Manufacturing helps boost Waco economy

Chamber builds relationships with manufacturers

By Ade Adesanya

The manufacturing sector of the greater Waco economy is getting a boost as product orders sustain the recovering economy.

“We are starting to see improvements in the manufacturing sector of the greater Waco economy,” said Kris Collins, the director for retention and expansion at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.

Growth in the manufacturing sector of the Greater Waco economy during the first quarter of 2011 reflects IBISWorld industry economic forecasts. IBISWorld is a market research organization that provides information for strategic planning and research purposes.

Sonoco Flexible Packaging, a South Carolina-based consumer and industrial packaging manufacturer with business operations in Waco, is growing from increases in the manufacturing sector.

“Our business performance has been strong this quarter,” Rick Brzezinski, the plant manager at Sonoco, said.

Sonoco has benefited from a recovering global economy, as most of its recent orders have come from international customers.

The function of the retention and expansion team at the chamber is to inform the industries in the greater Waco area about emerging markets and competitive business practices that will profit businesses.

“It is my job to make sure there is a positive environment where businesses can flourish,” Collins said.

The business retention and expansion team at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce strengthens business ties and investments in the community by forging collaborative initiatives.

“We function mainly by building business through relationships,” Collins said. “We manage our retention and expansion efforts by focusing on different industries each quarter of the year.”

During the first quarter of 2011, the business retention and expansion team focused on the manufacturing and the aerospace sector of the Waco economy.

The chamber supports local businesses by providing opportunities for businesses to express their needs and relay information about performance and business practices.

“We have area-industry managers, the managers of the large industrial companies in the greater Waco area who meet to share business practices,” Collins said. “All of this happens so that we can have an on going dialogue with businesses so that whenever they have opportunities and challenges, they reach out to us.”

In addition to using specialist expertise, the chamber invites would-be investors to the community to see prospective business sites.

During “on-site visits,” potential investors are educated on how the community will bring value to their businesses; they are also enlightened about incentives available to encourage their investments. Managers are watching key economic indicators to help them make the best decisions, Brzezinski said.

“The general outlook for the rest of 2011 is good; we expect some fluctuation along the way, but overall, we expect a good year,” Brzezinski said.

The chamber works to help repeat investors, such as Caterpillar Inc., grow their business.

The sustained relationship with Caterpillar Inc.­, an industrial equipment manufacturer, led to the launch in late March of a new manufacturing center for hydro-mechanical work tool production in Waco, its fourth plant in Waco since 2005.

“We have a great relationship with Caterpillar,” Collins said. “That goes back to their original plan to invest in Waco; that is why they continue to choose Waco to expand their business.”

The Waco Chamber of Commerce will continue to show the Greater Waco community as a good place to live and do business, Collins said.