SPESA's 2020 State of the Union Address

Dear SPESA Members,

Thank you for another wonderful year of support, dedication, and enthusiasm for the sewn products industry. You may or may not know this, but SPESA will reach a significant milestone in 2020. It will officially turn 30-years-old. Meanwhile, our team, Maggie, Marie, and I (or Team M as a few of you have called us), is embarking on year two of managing this prodigious association.

Every day, we explore new ideas of how we want to improve, new benefits we want to create for our members, and new experiments we want to try. But we are also cognizant of and grateful for the solid foundation we already have. The next year will be shaped entirely by this balance—mixing the old and the new to strengthen our association.

The State of the Industry

Balance is actually a good word to describe the challenges facing the sewn products industry right now. Companies are struggling to find balance between supporting the workforce and introducing new technology; between attracting the next generation of industry professionals and preserving the institutional knowledge and know-how that only come with decades of experience; between embracing international opportunities and revitalizing U.S. manufacturing—which coincidentally is also about 30 years in the making.

Our hope is to help our members navigate through these challenges. In the next year, we will focus on three main areas:

  • Workforce development - This is an issue near and dear to my heart and one that affects every aspect of the supply chain. At the 2019 SPESA Executive Conference, we learned of several initiatives to attract, train, and retain workers to the sewn products industry. In 2020, we want to work with SPESA members to expand these initiatives and create solutions across the industry.
  • Technology and automation - Many SPESA members are already at the forefront of this issue. After all, they are the ones creating the technology. Our goal is to ensure you have opportunities to share your innovations with the right customers.
  • Trade and government - In the past, SPESA has taken a step back from politics, but recent changes to trade policies that directly impact our industry have made that stance more and more difficult to sustain. We want to make sure that our members have all of the information necessary to understand the policies that affect them and the opportunities available to them.

The Foundation & The Building Blocks

In our last state of the union message, we outlined a core objective for the year: growth. We are proud to report that we welcomed seven new members in 2019, including Automatex, Inc., Impactiva, Kuris LLC, MAGNAL Solutions, Mitsubishi Electric Industrial Sewing Machines, and associate members Gardner Group and AATCC.

We are grateful to our new members, just as we are grateful for the ones who show us support year after year. And we look forward to welcoming even more members in 2020.

But to us, growth is not just expanding our numbers; it's also building on the impressive foundation established by those who came before us. Dave and Benton Gardner and the SPESA members who have been here since the beginning created a strong bedrock of education and networking upon which we still stand. These two elements figure into everything we do at SPESA today, including the resources we create, the trade shows we attend, and the events we plan.

Mixing the Old with the New

In 2020, we will continue that legacy through SPESA’s two signature events: the Advancements in Manufacturing Technologies Conference (April 7th in Detroit) and the SPESA Executive Conference (October 28-29 in Boston). Both events will focus on engaging attendees in ongoing dialogue and cooperative problem-solving across the industry. However, we are also trying out a few new things within the events and both Detroit and Boston are new, somewhat experimental locations for SPESA.

Our biggest event of the year, Texprocess Americas (May 12-14 in Atlanta), will introduce new features like The Studio, a microfactory and product development planning area, and The Sustainability Forum, a two-part session that will include a host of presentations on new guidelines, customer demands, and case studies covering sustainability throughout the supply chain. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to book your booth space now and register for SPESA’s Opening Night Reception at World of Coca-Cola.

Later this year, you will also see a new format for SPESA’s Behind the Seams newsletter. We will continue to share the latest industry news, while adding more original content delving deeper into the issues impacting the sewn products industry. Until then, you can keep up with us on social media and SPESA Speaks.

Looking Ahead

When our team took over SPESA leadership in 2019, we did so side-by-side with SPESA Chairwoman Nina McCormack. Since day one, Nina has lifted our voices, offered counsel, and provided the support our team needed to achieve success. We are honored to have started this journey with her in our court, and are thankful for everything she has done to support our team and SPESA as a whole. Thank you sincerely to Nina and the rest of the SPESA Board for your continued support.

To some, thirty years is a long time. To us, it represents the first chapter of what we hope will be a long, exciting journey for SPESA, its members, and the sewn products industry.

Here’s to the next thirty.