MMA 62nd Convention Boasts Near-Record Attendance

June 19th, 2014

MMA 62nd Convention Boasts Near-Record Attendance

With 470 in attendance at the 62nd annual MMA convention, this year’s annual gathering of manufacturers, exhibitors and guests was exceeded only by attendance of the 60th anniversary convention in 2011.
The 2014 convention, held in Biloxi May 28-30, marked the fifth year since MMA brought the event back to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. MMA chairman of the board Johnny Atherton of Mississippi Power Company in Gulfport, remarked that having the MMA convention on the Gulf Coast has been a “boost to the local economy and good for the organization.”
The convention kicked off Wednesday night, May 28, with a reception and buffet dinner at the Beau Rivage Resort. MMA’s own band, Capitol Connection, along with Mississippi band Five Aces, capped off the evening with their renditions of crowd favorites.
Thursday morning’s business session, presided by Atherton, was standing room only as attendees waited to hear from experts from across the country on a variety of topics currently affecting manufacturers. Following are brief summaries of each speaker’s presentations.

Joe Trauger
, vice president of human resources policy at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) in Washington D.C., presented the latest implications of the Affordable Care Act on manufacturers and other employers. He further talked about the results of a recent poll of NAM members, which revealed the following as top policies that manufacturers want to see from policymakers in 2014:
• Finding a long-term federal budget deal that tackles the deficit/debt.
• Reducing the regulatory burden on manufacturers and other businesses.
• Controlling rising health care costs.
• Slowing the growth of entitlement spending.
• Passing comprehensive tax reform.
The poll also revealed the following as primary current business challenges in the first quarter of 2014:
• Unfavorable business climate (e.g., taxes, regulations, government uncertainties).
• Rising health care/insurance costs.
• Weaker domestic economy and sales for our products to U.S. customers.
• Attracting and retaining a quality workforce.
• Rising energy and raw material costs for our products.
• Weaker global growth and slower export sales.
• Challenges with access to capital or other forms of financing.
Trauger concluded that, based on the current track of healthcare costs and employer efforts to contain their costs,
• Healthcare costs and spending will go up (estimates vary, but probably on pace at 6 percent).
• Employers will continue to do the math (penalty, tax implications, growth expectations).
• Employers will do what makes sense for them (employee mix, competitors, labor market conditions, business size).
• Many employers will exit the field, though probably not 90 percent, as some predict.

James Williams
, vice president of economic and community service at Itawamba Community College (ICC) shared the efforts of the Mississippi Corridor Consortium, a partnership between five northeast community colleges to better train the next-generation workforce.
The Mississippi Corridor Consortium comprises Itawamba, East Mississippi, Coahoma, Northeast and Northwest Mississippi community colleges. The consortium works together with businesses and industries to develop employment services and training programs to the service and manufacturing industries. The consortium provides programs and skills training necessary for workers to achieve Manufacturing Skills Basic Certification and to find jobs in their chosen fields. Learn more about the Mississippi Corridor Consortium at www.mississippicorridorconsortium.com.
Williams also discussed the consortium’s work essentials program, EDGE (ethics, discipline, goals, employment). EDGE classes cover seven areas deemed necessary for job seekers to obtain and keep a job. These areas and some of the topics they cover are as follows:
• Self Awareness — personality profiling, communication skills, generational differences, etc.
• So You Had a Bad Day — conflict resolution, dealing with change, problem solving, etc.
• Communication Skills — phone etiquette and best practices, email etiquette, face-to-face.
• Goal Setting and Time Management.
• Role of Employer and Employee.
• Professional Image — dress and grooming, dress code policies, etc.
• Banking and Financial.

Mark Henry
, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES), walked attendees through the recently launched Mississippi Works online job search program, which connects job seekers and employers throughout the state. Developed by nSparc (National Strategic Planning & Analysis Research Center) at Mississippi State University in Starkville, the website is a tool for employers and job seekers to connect online.
The U.S. Department of Labor says that Mississippi has one of the most advanced online job systems in the country. Henry made that point as he demonstrated the capabilities of the new website. Using a live Internet demonstration, Henry showed how employers can post job openings or explore the labor market via an interactive search. Employers can even invite potential candidates to apply for an opening.
Henry also demonstrated how job seekers are able to create a profile and search for job openings, and see a real time comparison between their skills and a job’s requirements. Henry touted MDES as having the “first mobile job search app in the country.” The application is available for Android and iOS electronic devices.
Unfair competition, or intellectual property theft, was the topic of a panel composed of Brian Raymond, director of technology policy at NAM; Rob McKenna, president of the National Alliance for Jobs and Innovation, former Washington state attorney general and a partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP in Seattle; and Jack Adams, head of government affairs for Calgon Carbon Corp. near Pittsburgh, Pa.

Theft of intellectual property (IP), or “the secret sauce for your business,” said Raymond, has cost Mississippi businesses $2.6 billion and 42,000 jobs in the last 10 years. “Reducing intellectual property thefts means more money and jobs,” he said.

McKenna’s NAJI was founded to help protect companies from IP theft and maintain a fair and balanced market for all companies doing business in America. The organization helps to reduce IP theft by:

• Working with state attorneys general to take action against foreign companies.
• Providing investigative services to identify competitors.
• Producing research to expose IP theft and economic harms.
• Working with public and private sector entities to expose theft and change IP policy in America.
McKenna encouraged the convention audience to join NAJI, which costs nothing, “but membership
sends a strong statement that manufacturers are serious about this issue.”
To join NAJI, visit www.naij.org.
Adams shared with the audience a case study of Calgon Carbon’s unfair trade experiences concerning dumping of granular activated carbon beginning in the 1990s. Calgon produces granular activated carbon, used primarily for drinking water and military applications, at its Port Bienville facility on the Pearl River.
Adams said a tariff was imposed in April 2007 on coal-based granular activated carbon imports from China and received a five-year renewal in 2013. The tariff has enabled U.S. (and other) markets to stabilize and Chinese imports of coal-based granular activated carbon have decreased to the U.S., he said, “but the lack of aggressive enforcement has encouraged some manufacturers to circumvent the tariff, causing waves of market instability.”
Adams said what is needed is “strong, aggressive and consistent enforcement of U.S. trade laws. … The U.S., Mississippi and manufacturers can successfully compete when that competition is conducted fairly.”
“Organizations such as the NAJI are effectively supporting U.S. manufacturing interests,” he said. “I encourage all members of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association to become involved with NAJI and this important issue.”
Thursday afternoon activities included fishing, golf, an eco-tour of the Pascagoula River and a luncheon for convention spouses. An evening reception at the Beau Rivage, with music by local musician David & Sax was held before attendees set out for dinner at their favorite Coast restaurants. To see all convention photos, visit MMA’s Facebook page.
The last day of convention started with beignets and coffee for early risers, followed by brunch and the final speakers of the week. Takashi Nakamizo, chief executive director of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) in Houston, discussed business opportunities in Japan for Mississippi manufacturers. Nakamizo mentioned the many Japanese companies currently doing business in Mississippi, our state’s export history with Japan and Japan’s economic growth strategy. There are
many reasons to invest in Japan now, he said, including the size of the Japanese market, an ideal research and development environment, government incentives and more.
For more information about doing business in Japan, Nakamizo encourages manufacturers to visit www.investjapan.org and contact Keith Sanders, assistant director of business development at JETRO, at 713-654-5258 or Keith_Sanders@jetro.go.jp.
Keynote speaker Rep. Philip Gunn (R-Clinton), who is serving his second term as speaker of the House, wrapped up this year’s convention expounding on the progress the Mississippi Legislature has made toward creating a business-friendly environment in the state. Giving accolades to MMA’s efforts to support and promote pro-business legislation, as well as to the pro-business legislators in attendance, Gunn said there is still much to be done to keep Mississippi’s economy growing.