Small Manufacturers Influencing Local Policy and Educational Institutions
By Jeff Applegate
We, the small manufacturer, are greatly influenced by the decisions made and programs developed by our local government and educational institutions. There are resources such as the National Association of Manufacturers that lobby on a national level for manufacturing, but do not have the resources to work in cities and counties. The local government and educational institutions are here to serve the community, but most often don’t really know the concerns of small manufacturers. They certainly talk to the large employers, eat at local restaurants, visit retailers and attend business meetings downtown that attract the suits from banks, law firms and service companies. Unfortunately, there is not a great vehicle for the small manufacturing company to communicate their needs or concerns and seek to influence the policy and programs being developed.
I think it is fair to say that few of us small manufacturers make the time to attend these events or enjoy dressing up, shaking hands and building relationships with those that direct the resources of our tax dollars and make policy decisions impacting our organizations. However, it is imperative that our opinion and interests are represented where decisions made can significantly benefit or burden us.
A local manufacturing association can be the voice to the city, county and educational resources. As a voluntary leader in our local manufacturing organization, I have had the opportunity to participate in forums and advisory boards at the local university and community college. The local community colleges want to know the needs of manufacturers and can be effective resources. Without our involvements, our high schools were influenced to put all their resources to provide a path to college and dropped the programs and training for the trades. In Houston, we have encouraged the high school districts to bring back training in the trades and provide alternate opportunities for kids to pursue a career in the trades or prepare for an associates degree at the local community college.
We assist the area vocational colleges in planning their curriculum to meet the needs of local manufacturers. We have been able to encourage multiple community colleges to work together to have common certifications creating consistent standards for graduation. We can help the educational resources share the programs they offer with our employees and other small manufacturers in the community.
A local manufacturing association should be a mechanism for the small manufacturer to have a voice to the local public institutions that are charged to represent us, but get sidetracked by politics, big business or have no way of walking in our shoes.
It is my hope that these articles may serve as inspiration for you to get out, meet and make friends with your manufacturing neighbors. Explore and find the abundant resources in your back yard to help your organization solve problems. Grow your business and be part of helping others grow their business and the local manufacturing economy. Share and cross-pollinate the valuable programs and resources other trade organizations are hosting in the community, Lastly, be part of influencing local policy and curriculum of the local high schools, community colleges and universities.
None of us can create all this progress on our own, but it can be done if many individuals each do a small part and work together as an association of local manufacturers to provide great benefits.
Jeff Applegate is the co-founder of the Greater Houston Manufacturers Association and CEO of Texas Injection Molding, which provides plastic injection molding services to companies in Houston and the surrounding region. Learn more about the Greater Houston Manufacturing Association and Texas Injection Molding at www.houston-mfg.com and www.texasinjectionmolding.com.