The trade association for San Antonio’s manufacturing sector has a new president for the first time in 12 years.

The San Antonio Manufacturers Association (SAMA) officially appointed Dan Yoxall as its president and CEO at the beginning of June, following the retirement of former president Rey Chavez.

“The future for manufacturing in San Antonio is bright,” Yoxall said. “We’re coming through the pandemic with a lot of lessons learned, and some new opportunities.”

Yoxall said he hopes to raise the manufacturing sector’s visibility, encourage the local development of a skilled workforce, and to grow the association’s ranks with new members.

SAMA is the meeting ground and political voice for San Antonio’s manufacturing sector, which includes more than 1,000 employers, according to greater:SATX. Those 1,000 employers account for about 51,000 workers in the city.

Founded in 1914, SAMA is the state’s oldest manufacturing association, Yoxall said, and its membership includes both manufacturers and manufacturing-support companies, like those that provide legal and web development services.

Like other trade associations, the group saw a drop in membership during the early part of the pandemic. SAMA’s 400 or so members pre-pandemic have since dropped to 282, Yoxall said.

Yoxall was selected for the position by a subcommittee of the organization’s board. He previously served as vice president of community engagement and development at LiftFund, which helps San Antonio startups and entrepreneurs with funding and advice, and was vice president for institutional advancement at Our Lady of the Lake University.

Like his predecessor Chavez, Yoxall does not have a background in manufacturing.

“He’s got the right personality, and he’s got leadership skills,” said Douglas Carlberg, one of SAMA’s most senior board members, though he was not on the hiring subcommittee. Carlberg is the president and CEO of M2 Global, a Department of Defense supplier which recently won the U.S. Small Business Administration’s subcontractor of the year award.

Carlberg said volunteers are the “secret sauce” of SAMA, which only has three paid employees. Volunteers staff a number of committees for the organization that drive its work. For example, the education committee promotes manufacturing as a career to high school and college students, and works with manufacturers to encourage internship programs. The environmental committee studies state and federal regulations, and advises members on how to comply. There are also committees for governmental affairs, marketing, membership and programs.

Yoxall spoke glowingly of Chavez’s time at the helm, during which SAMA established partnerships with local schools, colleges and organizations like Workforce Solutions Alamo to help develop pipelines for a skilled manufacturing workforce.

These are the kind of partnerships Yoxall said he plans to build on, since developing a skilled workforce is one of the industry’s most pressing needs, he said.

Eddie Borden, a machinist with M2 Global for 21 years, reads instructions to program a HAAS machine to carve metal to make a bell crank used in plane landing gear.
Eddie Borden, a machinist with M2 Global for 21 years, reads instructions to program a HAAS machine to carve metal to make a bell crank used in plane landing gear. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

Yoxall will also be overseeing the association’s industry five-year report, which surveys the size of the industry and its economic impact. The last report was released in 2016, and the planned 2021 report was delayed because of the pandemic.

Yoxall said he hopes to develop an interactive directory for manufacturers in the area that could help national and international firms find San Antonio manufacturers, and wants to start a new marketing campaign for the sector that would raise awareness of its economic impact and career opportunities.

He also wants to expand the organization’s annual trade show to include more regional exhibitors. The last one, held in May, attracted nearly 100 exhibitors.

But for the immediate future, Yoxall said he’s in listening mode, noting the challenges facing SAMA members: “Our manufacturers are dealing with inflation, rising fuel costs, supply chain issues.”

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas reported earlier this month that the state’s manufacturing industry saw its output growth decelerate sharply in June, falling to its lowest level since May 2020.

The future is promising, Yoxall said, but the industry still needs to bounce back from some of its recent bruises, as well as keep drawing attention to the role it plays in San Antonio.

“We need to continue to put manufacturing on the radar for people in our city,” he said.

Waylon Cunningham covered business and technology for the San Antonio Report.