IFAI Holds a Successful 2021 Outlook® Conference

After a year-and-a-half of virtual meetings during the pandemic, Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) hosted its first in-person event, its annual Outlook® Conference, August 29-31 at Hilton Head Island, SC. Turnout and engagement indicated the industry was more than ready to be face-to-face with colleagues to learn, network and reconnect.

The conference attracted over 110 industry professionals from around the country and featured a diverse roster of speakers who shared insights into topics ranging from military textiles to fiber markets, trade and policy, reshoring to the economic picture, sustainability, and recruiting and retaining talent. The day and a half of business sessions closed with an inspiring keynote presentation by MSNBC/NBC News anchor, journalist and author Richard Lu. Attendees also participated in several networking and social activities as well as roundtable discussions.

During a half day of military sessions, four subject matter experts offered deep-dive information into the supply of textile and apparel products to the Department of Defense (DoD) and other federal agencies. Presentations were given by Paul Campbell, general manager of Clothing & Textiles for Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR); Teresa Downs, vice president of business development at the Kennedy Center, Inc.; Ron Houle, founder and president of Pivot Step Consultants LLC; and Lisa Marie Vivino, chief of the field – clothing division, clothing & textiles at the Defense Logistics Agency’s Troop Support within the DoD. Over 65 attendees sat in for the Military Morning portion of the conference.

Following the military updates, Laura Murphy, research director at Wood Mackenzie Chemicals, gave an overview of the impact the coronavirus, trade wars and other events has had on the U.S. and global fiber markets. Supply and demand is “normally” balanced, she said, but labor, raw material pricing, ocean freight and other forces majeures have wreaked havoc on that economic theory over the last couple of years.

Auggie Tantillo, president of SRG & Associates and former president & CEO of the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), reviewed various federal policy matters confronting the U.S. textile sector. Also a consultant to the IFAI’s U.S. Industrial Fabrics Institute (USIFI) and Narrow Fabrics Institute (NFI), Tantillo updated the group on military procurement under the National Defense Authorization Act; key legislative and enforcement initiatives related to international trade; and efforts to bolster domestic production of medical personal protective equipment (PPE).

Tantillo later moderated a panel discussion on “Recovering & Reshoring: U.S. Manufacturing and PPE Production” that included Morris Collins, director of member relations at INDA; and Joe Przepiorka, vice president of marketing at Shawmut Corporation. Each discussed the industry’s transition into PPE production when the pandemic struck. With several pieces of federal legislation to shore up domestic PPE production on the table, he added that this is the moment for the U.S. government to take heed of the industry’s heroic efforts in order to avoid another shortfall.

The next morning, Dr. Roger Tutterow, professor of economics at Kennesaw State University, provided an overview of the economic climate. He touched on the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the retail and real estate sectors, the causes and effects of recent changes in energy prices, the structure and effect of the recent fiscal stimulus and the linkages between trade policy and currency valuation, an overview of recent Federal Reserve policy actions and the ongoing impact of changes in the political and regulatory climate on the manufacturing sector.

Aubrey Hilliard, CEO, Horizon Energy LLC, covered “Surviving and Thriving in a Net Zero Carbon Future” with a general overview of what a renewable and biodegradable future means for our businesses.

Jeff Sackaroff, M.Ed., director of Career Services, at the N.C. State Wilson College of Textiles, discussed ways to recruit and retain tomorrow’s textile leaders. He provided a look into the expectations of today’s college students and how companies can attract that generation of talent.

In closing the event, Lui offered an uplifting presentation on how people can make a difference to their businesses and to others by becoming more selfless instead of selfish. The author of “Enough About Me: The Unexpected Power of Selflessness,” gave several personal examples of mentorship and caregiving and the impact they have had on him and others.

The next IFAI Outlook® Conference is scheduled for April 24-26, 2022 at the Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, VA.

For a more in-depth review of the event, please click here

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