The National Association of Surface Finishing’s Washington Forum is always one of the most worthwhile events on the finishing industry’s busy calendar. The Forum is unique in covering a range of business, technical, policy and political issues relevant to the plating industry and in providing an opportunity for attendees to visit with their members of Congress and staff. We recently spoke with NASF’s Christian Richter to get some details about this year’s event, which is scheduled for April 22–24 at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, DC.
How does the Washington Forum differ from other industry events?
CR: The Forum serves as a great complement to the other major industry events. First, it’s a compact and information-packed conference that gives attendees a broader perspective on major issues impacting the industry so they can anticipate change and better prepare for the future. Second, in Washington we’re able to bring in national experts or decision makers on some very important issues who happen to work just down the street. Third, it’s a chance for attendees to meet with their Congressional representatives if they choose and build better relationships with some of the decision makers in Washington.
What technical and business-related issues currently facing platers will be covered at this year’s Forum?
CR: We’ll feature a number of topics that both go beyond politics and are deeply intertwined with politics. This is just a sampling, but we’ll have experts on nanotechnology policy, metals supply and price trends, emerging global chemicals and metals regulations, the U.S. economic outlook, what the energy and climate change debates mean for job shops and suppliers, and the latest collaborative efforts by the industry on coatings issues with OSHA, the Department of Defense, and EPA.
What sessions do you think will be of the most interest for attendees?
CR: I think it depends on what your business is. Metals supply and price issues, as well as energy issues, elicit a great deal of interest because commodity price swings have been a real challenge for the industry in recent years. Job shops doing defense and aerospace work will appreciate the overview of where the Pentagon is headed on the sustainability agenda and have an opportunity to learn about DoD’s priorities with respect to alternative chemistries. Others will want to hear about the U.S. manufacturing outlook overall.
We believe there’s truly something of value here for everyone. We try to ensure that no one walks away without some essential information or some new insights on a specific issue or the bigger picture of where things are headed for the industry.
Is there anything new or different scheduled for this year’s event?
CR: Based on suggestions from past attendees who would like to get a better handle on how the upcoming Presidential and Congressional races are shaping up, we’ll have keynote luncheon remarks by well-known pundit and political commentator Fred Barnes. Another session will address patent reform issues in light of some major legislative action underway in Congress this year.
Why are the Capitol Hill visits important?
CR: The value of a good relationship with your Congressional representative or his or her staff simply can’t be overstated. Attendees gain a real opportunity to give their elected representatives some insight into the important contributions of the finishing industry and the challenges we’re facing. People can get awfully cynical or complain about Washington, and there are good reasons why they feel this way. But you can’t complain if you don’t make the attempt to be active in the process.