The Ponca City Development Authority (PCDA) and five local industrial companies travelled to Arlington, Texas recently to visit with hundreds of companies seeking industrial products many of which are made in Ponca City. Called the “Trade Show Brigade,” the trip was the tenth such mission sponsored by PCDA since the program began eight years ago.
PCDA and the companies participated in the two day “Design2Part” trade show, an event held each year for manufacturing companies in the region. The show brings together hundreds of companies primarily from the North Texas region to attend educational seminars and to meet with potential supply chain partners. PCDA sponsors a trade booth for each company to set up and meet with potential customers during the show.
Laurence Beliel, PCDA’s Director of Business Retention and Expansion Laurence said the Design2Part show offers a “target rich” opportunity for Ponca City companies to get in front of potential customers. “This show is made for companies that do contract manufacturing. Very few manufacturing companies make all of the parts that they need so they come to a trade show like this looking for someone who can make a product they need. It’s really a great business to business chance to introduce our companies to new potential customers.”
This is the tenth trade show that PCDA has sponsored for local industry. PCDA pays for the booth space, the companies themselves pay for their travel and their time. Beliel said that the Design2Part show in particular has been extremely successful for Ponca City companies. “It’s not at all unusual for our local companies to get orders during the trade show and several sign confidentiality agreements to talk about potential manufacturing opportunities that they can’t even tell me about.
Joining the “brigade” this year were Centerline, K&C Manufacturing, Moonlight Machine, Precision Metal Fab and Source Fabrication. “These companies are bright and really good at coming up with a solution to a need a company has. Even though they sometimes compete with each other, they left that at the door and worked really well together,” Beliel said. “They were great ambassadors for Ponca City.”
As the success of the program has grown, so too has participation. “There were five companies that went this year, that’s a new high for us,” said PCDA Executive Director David Myers. “A couple of years ago we had been looking at other trade shows for other local industry sectors but COVID set things back. We expect that to resume as things get back to normal.”
The PCDA program, according to Myers, is unique in the economic development world. “I’m not aware of any other area that is doing this right now.” He added that the program provides another way to grow an economy beyond a single focus on trying to recruit new companies. “When you don’t have a workforce or available industrial buildings you need to look at new ways to grow and diversify. This is harder for the public to see than a big announcement for a new company, but it is every bit as effective at growing jobs and wages in a way that can be managed in a labor constrained market like ours,” he said.
The program was recognized as an outstanding innovation in economic development in 2020 by the International Economic Development Council. Myers says he expects to see other areas try and copy the PCDA approach. “The only surprise for me is that other areas haven’t tried it so far,” he said. “There is a lot of opportunity out there but other areas don’t have our secret weapons. They don’t have the kind of agile, talented, supportive companies that you find in Ponca City. They also don’t have Laurence Beliel.”
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