Investing in Our Future

I can remember my very first day working in the finishing industry some 25 years ago. I didn't know the difference between waterborne paint and high solids, had never heard of powder coatings, and wouldn't know a spray booth from a phone booth. I went to work for a trade publication that believed strongly in investing in younger employees that would be the future of manufacturing and education.

While my career in finishing began as an editor, I quickly learned to love the art of developing quality educational programming for finishing. My bosses at the time believed that there was a lack of quality, reasonably priced educational opportunities for finishers to advance their skills. That led me down the path of producing and managing conferences and trade shows along with industry trade associations. There is a strong tie between all of them, in that the goals of trade associations and the educational programming offered to industry all seek to advance those who make a living in manufacturing.

Over the years, I have had the privilege to work with many individuals, companies, associations and publications that serve our industry. It's a hard-working, caring community where you will always find someone who is willing to help you solve a problem and find a better, more efficient way to finish your products.

The past couple of years have been tough on manufacturing and finishing. I don't need to tell you the story - we're all living it. What concerns me is that it appears that manufacturing is no longer investing in making our workers more educated, more skilled, more committed. Days go by so quickly with instant communication and the demands of a global marketplace that we no longer take the time for the things that set us apart - investing in those who manufacture products.

This month, 12 of the finishing industry's most prominent trade associations are sponsoring the Coating 2005 Conference & Trade Show from September 19-22 in Indianapolis. When I was a novice 25 years ago, trade associations cooperating with one another was unheard of. Today, they are pooling their resources to help manufacturing remain competitive and keep people employed. The conference program at Coating 2005 is outstanding - more than 60 sessions, 100 speakers, offering sessions on everything from liquid, electrocoating and powder coating to plating, emerging technologies and vacuum coating. There isn't any place else in the United States where finishers can meet with so many other finishers and suppliers and walk away with so much information. Conducting research on the Internet and speaking with a sales rep when they call on your plant are great tools, but they don't allow you to talk with a variety of suppliers and other finishers at the same time to make smart comparisons and learn about many finishing products all at the same time.

Manufacturers must start investing in their employees again.

If you are reading this before September 19, review the conference lineup and list of exhibitors on-line at and put a game plan together for a visit. If you are reading this while at the show, good for you! Here, we are all investing in our future. If the show has passed, still visit the web site and check out all that was offered. I urge you to continue your support of industry conferences, shows and the trade associations that sponsor them.