Someone recently asked me: “What value do we (IFAI and the specialty fabrics industry) bring to the larger community?” It caught me by surprise. I have a deep and personal interest in the success of our industry. IFAI staff and volunteers work every day to advance, promote and protect it. I believe that the companies in our industry and the people behind them are honorable; they support themselves, their families and the families of their employees through good, honest, hard work. But what value do we bring to the world?
Supporting honest endeavor is, in itself, noble. Supporting businesses that make quality products from quality materials brings value to everyone involved. Fostering a community of businesses that work cooperatively creates benefits that ripple throughout the many markets of our industry. But what is our larger contribution to society?
As I thought about that question, I identified five things about which we can all feel good; things that contribute to society and make the world a better place. Our industry makes products that save lives, promote health, build infrastructure, promote environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions and enhance safety, comfort and performance in recreation. One—and often more—of these five benefits is represented in every product we make. Some examples:
- Our products save lives. Think first-responder protection gear, life-saving fall restraint systems, air bags and seat belts, parachutes, military turn-out gear and high visibility vests.
- They promote health, with sun protection, shelter, medical devices, prosthetics, antimicrobial products and sports injury protection.
- IFAI member companies build infrastructure with road construction materials, hazardous waste liners, beach erosion control systems and slope stabilization products.
- We promote sustainable solutions with fabrics that allow natural light to enter a building yet still provide shade to lower cooling costs. Lightweight materials are less costly and more energy efficient to ship. Fabrics can be recycled, and are often made from recycled materials.
- Finally, our products serve the desire for safe and comfortable recreation on boats and in countless indoor and outdoor sports.
You’ll probably find that at least one of these categories is represented by the products you manufacture.
IFAI members do good work; their products also serve the greater good, contributing to society in unique and valuable ways. I’m proud to be part of this industry and play a small role in its success, because for all of us, it’s more than just work; it’s a contribution to the greater good.
One of my favorite presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, said: “Far and away the greatest prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” An industry that makes things that people want and need—things that make the world a better place—is definitely doing good work.