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MMA annual convention focus: risky biz

Because global competition, soaring energy and healthcare costs, workforce training challenges and even natural disasters have a profound impact on manufacturers, the Mississippi Manufacturers Association’s (MMA) plans to focus on “Risk Management in an Uncertain Marketplace” during its 54th-annual convention, to be held October 25-28 in Destin, Fla.

“The theme came about from a combination of things concerning all the risks in the marketplace today,” said MMA president Jay Moon. “Certainly looking at what happened with Katrina is one of them, but also 9/11 and the threat of terrorism and the various other things that pose a risk to business. Even though (gas) prices are beginning to come down, look at the huge escalation in energy prices we’ve had this year. That kind of thing makes it very difficult to predict what you can do in business and how you’re going to handle changes.”

Keynote speaker and branding expert Karen Post, known as “The Branding Diva,” will discuss igniting action in the marketplace.

“My message to Mississippi manufacturers is to compete in today’s marketplace, you’ve got to stand out and be truly distinct,” said Post. “Whether you’re selling a service, product, association, company or yourself, brilliant branding is a huge advantage. My presentation will provide insight on how to brand big, get noticed and stand for something.”

Moon saw Post in action at a convention in Louisiana a couple of years ago and recalled her comment, “If you don’t have a good brand, it’s like having a winning lottery ticket that you can’t find,” he said. “She has a dynamic presentation with a lot of different visual presentations and audience participation.”

Post said she’s looking forward to meeting Mississippi business leaders, some of whom she knows “have suffered huge business interruptions from horrific hurricanes and the byproducts of those events.”

“Focusing on what your brand is and how to leverage it can bring new energy to an organization,” she said. “Companies with weak brands are likely to fall into a commodity sector and then price is the main driver. No one wants to be there.”
Another keynote speaker, Dr. Cynthia Watson, a professor at the National War College, will discuss overseas markets.

“The relationship with China has and will have greater importance for the United States in the world, but is one fraught with multiple, often seemingly opposing, opportunities and challenges,” said Watson. “The key aspect is to determine which of the national priorities we seek to achieve as our primary goal.”

Moon, who met Watson on a recent trip to China, said she has a second-to-none world perspective from working with and training the nation’s military officers.

“She has a lot of expertise in Latin America, southern Asia and China, and a broad trade and military perspective on the world today,” he said.

Gov. Haley Barbour, who has identified job creation as one of his top priorities, may discuss major initiatives he has worked to sign into law, including the Tort Reform Act of 2004, the largest overhaul of workforce development efforts in state history, and “Momentum Mississippi.”

“We’re honored the governor is coming to spend time with us,” said Moon. “His leadership following the storm has been recognized around the world. We have a great working relationship with him. He’s been very supportive of our initiatives to try to help the business community in the state. He’ll be talking about whatever he wants to, but I think he’ll talk about the post-Katrina economic situation and the upcoming legislative session.”

The convention will highlight a broad section of exhibitors, from industrial products to environmental services. MMA also plans to honor vocational educators.

MMA also has something special for spouses. Gardening expert Norman Winter, Mississippi State University extension horticulturist, will conduct a workshop focusing on hot new plants and fresh landscaping ideas.

“You couldn’t ask for a more appropriate place than Destin to talk about new flowers such as the Matrix Coastal Sunrise pansy or the Ocean Breeze,” said Winter.

MMA has scheduled educational events and keynote speakers in the mornings to allow more free time for members to socialize and play. Golf, fishing and tennis tournaments are on the agenda, as well as a poolside dinner and dance.

“These activities give everyone the chance to know each other better and talk about issues in an environment that will help create lasting relationships and better knowledge about companies and products and our industries in general,” said Moon.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.


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