If the Robot Apocalypse Happens, Austin’s Growing Robotics Industry May Be to Blame

At this year’s South by Southwest festival, there are more than 30 panel discussions about robotics, artificial intelligence, and automation.

By Jimmy MaasMarch 14, 2017 10:16 am| , ,

From KUT

If the robot takeover happens, Austin may face its share of the blame. At this year’s South by Southwest festival, there are more than 30 panel discussions about robotics, artificial intelligence and automation. That’s not even including vendors, the creative works by filmmakers, and bands and booths that explore the subject.

But beyond the festival, Austin is fostering a growing robotics community. Japanese and German robotics firms are putting down roots to take advantage of the highly trained workforce. They might also be ready to take advantage of a push by President Donald Trump to re-establish manufacturing prominence domestically.

Trump campaigned his way across the country promising jobs, with an emphasis on manufacturing.

At the White House last month, he decried the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S., citing a statistic that one-third of them have been lost since the signing of NAFTA.

It’s true, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, that manufacturing jobs have been on a long decline – down nearly 40 percent since 1979, off a third since 1997.

But in reality, things maybe aren’t as dire as you might think. According to the St. Louis Fed, real output of American manufacturers is up almost twice as much as it was 30 years ago.

Things are especially up in Texas.

“For the last seven months, we’ve been on an uptick. We’ve got great opportunities in just about every sector,” said Tony Bennett, president of the Texas Association of Manufacturers. “Texas is the number one exporting state in the United States for manufactured goods. Our state has got a lot going on in the manufacturing world. Nearly 900,000 Texans work in manufacturing, and the average wage is $79,000 a year, so it’s great jobs.”

Big employers like Samsung, Lockheed-Martin, Dow Chemical, Boeing and others provide a nucleus for hundreds of other small contractors to manufacture components needed at the larger plant.

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