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From The Editor

MFG Expansion 33 Months & Expanding

James M. Borneman, Editor In Chief

With all of the doom and gloom in the news, textiles has had some bright spots recently. There was strong attendance, active participation and good energy at the Techtextil North America and Texprocess Americas shows. One exhibitor said he received more leads on the first day of the show than he had received in the last two years of participating. It was not what ATME-I® or the Bobbin Show used to be, and if you went there expecting their reincarnations, you'd have been disappointed. But what was there represented what the industry is today — smaller, less grand, but also innovative, creative and collaborative. There was one real opportunity in that the visitors were as interesting as the exhibitors — there to solve problems and look for opportunities. The symposium sessions had strong attendance, while not detracting from activity on the show floor.

In another instance, the American Apparel Producers' Network recently held its annual meeting in Miami, attracting approximately 160 members of the apparel supply chain — "from the dirt to the shirt," as they say — who gathered for networking and presentations. An interesting theme was, simply, change. Retailing is changing, responsibilities in the apparel supply chain are changing, use of technology is changing, trade laws are changing, and the importance of green and sustainable solutions is changing. Presentation of the synthetic fiber-based apparel cluster in El Salvador — a complete synthetic apparel supply chain — highlighted new investment and smart development in the West. There was a strong sense of positive activity — business coming back to the Western Hemisphere and some real innovations afoot in the pipeline.

Many notions about a slowly improving manufacturing sector are consistent with the economic indicators. Conventional wisdom seems to be that an indicator like unemployment is a proxy for growth. This is often a misguided idea, particularly when much of the investment in manufacturing is in automation. Economic sector health is not always employment-based, as the press would have you believe. Instead, have a look at the Institute for Supply Management's Manufacturing ISM Report on Business® — the April report is a good read.

The report states: "Manufacturing continued its growth in April as the PMI [Purchasing Managers' Index™] registered 54.8 percent, an increase of 1.4 percentage points when compared to March's reading of 53.4 percent. A reading above 50 percent indicates that the manufacturing economy is generally expanding; below 50 percent indicates that it is generally contracting.

"A PMI in excess of 42.6 percent, over a period of time, generally indicates an expansion of the overall economy. Therefore, the PMI indicates growth for the 35th consecutive month in the overall economy, as well as expansion in the manufacturing sector for the 33rd consecutive month."

An expanding manufacturing sector for nearly three years is not in the headlines. Toss in a little certainty on taxes, healthcare and energy policy — and manufacturing just might attract the investment it needs.

May/June 2012

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