A report on HES Extension programs
serving Missouris families and communities
A Common Thread
MO-TAC Manufacturers Association brings together members of Missouri
|A single thread can snap with one tug, but many threads woven together create
a sturdy fabric that holds up under the most severe strain.
That ancient maxim, as old as the weaver's trade itself, also
applies to the manufacturers of apparel and sewn products in Missouri today.
In the MO-TAC Technology Center/Apparel
Production Lab, University of Missouri
textile and apparel management
faculty host MO-TAC Association
members during the associations
Spring Event 98.
|Individually, they might not be able to
survive the stresses brought on by global competition. When they band together as the
MO-TAC Manufacturers Association, it vastly increases the strength and stability of one of
the state's most long-lived industries.
Although more than 16,500 jobs remain in the sewn products industry in about
90 Missouri counties, some 5,800 jobs have been lost since NAFTA passed five years ago,
mostly because of cheaper labor costs in other countries.
It's amazing how having global competition
helps promote local cooperation, said Susan Henson, Coordinator of University
Extension's Missouri Textile and Apparel Center (MO-TAC). "Domestically, these
manufacturers realize they're all on the same playing field. They would look at
non-domestic sourcing only as a last resort.
Many Missouri sewn-products companies have
roots in the state and want to continue to be Missouri based, she said. With that
goal in mind, dozens of Missouri manufacturers met at the second annual MO-TAC
Manufacturers Association meeting in Columbia late last year, where they explored the
theme: Enhancing Your Business Opportunities. Conference attendees heard about
how to use computers in everything from fiber purchases to designing and cutting patterns.
Several speakers gave practical advice on how to export sewn products.
Speaker Gus Whalen, president of the Warren
Featherbone Co. and past president of the American Apparel Manufacturers Association,
showed the group a placard with two Chinese characters that translate roughly as
crisis but literally mean dangerous opportunity.
We tend to view every crisis as a
problem, Henson said. He showed us we can view a crisis as an opportunity, and
that's the way people should face the competitive challenges in the marketplace
Whalen also stressed the interdependent nature of
the industry. Henson said a primary function of association meetings is the opportunity
for people from different parts of Missouri's sewn-products industry to develop close-knit
ties for mutual benefit. From raw fiber to fine ladies' hats, the chain goes all the
way through, said MO-TAC assistant coordinator Sharon Stevens. It doesn't end
until the consumer buys the product.
|The association benefits MO-TAC as
well as the manufacturers. It is a means for MO-TAC to enhance programming through
additional funding and an organized client base. Manufacturers can develop business
contacts, discuss common difficulties and develop strategies to improve competitiveness
The associations annual
meeting offers an opportunity for textile manufacturers across the state to make business
contacts and discuss common problems and concerns.
|The association also
provides a vehicle for the industry to voice its concerns and viewpoints to policy makers
and the citizens of Missouri.
The association gives us the chance to gather with others in our own
industry and to find that our problems and opportunities are not exclusive to us,
said Ron Pyle of Cerf Bros. Bag Company, New London, Mo.
Other Missouri manufacturing associations do not
address the specific concerns of the sewn products industry. While there are several
national textile and apparel manufacturers' organizations, most are based in the Eastern
part of the country and are less responsive and accessible to Missouri manufacturers.
The MO-TAC Manufacturers Association meets
industry-specific and geographic needs that other associations just haven't been able to
do, said Tom James of Elder Manufacturing Co., Inc., St. Louis, Mo.
Henson is optimistic about the future of the
industry. She pointed out that there continues to be a steady stream of start-up
businesses in Missouri. A small sewn-products manufacturing business is attractive to
entrepreneurs partly because it requires only a small capital investment.
In order to enhance their collective strength,
MO-TAC members hope to see even more Missouri companies participating in the organization
and its events.
For more information contact:
College of Human Environmental Sciences Extension
122 Stanley Hall,
University of Missouri,
Columbia, MO 65211
phone: (573) 882-6430
Fax: (573) 884=5768
Coordinator; Susan K. Henson, (573)
Assistant Coordinator; Sharon
Stevens, (573) 882-3849
Administrative Assistant; Ruth Breedlove, (573)
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