Connections – Industry showcase

Posted on Aug 1, 2015 :: Connections
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

AIMG_9328_320Manufacturing leaders planning the fifth annual Manufacturing First Expo & Conference are doubly excited this year — particularly because it’s now a two-day event.

Presented by First Business Bank in partnership with the NEW Manufacturing Alliance and Insight Publications, the event is planned for Wednesday, Oct. 21 and Thursday, Oct. 22 at the KI Convention Center in Green Bay.

“The event has just grown and grown,” says Ann Franz, director of the NEW Manufacturing Alliance. “We were hearing from attendees that there’s so much great content that there’s just not enough time to do everything.”

To address that concern, the event’s planning committee determined that expanding to two days would give exhibitors more opportunities to connect with attendees while still giving people the chance to hear conference speakers.

“We’re partnering with different organizations to bring in manufacturing leaders from throughout the state, so this year there’s going to be even more of a statewide presence,” Franz says.

The expanded event offers more opportunities to dive a bit deeper into best practices and industry information, with the aim to draw more attendees from a broader base of industries, says Mickey Noone, president of First Business Bank–Northeast.

“We’re trying to incorporate more of what people want to see and hear relative to the manufacturing industry and then create better opportunities for some of that idea exchange,” Noone says.

One of those organizations is the nonprofit Women in Manufacturing, a national organization with a large Wisconsin presence, which will participate in a program on women in manufacturing fields.

“It’s a really hot topic as manufacturers are looking for a broader, more diverse workforce,” Noone says. “There are more women in manufacturing now than ever and we have some really good presenters.”

The session features several top female executives in the New North, including Jan Allman, president, CEO and general manager of Marinette Marine; Rita Cox, president and CEO of Coating Excellence International; and Kim Bassett, president and CEO of Bassett Mechanical.

Also on the first day, the event will offer breakout sessions on exporting, high-level lean training and the food and beverage industry. School administrators will be invited to a session to discuss how manufacturers and educators can better collaborate, followed by a cocktail reception and the Excellence in Manufacturing/K12 Partnerships Awards, sponsored by the NEW Manufacturing Alliance. Franz says the alliance received a record number of nominations, from 47 last year to 79 this year.

“It’s a good blend of training and content one day, followed by networking and best practices on Day 2,” Noone says. “Sandwiched in between there is the NEWMA partnership awards dinner, which is a great bridge between the events between the days. I think what you’ll see is a lot of energy over the two-day period.”

Ryan Estis

Ryan Estis

On Oct. 22, the main conference event will kick off with more than 150 exhibitors and keynote speaker Ryan Estis, a leadership expert recognized by Meetings & Conventions magazines as a top keynote speaker. Last year’s keynote, millennial expert Seth Mattison, was the most highly-rated speaker the event ever had, Franz says.

“I contacted him to say, ‘Who’s better than you, Seth?’ and he said, ‘Well, there’s one person who comes to mind.’ And that’s Ryan Estis,” Franz says.

While Estis is speaking, WMEP is bringing in 500 high school students from around the New North to visit with manufacturers on the expo floor and talk about careers. Estis, who speaks at colleges, will speak with students about passion and purpose after the keynote.

Another new component this year will be lunch-and-learn sessions as well as new product announcements — company leaders will be on a raised stage on the expo floor, introducing new products and innovations.

“It’s a great way of spotlighting all the great stuff that’s made right here,” Franz says.

Event leaders also have extended the time that exhibitors have to meet with companies as well as expanding to bring in more companies statewide.

“We’re expecting great things,” Noone says. “We’re getting a lot of really good feedback. It’s going to continue to grow.”

On the web
Register for the Manufacturing First Expo & Conference at
The cost is $75 before Sept. 2, $95 through Oct. 20 and $110 the day of the events. The cost includes attendance both days.