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McALLEN, TX-The North American Advanced Manufacturing Research and Education Initiative has unveiled plans for a Rapid Response Manufacturing Center complex. The center, which just opened at University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburgh, TX, will make its permanent home on 80 acres adjacent to the McAllen Foreign Trade Zone.

Although plans are still being finalized for South Ware Road site, the complex could measure up to 150,000 sf, with the structure going vertical for approximately $40 per sf. If all goes according to plan, the center could be operational in 2010. The center will be under the auspices the North American Manufacturing Research and Education Initiative, a consortium of leaders in business, education, government and economic development.

Keith Partridge, president and CEO of the McAllen Economic Development Corp., says the center was created to help boost a strong manufacturing base not only in the Rio Grande Valley, but the rest of the US as well. But, it’s not the same manufacturing base from the early to mid-20th century with which most are familiar.

“This center is the first in the world exclusively focused on rapid-response manufacturing,” Partridge explains. “In other words, taking the product from concept to the marketplace in as short as time as possible.” The reason for such a center, he continues, is because today’s customers want low-cost, customized products and they want those products now, if not sooner.

“Companies are moving from providing customers with customized products quickly to needing to take those products as fast to market as possible and at as low a cost as they can,” Partridge says.

Sometimes, companies hope to take products from design to market in 30 days. “The only way to do that is to have the people who build the tooling, manufacturing component and supplier component involved from the design phase from day one,” Partridge tells GlobeSt.com. “This is creating a whole new way of designing products and of educating the workforce.”

Partridge says that the goal is to bring more manufacturing plants to the South Texas area, but the rapid response paradigm is meant to benefit the US as a whole. It also could benefit international firms as well.

“A couple of months ago, the chairman of one of the largest manufacturing companies in China was here looking to set up a manufacturing plant in McAllen,” Partridge says. When asked why, the chairman said his North American customers were demanding a faster manufacturing-to-market time, and more customization of products, which the Chinese plants couldn’t perform. “They couldn’t get that speed of delivery from China, which is why he was interested,” Partridge says.

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