In focus on startups, technology, do we miss the contributions of small manufacturing in St. Louis? | St. Louis Public Radio

In focus on startups, technology, do we miss the contributions of small manufacturing in St. Louis?

Sep 22, 2016

One quarter of the St. Louis region’s economy is made up by manufacturing and the vast majority of those manufacturers are small, privately-held companies, said Marc Bowers, the leader of St. Louis Makes, a non-profit trade group for manufacturers.  That’s a multi-billion dollar segment of the economy.

“A lot of times it is easy to obsess on things that are perceived as more modern, technological,” Bower said. “The reality is that small manufacturers are very advanced, very modern and we have a lot of those technological attributes. Another thing that is lost is that [manufacturing] is still a solid path to wealth creation, job creation and regional economic growth. As a society, we tend to be focused on writing apps, which is awesome, but we’re overlooking this opportunities in our own backyard.”

That’s part of why St. Louis Makes is hosting a “Design Jam” at next week’s “Innovation by Design Summit,” sponsored by Maritz. It will showcase the importance of local manufacturing and host discussions about a local manufacturer’s process.

David Skaggs, owner of MDS Manufacturing, is one of those manufacturers. He said that his company, which is the only manufacturer in the Midwest making baby bottle nipples, has grown from $700,000 in sales to almost $8 million over the past six years.

“We have not bragged about what we have in our market,” Bowers said.

The summit that Design Jam is part of is being held at Union Station on Sept. 27 and 28. Tracie Gildehaus, senior director of innovations and insights with Maritz, said the event has drawn attendees from across the country who will explore all facets of design thinking over those two days. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak will keynote the event.  

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air Bower, Gildehaus and Skaggs joined host Don Marsh to discuss the state of small manufacturing — the challenges and benefits — in St. Louis.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.