourimanufacturers.org.

Needham has said anyone with ideas on improving manufacturing can participate in Manufacturing Matters, and once data collection ends, the group will look for trends, with a report on findings expected at the January MAM meeting.[[In-content Ad]]

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