SPESA Executive Conference | What You Can Expect

Each month, Behind the Seams explores a different aspect of the sewn products industry with an editorial/introduction from the SPESA team called SPESA Speaks (which is only slightly confusing that it's also the name of our blog). This is the September 2021 SPESA Speaks.


What have we learned over the past eighteen months?

  1. Adaptability is crucial for maintaining success;
  2. Leveraging networks and resources is a smart way to get ahead; and
  3. The world — and the industry — is rapidly changing (buckle up: this ride isn’t slowing down any time soon).

When we sat down to map out a curriculum for this year’s Executive Conference (October 27 & 28 in Boston), we thought it was important to look back at the past eighteen months, what we’ve learned, what we’ve witnessed, and where we think the industry is headed next. The theme of the event is Riding the Momentum which plays into the industry’s seemingly rapid evolution over these past eighteen plus months. We want to talk about how the industry is changing, but more importantly we want to equip our attendees with the tools and resources they need to keep pace with the changes taking shape (hence, riding the momentum).

Here’s a look at what we’ll cover at this year’s event:

Wednesday, October 27th (2:00 - 6:00 p.m.)

Opening Keynote: Agents of Innovation | Our energetic opening speaker, Bill O’Conner, will kick off the conference by addressing the concept of “Innovate or Die.” He will touch on innovation both from a technological and a cultural perspective, and discuss automation vs. augmentation and automation in the future of work. Pulling insights from his experience in Silicon Valley, he will also highlight the benefit of working together as an industry.

Made in New England Manufacturing | Many historians claim that Massachusetts is the original home of the U.S. textile industry. Today, it boasts some of the most innovative and high tech manufacturing in the country. In this panel, we will discuss the recent developments in the region, including how the local industry adapted and evolved during the pandemic, and the bright future ahead.

Wicked Smart: Textile Research in the Boston Area | Whether you are team Harvard, MIT, or another illustrious institution, if you look around Boston, it is hard to miss the focus on innovation and technology that fuels the area’s brightest minds. With this panel, we want to give a platform to highlight current research initiatives seeking to advance the sewn products industry.

6:00 - 7:30 Welcome Reception | Conference attendees and registered spouses are invited to the famous Parker’s Bar (inside the Omni) for a casual networking reception, including an open bar, plentiful hors d'oeuvres, and an opportunity to catch up with old friends. If you are a first time attendee, let us know and we will be sure to introduce you to everyone!

Thursday, October 28th (8:30 a.m. - 5:15 p.m.)

SPESA Presents: Business for Business | Fulfilling a request to include business best practices for SPESA members or anyone looking to improve their day-to-day operations, we have invited Jeremy Wall from GoalMakers to lead attendees through an interactive session on a few of the fundamentals of business management. The session will include tangible takeaways for attendees on setting and implementing goals for your company and engaging your employees.

Workforce Development Case Study #1 | During the recent SPESA Advancements in Manufacturing Technologies Conference, we talked about employee engagement, building a sense of culture in your company, and developing a career path for your employees. One of the attendees took recommendations from that session and implemented them within his company. We are going to check in to see how it’s going and address the benefits and challenges of making these kinds of changes.

Workforce Development Case Study #2 | SPESA members are joining together to tackle the workforce training issue. Two extremely impressive women will explain one way they are trying to create lasting infrastructure for the sewn products industry.

Trade & Policy Update Live! | Each month, we share news and updates with our members related to trade and government policy that may impact the sewn products industry around the world. This month, we are bringing in the big guns. Trade experts will touch on recent political movements, tariff developments, and the key facts you need to understand for your business.

Government Engagement | Hear from the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency and others on the latest research and development related to textile innovation and military procurement. We will discuss how the U.S. government, and specifically the Department of Defense, is engaging industry to strengthen the supply chain and advance manufacturing technology.

Mergers & Acquisitions: The Shifting Sewn Products Landscape | This past year, the sewn products industry has been abuzz with rumors and announcements of several mergers and acquisitions within our community. We will discuss the realities of a few of these major developments and why an aging sewn products workforce could indicate more to come in the future.

Walmart American Lighthouses Initiative (Tentative) | Walmart's vision and role in the development of American Lighthouses is to foster a stakeholder involved environment for long term investments in American Manufacturing, to develop manufacturing ecosystems that will create high-quality and innovative products, and to regenerate regional economies and our environment and support American jobs.

SPESA Annual Business Meeting | SPESA members and attendees will have an opportunity to meet our new Chairman, learn about SPESA’s plans for the upcoming year, and raise any questions you may have about the association. During this session, we will also hold elections for the SPESA Board of Directors.

5:30 - 10:00 p.m. Closing Night Party | SPESA is taking conference attendees and registered spouses on adventure to experience a different side of Boston. We will start with an hour-long Mobsters & Lobsters Tour, a one-of-a-kind trolley tour that takes you inside Boston’s storied, shadowy, sinister underbelly. The tour includes sites of historic heists, mobster hideaways, and neighborhoods shrouded in intrigue and mystery.

The trolley will then drop us off for dinner and drinks at Ned Devine’s. What could be a better farewell to Boston, than an Irish Pub in Faneuil Hall? Not a sit-down dinner, this event is designed to encourage fun, connection, and conversation. Once you have had your fill, we encourage you to explore the rest of what this great city has to offer!

Friday, October 29th (8:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.)

Off-site Tour | While the conference is officially over on Thursday, we have scheduled a tour to two local facilities on Friday for those of you who are still in town.

We will first visit Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) in Cambridge. AFFOA’s HQ FDC is an end-to-end advanced fibers and fabrics prototyping facility with state of the art prototyping and manufacturing equipment. (Please note, this tour is tentative) We will then travel to Fall River, Massachusetts, to the Merrow facility, producing sewing machines as well as everything from lingerie to bulletproof vests to knit sweaters.

Please let the SPESA team know if you are interested in attending the tour.

As you can see, there is a lot to talk about and a lot to learn. We hope you’ll join us for the conversations. Registration for the event is open here. Hotel reservations can be made here.