Get Involved: Local Manufacturing Leaders Chair National Organizations
When Doug Johnson arrived at Marion Manufacturing as vice president in 2010, his mentor and friend Bernie Rosselli gave him some advice—get involved.
“He told me if I really wanted to do something with the company, I had to get involved with the Precision Metalforming Association locally,” Johnson, now president of Marion Manufacturing, said.
That Johnson could realize.
But when Rosselli also suggested he work to become the chair, Johnson [pictured above, left] had a good laugh.
It was a conversation Johnson didn’t think twice about at the time, but one he is reminded of now as the 2022 chair of PMA.
PMA is one of two major trade organizations in North America with a Connecticut business owner at the helm in 2022.
‘It Is Rare’
Sirois Tool CEO Alan Ortner [pictured above, right] completed his two-year stint as chair of the National Tooling and Machining Association in December.
“It is rare,” said Johnson. “It will probably never happen again that both of these large trade associations would have a chair from the same state, let alone Connecticut.”
The two first met when they served together on the board of the New England Spring and Metal Stamping Association a decade ago.
As that partnership evolved, so did their contributions to Connecticut manufacturing.
“We’ve got our local PMA district and the local NTMA chapter talking to each other at a much higher level than we have in the past,” Johnson said.
“Presidents of both associations are talking more about what they can do together.”
Power in Numbers
Both organizations have had strong partnerships at the local and national levels for decades.
During the pandemic, Johnson and Ortner were among the first to know about what was happening at the federal level through collaborative advocacy efforts with One Voice.
They also kept Connecticut at the forefront of conversations. That helped give business leaders in larger states an understanding of the magnitude of trade Connecticut manufacturers produce.
“There is power in numbers,” Johnson, a former member of CBIA’s board of directors, said.
“When you put the two associations together we are a much bigger force.”
Ortner said advocacy efforts on behalf of small manufacturers are one of the benefits of the organization, but networking carries the strongest impact.
“I think the biggest benefit both locally and nationally is working with other business owners, people with similar types of businesses and learning from them,” Ortner said.
Village of Support
Both Ortner and Johnson have had the opportunity to tour manufacturers around the country during their time with the organizations.
The groups often bring between 30 and 60 business leaders together at the local level and hundreds of business leaders together at the national level to discuss trends and issues.
“Every time I go to one of those, I bring home a couple of notes of things I either need to look into or need to start doing,” Ortner said.
Those wins came in the form of small, focused networking groups for Johnson.
“We almost act as each other’s board of directors,” Johnson said.
“If I am going to buy a new piece of equipment, I am going out to my networking groups, ‘Hey here is what I am thinking of doing. Tell me what you think.’”
Ortner did just that when he was investing in enterprise resource planning software last year.
“In talking to people around the country, you have a lot more variety of views of what works and what doesn’t,” Ortner said.
“It gave us a great starting point for doing our own research.”
Ortner and Johnson said the organizations also helped them realize the potential of their respective companies.
Issues that keep them awake at night are put into perspective when speaking with other leaders around the country and world.
Despite companies struggling to find people to fill jobs, Connecticut has one of the highest skilled workforces in the country.
“In some states there is no skilled worker base to draw from,” Ortner said. “They have to take people from other skills and teach them.
“We have to train too, but we do have a skilled workforce.”
Johnson said he’s had instances where he questioned his decisions and the state of his company. Speaking with other leaders made him realize he was doing all he could.
A recent trip abroad was a sobering experience for him as he listened to international struggles.
“I left there and felt pretty good about where we are as a country and where we are as a trade association,” Johnson said.
Overall, Johnson and Ortner feel the two associations are in a good place coming out of the pandemic and heading into 2023.
“The groundwork is set to continue down this path, continue to help Connecticut and the rest of the country,” Johnson said.
They encourage other leaders to get involved at least at the local level.
While involvement can be time consuming, leaders said it well worth it, especially as chair.
“You only get out of a membership in an association, what you are willing to put into it,” Ortner said.
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