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2012 SMC Day 2: Looking At The Business Landscape

Juan Williams engages a packed GAWDA audience.

Juan Williams engages a packed GAWDA audience.

Day two of the 2012 Spring Management Conference was full of amazing take home value, between the opening business session speakers and the contact booth program, along with the networking breakfast, lunch and wines of the world reception. Needless to say, it was a very full day, and it may be several weeks before I can fully digest all that I took in today.

The opening business session speakers painted a picture of the business landscape in the year ahead. What are the economic and political challenges/opportunities that will arise throughout the remainder of 2012?

Political analyst Juan Williams offered his predictions for the November elections (Republicans take the House and the Senate, while Obama squeaks by in the presidential election, according to Williams.) He feels that the current political divide has kept important legislation from moving forward, and I would be curious to know how he feels his predicted outcome will impact the regulatory landscape. (Although I didn’t have an opportunity to reach out to Williams at the SMC, I’ve posed the question for him on Twitter.)

Economist Andy Bauer walked through a number of very interesting economic snapshots, comparing current recovery numbers to past recessions. I was struck by his explanation of the “skills gap,” the basic idea that when manufacturing workers lost their jobs in the recession, businesses moved forward, the jobs evolved (newer technology, automation, robotics, etc.), but the workers’ skill sets did not progress at the same rate. If nothing else, this explains why, amidst high unemployment, many manufacturers are having a hard time finding qualified workers. Perhaps it’s the expectations, not the workers, who have changed. It seems like there could be real opportunities for distributors to help bring those workers up to where they need to be, and prepare them to work with welding robotics and other technologies.

Distributors and suppliers connect at the contact booth program.

Distributors and suppliers connect at the contact booth program.

The contact booth program was lively, and I’m beginning to see more oil & gas related products making their way into the show. This brings me back to an interesting discussion from this morning’s breakfast, where the idea was raised that LNG and CNG are much like VHS & Betamax (for the younger generation, I submit Blu Ray vs. HD DVD as a substitute)…there are concerns as to whether they can coexist, or whether one will really become the dominant player.

Throughout the day, I met a great number of industry veterans, as well as the industry’s newer faces. It’s great to see the next generations getting involved early, and I was impressed from what I heard from the industry’s future leaders.

Looking forward to another promising day tomorrow. Be sure to take a look at the recent Preview of the Technology Discussion from MI Committee Chair Chris Dominiak. The panel is set to cover some of the industry’s most pressing technology topics. It promises to be a solid conclusion to an overall amazing event.

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