2021 Executive Conference Chairwoman's Address

SPESA Chairwoman Nina McCormack welcomed attendees to the 2021 SPESA Executive Conference October 27th, outlined the goals of the conference, and shared her observations of the sewn products industry over the last year and a half and her thoughts on the future.

It is my pleasure to welcome you to Boston and to this year’s annual SPESA Executive Conference!

I am so happy to finally be able to see all of you in person again. While we hosted a successful first ever virtual Executive Conference last year, I certainly enjoy being together in person, having fruitful discussions, good conversations, sharing a laugh and, most importantly, a drink.

Networking and comradery have always been an important part of every SPESA conference, and I am certain we will especially enjoy it this year even more after such a long time apart.

The Advancements Conference that we hosted in Raleigh, North Carolina, in conjunction with Techextil North America at the end of August was our first in-person event after almost 1.5 years of virtual get togethers. And I have to say, I truly enjoyed being together with industry peers and friends once again.

I know that many of us are still very concerned about the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. With our mitigation measures such as requiring proof of either a vaccination or a negative PCR test, we certainly hope to keep everyone safe and ensure that everyone can enjoy these couple of days together.

I would like to thank our sponsors, Lectra, CGS, and Messe Frankfurt, for their continuous support, and for enabling us to host this conference. I also want to especially thank the SPESA management team, Michael, Maggie, and Marie, for their commitment to our organization and for their great effort in planning this conference, especially with the challenges that Covid-19 has brought us in mind.

It is our mission at SPESA to provide members and industry partners with the highest quality networking, education, and information within the global sewn products industry, and I am confident that this year’s conference will provide exactly this once again.

This year’s conference, with the title “Riding the Momentum,” takes place at an important time in history for the sewn products industry. The industry has experienced a surge of momentum over the past two years as it adopted new technologies, mended supply chains, and developed more flexible manufacturing strategies. The next couple of days we will feature a combination of speakers and panel discussions for attendees to learn and engage.

We will kick things off with a brief “Welcome to Massachusetts” by the Vice President, Government Affairs, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, to give us an overview of what is currently happening in the state of Massachusetts.

Immediately following, our opening keynote speaker, Bill O’Connor, will address the concept of “Innovate or Die,” something all of us have or will most likely experience at some point in business. Mr. O’Connor will touch on innovation, both from a technological and a cultural perspective, and explore the dynamic of automation/augmentation in the context of the future work.

Following Mr. O’Connor, we will hear from our dynamic “Made in Massachusetts” manufacturing panel with whom we will discuss the recent developments in the region, including how the local industry adapted and evolved during the pandemic.

To close out the first day, we will feature another panel with the title “Wicked Smart: Textile Research and Innovation” that gives us a glimpse at current research initiatives seeking to advance the sewn products industry.

Tomorrow, we will have a second day packed with information. In the morning, we will start the day with a brief overview of Texprocess Americas 2022. We will then hear from Jeremy Wall from GoalMakers who will lead us through an interactive session on a few fundamentals of business management. This will be followed by two workforce case study panels where we will dive into employee engagement and workforce training.

In the afternoon, we will have a virtual presentation about the Walmart American Lighthouse Initiative, learn about government engagement, hear why we are still paying tariffs, discuss the shifting sewn products landscape, and close out the conference with the SPESA business meeting and the remarks of our incoming Chairman, Ed Gribbin.

On Friday, for those of you who would like to join us, we scheduled a tour to two local facilities. We will first visit AFFOA in Cambridge and then drive to Fall River to visit Merrow.

One of the most important things at every SPESA event and something many of us are looking forward to, especially this year, is networking. At SPESA, we love to share a good glass of wine or scotch while having great conversations and catching up with our many friends made over the years during these events.

Tonight, we will be gathering in the hotel's famous Parker's Bar for our Welcome Reception with an open bar (trust me, there is always an open bar at SPESA events) and hors d’oeuvres. Tomorrow evening, we will get together for our Closing Night Party, including a “Mobsters & Lobsters” trolley ride followed by dinner and drinks at Ned Devine’s Irish Pub .

Although SPESA could not host its traditional meetings, get togethers, and conferences in person over the past year and a half, the SPESA team adjusted as all of us to the new normal and found different ways of keeping its members informed and engaged.

SPESA hosted several virtual webinars, its first ever virtual Executive Conference, and published regular updates via emails, its Behind The Seams publication, and its trade and policy updates.

In addition, we were finally able to attend live events once again during the past few months and attended several trade show and hosted our Advancements in Manufacturing Technologies Conference.

A lot was accomplished in 2021 and we look toward 2022 with a new level of enthusiasm and activity in supporting our members in the pursuit of maintaining and strengthening the sewn products industry in the Americas. I congratulate the members of the Board of Directors of SPESA for their devoted service to the association and the industry over the last year.

Over the past three years that I have been Chairwoman of SPESA, the industry certainly has gone through a lot of changes in reestablishing itself. The industry is riding the momentum and we are just at the beginning. The future holds so much more and you will be hearing of these steps over the next two days. It is such an interesting and exciting time to be in the sewn products industry in the Americas.

Thank you again for joining us and I look forward to a successful SPESA conference and lots of fun in Boston!