Jeff Reed, outgoing chair of the board of directors at the AEM (Association of Equipment Manufacturers), looks back at 2020, forward to the challenges of 2021 and offers some advice for incoming AEM board chair, Steve Berglund
Looking back over the course of your year as Chair, what do you feel AEM’s greatest accomplishment was in serving our members?
Reed: It’s definitely the successful efforts of AEM’s Washington, DC office to have manufacturing designated as an essential service. This was critical to the survivability of a lot of our members, and an example of how the Association came through in what was a truly make-or-break situation. Because of the contacts the Washington, DC office put together over the years, we were able to have the right conversations with the right people.
And then you have to look at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020. If that show would have happened one week later, it would have been impossible to pull off. A lot of our international customers were not able to attend, but we made it through the show and provided exceptional value to both exhibitors and attendees.
Ultimately, 2020 did not turn out to be the year I expected it to be. There were so many things we thought we’d be able to do, but the COVID-19 pandemic just didn’t allow for it. But we still accomplished so much, and a couple of notable examples come to mind:
- AEM secured additional funding to the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and information to our membership, as that became a critical lifeline for so many of our smaller members.
- AEM provided up-to-date and timely information on COVID-19, where our Association went into tactical mode to meet the needs of our industry. So much of the information AEM gave out in the earliest days of the pandemic kept our members “ahead of the curve” and informed them on what they needed to know – and a lot of it couldn’t be found anywhere else.
- Finally, we delivered an exceptional virtual Annual Conference. We all missed getting together in person but both the presentations and content were first class and did our Association proud.
What factors, in your opinion, helped contribute to AEM’s ability to achieve these accomplishments and address these challenges?
Reed: It wasn’t easy, but the Association quickly pivoted in response to what was happening around us this year. AEM has such incredibly talented people working on behalf of our members, along with volunteers who commit their time into the Association. When you put all of it together, it’s amazing to see what we accomplished.
I would also say AEM has incredible organisational depth. If somebody retires or leaves the Association, there’s always someone else who can step up and fill the role. AEM’s leadership really thinks things through with regards to what it will take to keep the Association successful and provide the best information and best services available anywhere.
As we look ahead to 2021, what are some of the most critical issues AEM, its members and the industry must face this coming year?
Reed: 2020 has come and gone so quickly. We’ve been sequestered so long, and being in California, everything is shutting down again. The issue of COVID-19 isn’t behind us, and that will continue to be the case in 2021 and beyond.
We’ve learned to be efficient while being apart from one another, largely thanks to technology. Certain applications have been exceptionally efficient.
For example, this year’s virtual AEM Fly-in is an example of how to conduct an in-person event virtually. While it can’t – and shouldn’t – replace how we’ve done it in the past — as personal interactions are just so important – it was great to see us find a way to get faces in front of a lot of important people in an efficient and effective way.
That brings me to trade shows. We’ve made so many modifications to how trade shows will be presented, and there’s no question in my mind that virtual trade shows and partially virtual trade shows are an area where we have to be on the cutting edge and the instigator of change.
Lastly, with a new administration, there are challenges and opportunities associated with that change for our industry, and we need to make our political voice heard more strongly than ever before with a clarity of purpose
In your opinion, what factors will play into how well AEM can address some of these challenges and take advantage of available opportunities?
Reed: We pivoted within AEM and realigned our goals to reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and our focus to assist members and the equipment manufacturing industry, and I think we delivered exceptional value. Going forward, that will continue to be important. We’re in a different world, and we need to be careful about how we utilize our assets and our resources as we work toward a bright future for our industry. We must continue to be nimble.
What piece of advice would you give to the incoming chair – Steve Berglund of Trimble – as he ascends to the role for 2021?
Reed: Everything for 2021 hinges on COVID-19, and that’s a challenge for Steve as AEM continues to try and push forward with new initiatives. I would tell him zero in and focus on one or two issues that he wants to make his mark on, and leave everything else alone. The ship steers itself pretty well.
The year will pass so quickly for Steve, and it really comes down to driving value for our members and protecting them from challenges and uncertainty associated with some of the things we’ve seen from the pandemic and in the political landscape.