More than 9350 visitors and 589 exhibitors could be found at the Georgia World Congress Center from 3-5 May 2016.
Business in North America continues to thrive, with plenty of evidence of investment and the return of manufacturing operations long since thought lost to other parts of the world. While this message is not breaking news, it was thoroughly re-affirmed in conversations held with numerous participants at the recently concluded Techtextil North America (held in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, on 3–5 May 2016).
Co-located with Texprocess Americas and JEC Americas, the event attracted a total of 589 exhibitors and more than 9350 visitors, according to Atlanta-based Messe Frankfurt Inc, one of the principal organizers. The combined shows also covered more than 1.5 ha, all of the recorded statistics showing improvements on those from the last time the three exhibitions took place together, in Atlanta on 13–15 May 2014.
However, these bare statistics do not give a fair representation of the high degree of confidence in the market. For that it was necessary to be present and to speak directly with those involved, and to witness the atmosphere at the venue, the Georgia World Congress Center, particularly around the stands of the machinery builders in the Texprocess Americas section.
Of the three exhibitions, Texprocess Americas showed the biggest improvement, according to Messe Frankfurt’s Michael Jänecke, with 80% of exhibitors opting this time to go to the not inconsiderable expense of showing machinery. Judging by the buzz of visitors around this area and several reports of investments being made on the show floor, their additional expense would appear to have been repaid.
Particular interest was shown in machinery designed to automate production. Investments of this kind are needed of course to help reduce the costs of labour associated with manufacturing in high-wage economies, but many of those enthusiastic to buy such equipment cited another reason: the need to substitute for the lack of an indigenous, skilled labour force. During recent decades, when much of its manufacturing left the region, North America has lost a traditional skilled workforce, which is yet to be replaced. Even innovative companies, which succeeded in keeping their production on the continent during this period by evolving to become technical textiles manufacturers report that recruitment of suitable employees is a growing problem.
It is to be hoped, therefore, that initiatives such as the establishment of the Advanced Functional Fibers of America (AFFOA) Institute, another conversational topic of great interest at the shows, can have an impact in persuading a new generation of bright students to consider textiles as a career. The industry, particularly the technical textiles sector, is far more sophisticated than those outside can imagine and it needs to attract a new generation of the brightest and the best if its current momentum is to be sustained.