Aurora hosts visit from US Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, regional manufacturing leaders and union representatives

On August 31, 2021, Aurora Specialty Textiles Group welcomed Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14) and United States Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai to Aurora’s state-of-the-art Yorkville, Illinois, manufacturing plant.  The visit included a tour of Aurora’s operations and was tied to the US Congress’ Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which has passed the United States Senate and is pending for vote in the House of Representatives.  The bill would include support across Illinois communities for public transit, improvements to roads and bridges, infrastructure for clean drinking water, electric vehicle support, and improved passenger and freight rail and programmes.

Underwood, Tai Marcia at Range 1 coating head. Marcia Ayala is explaining  explaining how it works. All captions courtesy by Aurora Specialty Textiles

“It was an honour and privilege to host these two accomplished and pioneering women to Aurora Specialty Textiles,” said Marcia Ayala, president of Aurora Specialty Textiles Group. “It was a great event and the discussion was enlightening as we shared the concerns and challenges manufacturers and employees face today.”

Photo of Roundtable participants:  From left to right: Patricia Miller, John Gedney, Gladys Campos, Brian Simmons, Nicole Wolter, Congresswomen Underwood, Ambassador Tai, Chandler Slavin-Bond, David Boulay, Gina Lipscomb, Marcia Ayala

During the visit, Congresswoman Underwood and Ambassador Tai held a roundtable discussion that featured women-led manufacturing firms and union representatives from the Illinois 14th Congressional District. The event was hosted by Ayala and Bruce Pindyck, the chairman and CEO of Meridian Industries, Aurora’s parent company.

Marcia Ayala welcoming Ambassador Tai, Congresswoman Underwood and visitors to the event

In addition to Marcia Ayala, manufacturing leaders who attended the round table discussion included Patricia Miller, CEO of Matrix 4; Chandler Slavin-Bond, Owner Doran Manufacturing, Inc.;  Gina Lipscomb of RJ Lipscomb Engineering; and Nicole Wolter, president of H. M. Manufacturing. Brian Simmons, Gladys Campos and John Gedney represented regional labor unions and their employees. David Boulay, President of the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center also participated.

“We discussed the bipartisan infrastructure bill and other initiatives beneficial to US manufacturers that Congresswomen Underwood and Ambassador Tai are working on,” said Ayala. “It was a great opportunity to give our perspectives on issues currently facing manufacturers and issues specific to our businesses,” Ayala added. “The Congresswoman and Ambassador were very interested to learn about the challenges we face running our businesses and to discuss how those problems can be addressed through legislation and trade policies.

”During the event’s roundtable discussion, Ambassador Tai said she is touring US manufacturing companies to learn what manufacturers need in terms of trade policy. The roundtable discussion also covered questions and concerns related to infrastructure, supply chain, the lack of a skilled workforce, women in manufacturing, climate change and the post-COVID economy.

Bruce, Tai, Underwood, Marcia near Range 1 during plant tour 

Ayala pointed out that women currently account for fewer than one in three manufacturing jobs, although they represent about half of the overall workforce. “Currently,” she explained, “manufacturing jobs are very difficult to fill and women are a huge potential to help fill the gap, so it is critical to attract them. In addition, diverse companies outperform those that lack diversity in their workforces.”

Following the discussion, Underwood and Ambassador Tai toured Aurora’s manufacturing operations. This featured Aurora’s R&D lab, a tour of Aurora’s  Ranges and Inspection areas, as well as a visit to the plant’s quality lab. Press were invited on the tour and Congresswoman Underwood held a press conference afterward with media, roundtable participants and union representatives.

“I was very honoured as the chairman and chief executive officer of Meridian Industries to participate as a host of the visit this week by Ambassador Tai and Congresswoman Underwood,” said Pindyck. “I am very proud that these two very accomplished governmental leaders were able to dialog with Marcia Ayala, our similarly accomplished president of Aurora, and other women business leaders and union representatives.  Marcia is a prime example of the opportunities for women at the Meridian group of companies and other manufacturing companies.  Our governing bodies and our manufacturing companies must continue to partner together to attract women to our companies as we work to grow and strengthen domestic manufacturing. 

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood serves Illinois’ 14th Congressional District and was sworn into the 116th U.S. Congress on January 3, 2019. Congresswoman Underwood is the first woman, the first person of color, and the first millennial to represent her community in Congress. She is also the youngest African American woman to serve in the United States House of Representatives.

Ambassador Katherine Tai was sworn in as the 19th United States Trade Representative on March 18, 2021. As a member of the President’s Cabinet, Ambassador Tai is the principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson on U.S. trade policy.

Prior to her unanimous Senate confirmation, Ambassador Tai spent most of her career in public service focusing on international economic diplomacy, monitoring, and enforcement. She previously served as Chief Trade Counsel and Trade Subcommittee Staff Director for the House Ways and Means Committee in the United States Congress. In this capacity, Ambassador Tai played a pivotal role in shaping U.S. trade law, negotiations strategies, and bilateral and multilateral agreements, including the recently re-negotiated United-States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Aurora Specialty Textiles Group, Inc. is a global leader in coating, dyeing and finishing of both woven and non-woven fabrics. Based in Yorkville, Illinois, USA, the company has a 138-year tradition of innovation and in 2015 invested in a new state-of-the-art, wide-width coating and finishing line, and a new facility, that dramatically expanded their ability to serve customers. Products include digitally-printable textiles, specialty home products, tape-backing products and technical textiles for a wide variety of industries. Aurora Specialty Textiles Group, Inc., is a Meridian Industries, Inc. company and ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certified.  Aurora is also an industry leader with regard to sustainable manufacturing practices and operational excellence.