Smart Schmoozing

By Hannah Wallace February 28, 2006

Peter Straw loves manufacturing. And he has a definite fondness for manufacturers. As executive director of the Sarasota Manatee Area Manufacturers Association (SAMA), he is always eager to help local industrialists network to keep as much production as possible right here in the two-county area. But as much joy as he gets from helping local businesses at all hours of the day and night, he is gleeful that now there is a resource to link manufacturers to each other 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"Not too long ago a SAMA member called me at home at 10 p.m. to help him locate a mobile welder capable of repairing a product that same night for next-day shipment," Straw explains. "While I was happy to recommend a source, had I not been available for some reason, they would have fallen off their timeline. The question became, how could we connect all of the area manufacturers in a reliable and easily accessible fashion so that they can communicate each other's needs and capabilities?"

The question is not just of concern to manufacturers. It's of concern to economic development officials in both counties. Local manufacturers boost each other's business when they use one another's products and services, and the cooperation helps to attract other manufacturers. "By displaying all of our area's manufacturing capabilities, we build a strong case for like-minded manufacturing companies to do business here," says Straw. "And that is a very good thing for local industry and our entire community."

The answer to this networking issue was the birth of MCI, or Manufacturing Capabilities Index, an online directory that allows manufacturers with facilities in Sarasota and Manatee counties to list their capabilities, as well as access the system to find complementary manufacturers, free of charge. Unlike other directories that merely list companies by product line or Standard Industrial Classification Code, a number developed by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget to identify industrial sectors, the MCI asks companies to detail their in-house process capacity, allowing them to fully describe their capabilities. This added feature, Straw says, makes the MCI a truly valuable business sharing resource.

"If you need an injection molder, you don't really care if the listed company makes the best blue widgets all day. You want to know if they have the process in place to make your red widgets to your specifications. You can access the MCI and determine if they have that capacity. If they do, you can contact them directly to become your production partner," he says.

A joint project of SAMA and the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County's Specialty Manufacturing Cluster, the MCI is funded by a grant from the EDC and is hosted on its Web site. Robert Dodd of Sarasota-based XL Technologies designed the site, and SAMA has primary responsibility for promoting the project. Visitors to the SAMA, Sarasota EDC and Manatee EDC Web sites have easy access to the index. Since its launch in July of last year, the MCI has enrolled 40 companies. The goal is to get at least 60 additional local companies to register this year. Eventually the index may expand to include manufacturers outside the region.

"Our plan calls for 100 companies to populate the MCI to attain critical mass," Straw says. "Once we get 100 enrollees, there will be enough potential connections for site visitors to find production partners for almost any needed process."

Companies not seeking production partners can still join the list as "information source only." Those listing as information sources are willing to share their knowledge of a specific process with others.

To find out more about the MCI, visit the SAMA Web site at, the Sarasota EDC at, or the Manatee EDC at To enroll in the MCI or search for a manufacturer, go to

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