President's Column - December 2023

President's Column,

I’m just back from our Annual Meeting in Milwaukee, WI, USA.

I thought this was a great meeting in so many ways! But also concerning…

My concern? Attendance. There were not as many participants in the meeting as I would have preferred to see for our Annual Meeting. This was not too surprising that we were going to be looking at a smaller crowd but even anticipating that, it was smaller still than we’d hoped for. But this concern was precisely our focus for this meeting… having the association look at itself in the mirror, recognizing who we are, identifying where we are vs. want to be, defining how we get there, delegating tasks to the resources available… and getting to work! Our task was to conduct a real time strategic planning session.

Having the meeting in Milwaukee, WI, USA allowed us to have the entire IADD staff present for this meeting. Due to this, we started our full board meeting with a quick intro from each individual and how they came into their position with the association. It was really fun to hear each member recall their journey as we went around the room. Once we got through intros, we broke the association down into different segments for review and discussion. It was an aggressive schedule with many different topics to tackle. We allotted 20-50 minutes each, depending on the topic, and worked through lunch to try and stay on track. I felt like we had really good discussions. The only thing I would do differently is to try and break the agenda up into two days to allow for more in depth discussion on some topics as well as just breaking the day in half. Let everyone refresh, digest and come back at it with further thoughts developed. That is not meant as a complaint! All in all, I felt the meeting was very focused and productive.

We had a reception dinner on Tuesday evening where I got to honor David Bialoglow from National Steel Rule Co. with the Pillar Award. Working at the same company as both Dave and his sister, BethAnn, I must admit that we had some fun preparing his speech! It was also a special treat to have his daughter Lauren there to help us celebrate with him.

Wednesday morning we split into groups. One half went to tour Millennium Die Group while the other half stayed back for interactive group activities. Later on, the two groups changed places.  

On the tour side Cole Ippolite, Sandy Arnold and the rest of the staff at Millennium, took the time to walk both groups through their shop, showing and explaining to us their operation. For some members in attendance, it was their first time in a die shop (including many of the IADD staff). Regardless of whether it was the first time or the 100th, Millennium did an awesome job hosting this event! 

While the tour was going on, the other group stayed back for the house-of-cards challenges. Everyone broke off into groups of two or three. Then each group was given a deck of cards. There were three challenges where the groups had to build a house-of cards under various restrictions, conditions, goals and time limits. These group challenges are always fun and are creative ways to build upon teamwork and communication skills. After lunch we continued with the remaining programming sessions that were informative and educational as always. 

Wednesday evening, we had our Awards Dinner where I had the pleasure to continue honoring deserving individuals for their contributions. The first honor of the evening belonged to Ben Hazard of Dynamic Dies, Inc. Ben was awarded the Presidential Award. Ben was not present to accept his award, as he has recently been diagnosed with and has begun his battle against Stage Four Pancreatic Cancer. Ben is a friend, and it breaks my heart to see him sick. The crowd did have the chance to watch Ben say thank you in a video he sent us for the occasion. Despite him not being able to be there, it was still great to see and hear from him. We all missed him dearly and wish nothing but the best for him! [Ed. Note: It is with deep sadness that we share that since this column was written, Ben Hazard passed away. He will be greatly missed within the industry and at the IADD.]

The final honor of the evening belonged to Frank Oetlinger of Blanking Systems Inc. Frank went home with the Lifetime Achievement Award. John Dickison from Bobst North America Inc. helped me honor Frank. Frank’s contributions and accomplishments through the years have influenced many, and his partnership and work with Bobst helped take his work to a global scale. Frank’s wife and daughter, along with a few colleagues, joined us to honor and celebrate Frank. 

The programming continued on Thursday morning, hitting on topics of interest and drawing interaction from the audience. We concluded the Annual Meeting with our Business Meeting, and just like that the entire event was over.

This was the first Annual Meeting that I ran as President. I stated at the beginning of this article that what concerned me about this year was the attendance. I do believe next year’s Annual will look and feel different in ways. We will try to make the changes needed to accommodate our members and volunteers. Perhaps that will be more of an “a la carte” approach so members can join in and participate more easily in the areas of their interests. My hope is to have a more technical and/or hands-on educational portion, much like we did with Millennium Die Group, as well as a more social portion. This can go in multiple directions. What we aim to accomplish is to provide a safe, open, beneficial and welcoming environment for all attendees. As more and more events go to a virtual world, I do hope that we will find and strike the proper balance to offer what is needed. I hope you find what draws YOU to come out and join us. And if not, I hope you tell us what we could do that would draw you.

I believe in my heart that the association is needed more now than ever, and now is a great time to get involved. I hope to see you soon, Loves!

Jennifer Thoroe is Director of Customer Service & Business Development for National Steel Rule, a steel rule manufacturer based in Linden, NJ, USA. She joined forces with National on November 1, 2018 after working in the industry and volunteering with the IADD for over 15 years. She moved up to NJ from GA in the summer of 2019. One pandemic and three moves later, Jennifer is finally settling into her home near the Jersey Shores with her awesome super-fantastic brother Tom and his even cooler dog, Kelowna.

She has consistently used her time and talents to bring greater value to IADD members, whether through chapter activities, managing volunteers, Board service or overseeing myriad membership recruitment and retention activities. For this, Jennifer received the 2017 IADD Cutting Edge Award, one of the Association’s highest honors. She is the first woman to serve as IADD president.

The President's Column appears in The Cutting Edge, the IADD's monthly magazine.