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Manufacturers group goes statewide

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It’s official. The Southwest Area Manufacturers Association is now the Missouri Association of Manufacturers.

Executive Director Rita Needham said the organization’s board of directors began discussing and planning a statewide expansion last fall and gave its approval in March. The change was announced Sept. 21 during the organization’s fall member meeting in Springfield.

“We are the only manufacturing association in the state that just focuses on manufacturing,” Needham said.

MAM was founded in 1993 as the Springfield Area Manufacturers Association and expanded to become the Southwest Area Manufacturers Association in 2002. The group has about 170 member companies, representing more than 11,000 manufacturing jobs in southwest Missouri.

Now, the group is working to bring statewide manufacturers into the fold.

 “We just have to get in touch with them, and we’re doing that through a campaign called Manufacturing Matters,” Needham said.

The Manufacturing Matters campaign focuses on challenges or opportunities in 10 areas - including access to capital, skilled work force, energy and health care costs - and MAM is asking for input via www.missourimanufacturers.org.

“We’ll leave that open into December, for about three months, and then we’ll analyze (information), look for trends (and) issue areas, and deliver a report on the findings at our January annual meeting,” she said, noting that people who have ideas on improving manufacturing are welcome to give input.

The report also will be delivered to legislators and policymakers, she said. During the fall meeting, attended by about 250 people, MAM also presented its public policy positions on issues including taxes, global trade and regulations, created by a member task force to clearly indicate to members and legislators where MAM stands on the issues.

Needham said MAM will expand its health care consortiums across the state. She said more than 60 manufacturers are enrolled in the consortiums, which give individual employers group buying power for access to health coverage. The newest consortium, with 23 companies, was put in place in July, she said. While MAM is looking for a mechanism that would allow other area companies to enroll in that group, she said statewide consortium expansion will likely happen regionally because costs and carrier access vary.

Presenters during the meeting included Jon Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, and Emily Stover DeRocco, president of The Manufacturing Institute, a National Association of Manufacturers affiliate.

Needham said DeRocco spoke about the institute’s manufacturing skills certification system, which 25 states are working with already. Needham said Missouri will be joining the ranks. The statewide group will be talking with manufacturers about what kind of skills they need and working with Missouri community colleges to develop a program to train the work force.

Needham said fall meeting attendees were asked by a show of hands whether their companies are doing better now than they were a year ago.

“It was almost unanimous, and that’s what I hear from manufacturers – that things have picked up in most of the sectors,” said Needham, who recently was appointed to the National Association of Manufacturers' board of directors. “Relatively speaking, our people are busy again. They’re not probably as busy as they were pre-recession, but certainly, it’s much improved.”[[In-content Ad]]

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