Finishing, like many other industries, is loaded with opportunities to travel and learn at various finishing-related events. These can include trade shows, seminars, training courses and other types of meetings. Nearly all these events are worthwhile, either for educational purposes, networking or just to get away from the plant or office for a bit and recharge your professional batteries.
Of course, not all such events are created equal. Potential attendees must choose wisely to maximize their investment in time and money. In this day of reduced travel budgets and ratcheted-up job responsibilities, it can be difficult to not only get approval from management to attend an industry event but also to find the time in your hectic schedule to do so.
In the next few weeks, platers will have the opportunity to attend an event that really should be a “must” on their calendars. May 1–3 brings the third annual NASF Washington Forum—an event, simply put, about how platers can not only survive but thrive in the current market.
The organizers of the Washington Forum recognize that, like it or not, global environmental, economic, regulatory and technology trends have created significant challenges for the domestic finishing industry. Such a challenging environment can also create opportunities for those willing to update their knowledge and act accordingly.
Last year, more than 150 finishing industry professionals converged on the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington for the event. Many of those, like me, were first-time attendees at the event.
Unlike some other meetings, where attendees tend to wander in and out of the room depending on their level of interest in the topic being presented, the Washington Forum presentations pretty much kept attendees glued to their seats. That’s an impressive feat considering the long days of multiple speakers at the event.
Attendees at the 2006 event learned about a wide variety of technology, policy, regulatory and economic trends that impact their businesses. Specific topics ranged from updates from OSHA and EPA officials to experts on global regulatory trends, the impact of nanotechnology on finishers and emerging health and safety concerns about production and use of nanotech products. Attendees had their questions about new and pending rules and regulations answered “straight from the horse’s mouth.”
Other speakers covered such topics as the state of American manufacturing, how to be competitive in a global market, the impact of U.S. energy policy and trade policy and its effect on finishers in the United States. Attendees also heard a talk by Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who covered topics ranging from environmental and worker safety regulations to off-shoring and currency exchange rates and then answered some questions from the crowd.
This year’s event will feature presentations, panel discussions and briefings covering a range of issues impacting platers. Highlights scheduled for day one include talks on the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) surface finishing strategy and legal and litigation issues facing finishers. For the first time, visitors also will have the opportunity to attend any of three popular surface finishing environmental courses: the Regulatory Compliance Workshop, Wastewater Treatment and Control Workshop and the Innovative Pollution Prevention Practices Workshop.
Day two starts with a look at the future of finishing, followed by a discussion of European and Asian regulatory trends and their impact on U.S. finishers. Also scheduled are talks on the future of U.S. competitiveness in a global marketplace, how to become involved in the DoD procurement process, and a briefing on how to deliver the finishing industry’s message to Congress.
This last bit is important, because the Forum concludes on May 3 with congressional visits by attendees. Finishers split into delegations according to their home states, then head up to Capitol Hill to voice their concerns to their representatives and their aides and to discuss pending legislation that will impact the industry.
You might not think interaction with politicians is your cup of tea, but it’s good to go to Capitol Hill at least once. The experience will give you a clearer idea of the way things work in Washington and an opportunity to let your voice be heard directly by legislators. Our representatives need to be aware that we’re watching their votes on legislation that can impact U.S. manufacturers in general and the finishing industry in particular. If we don’t let them know that, who will?
If you’re a plater, the Washington Forum is one industry event I hope you’ll consider attending. And, if you decide to go, see you there!