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SPESA Executive Conference Agenda


We'll be excited to see many of our Behind the Seams readers in Boston next week for the 2021 SPESA Executive Conference. As we've shared, the theme for this year's conference is Riding the Momentum which plays into the industry’s seemingly rapid evolution over these past eighteen plus months. We want to talk about how the industry is changing, but more importantly we want to equip our attendees with the tools and resources they need to keep pace with the changes taking shape.

Outlined below is the agenda for the conference, including panel summaries, speakers, times, and more.

Wednesday, October 27th

2:00 p.m. | Welcome Michael McDonald President, SPESA

2:05 p.m. | SPESA Chairwoman’s Address Nina McCormack SPESA Chairwoman Vice President & CFO, DAP America Inc.

2:15 p.m. | Welcome to Massachusetts Vasundhra Sangar Vice President, Government Affairs, Associated Industries of Massachusetts

2:30 p.m. | Opening Keynote: Agents of Innovation Bill O’Connor Founding Partner, Agents of Innovation

Our energetic opening speaker, Bill O’Connor, will kick off the conference by addressing the concept of “Innovate or Die,” and how the technology startups and giants of San Francisco/Silicon Valley actually make that kind of innovation happen in the real world. He will touch on innovation both from a technological and a cultural perspective, and explore the dynamic of automation/augmentation in the context of the future of work. Drawing on his team's research interviewing 10 Nobel Laureates for the Nobel Innovation project, Bill will also present best practices for collaborative innovation and the benefits of working together as an industry.

3:15 p.m. | Made in Massachusetts Manufacturing Many historians claim that Massachusetts is the original home of the U.S. textile industry. Today, it boasts some of the most innovative and high tech manufacturing in the country. In this panel, we will discuss the recent developments in the region, including how the local industry adapted and evolved during the pandemic, and the bright future ahead.

  • Brenna N. Schneider Founder & CEO, 99Degrees

  • Charlie Merrow CEO, The Merrow Group Companies

  • Kevin McCoy Vice President Made - Manufacturing, Engineering, R&D, Product and Innovation, New Balance

  • Moderator: Matthew Wallace CEO, DXM Inc.

4:30 p.m. | Break

4:45 p.m. | Wicked Smart: Textile Research and Innovation Whether you are team Harvard, MIT, or another illustrious institution, if you look around Boston, it is hard to miss the focus on innovation and technology that fuels the area’s brightest minds. With this panel, we want to give a platform to highlight current research initiatives seeking to advance the sewn products industry.

  • Cheryl Gomes Technical Program Manager, University of Massachusetts Lowell Department of Industry Partnerships and Economic Development

  • Katya Roelse Instructor, Fashion and Apparel Program,University of Delaware

  • Arnie Kravitz Chief Technology Officer, Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing

  • Moderator: Lloyd Wood President, Lloyd Wood Group

5:45 p.m. | Day 1 Closing Remarks

Michael McDonald

President, SPESA

6:00 - 7:30 p.m. | Welcome Reception

Conference attendees and registered spouses are invited to the famous Parker’s Bar (inside the Omni) for a casual networking reception, including an open bar, plentiful hors d'oeuvres, and an opportunity to catch up with old friends. If you are a first time attendee, let us know and we will be sure to introduce you to everyone!


Thursday, October 28th

8:30 a.m. | Breakfast Alcott Foyer

9:15 a.m. | Day 2 Opening Remarks Michael McDonald President, SPESA

9:20 a.m. | Texprocess Americas Michael McDonald President, SPESA

9:30 a.m. | SPESA Presents: Business for Business Jeremy Wall Co-founder & CEO, GoalMakers

Fulfilling a request to include business best practices for SPESA members or anyone looking to improve their day-to-day operations, we have invited Jeremy Wall from GoalMakers to lead attendees through an interactive session on a few of the fundamentals of business management. The session will include tangible takeaways for attendees on setting and implementing goals for your company and engaging your employees.

11:00 a.m. | Workforce Case Study #1 During the recent SPESA Advancements in Manufacturing Technologies Conference, we talked about employee engagement, building a sense of culture in your company, and developing a career path for your employees. One of the attendees took recommendations from that session and implemented them within his company. We are going to check in to see how it’s going and address the benefits and challenges of making these kinds of changes.

  • Sarah Krasley Founder & CEO, Shimmy Technologies

  • Bert Feinberg Vice President, Frontier Distributors/Phillocraft

11:30 a.m. | Workforce Case Study #2 SPESA members are joining together to tackle the workforce training issue. Two extremely impressive women will explain one way they are trying to create lasting infrastructure for the sewn products industry.

  • Daniella Ambrogi Global Marketing Director, CGS

  • Sarah Krasley Founder & CEO, Shimmy Technologies

12:00 p.m. | Lunch

12:45 p.m. | Walmart American Lighthouses Initiative (Tentative) Ashish Bharara Lead, Supply Chain Resilience, Walmart

Walmart's vision and role in the development of American Lighthouses is to foster a stakeholder involved environment for long term investments in American Manufacturing, to develop manufacturing ecosystems that will create high-quality and innovative products, and to regenerate regional economies and our environment and support American jobs.

1:15 p.m. | Government Engagement Hear from the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency and others on the latest research and development related to textile innovation and military procurement. We will discuss how the U.S. government, and specifically the Department of Defense, is engaging industry to strengthen the supply chain and advance manufacturing technology.

  • Kelly Floyd Industrial Capabilities Program, Warstopper Program, DLA Troop Support Clothing and Textiles

  • Steve Lamar President & CEO, American Apparel & Footwear Association

  • Moderator: Michael McDonald President, SPESA

2:15 p.m. | Break

2:45 p.m. | Why Am I Still Paying Tariffs? Each month, we share news and updates with our members related to trade and government policy that may impact the sewn products industry around the world. This month, we are bringing in the big guns. Trade experts will touch on recent political movements, tariff developments, and the key facts you need to understand for your business.

  • Nicole Bivens Collinson President, International Trade & Government Relations, Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, P.A.

  • David Trumbull Principal, Agathon Associates

3:45 p.m. | Mergers & Acquisitions: The Shifting Sewn Products Landscape This past year, the sewn products industry has been abuzz with rumors and announcements of several mergers and acquisitions within our community. We will discuss the realities of a few of these major developments and why an aging sewn products workforce could indicate more to come in the future.

  • Ketty Pillet Vice President Marketing, Americas, Lectra

  • Lonny Schwartz President, Superior Sewing Machine & Supply, LLC

4:30 p.m. | SPESA Business Meeting The annual Business Meeting provides members an opportunity to receive updates about the association from the SPESA staff and Board of Directors, and to elect Board members.

5:00 p.m. | Conference Wrap-up & Closing Remarks Ed Gribbin SPESA Chairman CEO, Gribbin Strategic

5:30 p.m. | Closing Night Party SPESA is taking conference attendees and registered spouses on adventure to experience a different side of Boston. We will start with an hour-long Mobsters & Lobsters Tour, a one-of-a-kind trolley tour that takes you inside Boston’s storied, shadowy, sinister underbelly. The tour includes sites of historic heists, mobster hideaways, and neighborhoods shrouded in intrigue and mystery. (5:30 - 7:00 p.m.)

The trolley will then drop us off for food and drinks at Ned Devine’s. What could be a better farewell to Boston, than an Irish Pub in Faneuil Hall? Not a sit-down dinner, this event is designed to encourage fun, connection, and conversation. Once you have had your fill, we encourage you to explore the rest of what this great city has to offer! (7:00 - 10:00 p.m.)


Friday, October 29th

8:30 a.m. | Off-Site Tour While the conference is officially over on Thursday, we have scheduled a tour to two local facilities on Friday for those of you who are still in town.

We will first visit Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) in Cambridge. AFFOA’s HQ FDC is an end-to-end advanced fibers and fabrics prototyping facility with state of the art prototyping and manufacturing equipment. (Please note, this tour is tentative) We will then travel to Fall River, Massachusetts, to the Merrow facility, producing sewing machines as well as everything from lingerie to bulletproof vests to knit sweaters.

  • 8:30 a.m. | Bus Pick Up at Omni Parker House

  • 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. | AFFOA Tour

  • 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. | Merrow Tour

  • 2:00 p.m. | Return to Omni Parker House

Registration for the event is open here. Hotel reservations can be made here.

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