Welcome New Chairman, Tim Tremain
Valley Industrial Association
Member Featured Blog:
How Manufacturers Can Benefit from Blogging by Rod Kelly of K+L Storytellers
VIA Breathes New Life into Group Programming
Follow Us on Social Media!
Happy New Year!
From Springfield to Capitol Hill, the Valley Fosters Opportunites for Productive Discourse
Our Members are Heard
Influential Women in Business Recognizes Member Nicole Wolter & Former Chairwoman Bonnie Proctor:
Interview with HM Manufacturing's President Nicole Wolter
I can’t believe we are well past the turn of the page for 2017 already! It was such a big year for the Association and we could not be more excited about what 2018 has in store for our Members. TODAY our new Website & Database is LIVE! As you log on with your User Name (your company email address) hit "forgot my password" to have a link sent to your email inbox. Proceed by clicking on that link and set up a new unique password and have fun! Please don't hesitate to call with questions on the new capabilities. Our staff will be available to answer any questions or help navigate the new registration process.
So... what will you find on the new website? A full calendar of events! The last few years we have been trying to find our way as to what best fits our membership's needs. While we faithfully survey our membership to get feedback, we don’t always get a large enough sampling to know the right direction.
At the end of 2017 we hosted several Round-table discussions and met with focus groups to truly get the pulse of our members and we think we have a GOOD, SOLID plan for 2018 … you’ll have to tell us with your REGISTRATION if you agree. The findings were that we needed to bring The GROUPS BACK! We have a page devoted to each of the below groups. We will always be flexible enough though to add timely and relevant training as the opportunities arise. So here we go... CLICK on EACH heading to see the 2018 VIA Plan:
Women of the VIA
CFO/Financial Leaders co-hort
Best Wishes on a successful 2018,
A Letter from the Chairman
A Letter from the President
Happy New Year VIA Members!
The end of one year and the beginning of a new one brings many responsibilities and tasks for most member companies. This is often the time when we are rushing to bolster shipments for the year end, perhaps trying to get capital equipment and other expenses in to reduce our tax liability, and many of us are doing personnel reviews, forecasting, budgeting, and defining goals for the coming year. In the end, this often ends up being the busiest time of year for many, and in an economy that is (in many industries) very busy in general, it can be difficult to schedule important things like training and improving our skillsets. For those of you that don’t know me, I have been a board member for two terms now (member for over 20 years) and I’ve seen this pattern before. When the economy heats up, we get busy, and training gets pushed down the priority list. While I wouldn’t presume to tell any member that they should prioritize the next VIA project management class over getting product out the door, we all realize that education is high value and in many cases can make us more productive and better capable of handling more work, now and into the future. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. So while you are relishing bringing that new machine online that you just purchased to expand capacity this year, remember that its often not as easy to expand people capacity. Every business I talk to says that finding people is a difficult thing right now. While you’re sifting through resumes looking for the perfect fit for the future, how about training an existing employee for greater capacity and capability? Training is the key to doing more with existing personnel, as well as increasing the capabilities of newer hires. This is where the VIA can help! We have been surveying individual members for training topics across all industries and disciplines and are revamping our training offerings for 2018. We are also looking at alternative class schedules to accommodate those that are having difficulty finding time to take courses. If you have training needs, now is the time to let us know. Even if you need specialized training, we may be able to pair you up with another company with similar needs to reduce the overall cost of training. That’s one of the reasons that the VIA is here, so take advantage of your membership now. It’s a tremendous resource.
Wishing everyone a prosperous, safe,
and educational new year.
MTH Pumps &
2017 VIA Board Chairman
Dear Valued Members,
I want to thank each of you on behalf of the Board of Directors for your commitment to the VIA this past year. It was truly a transitional year for the organization. We experienced numerous occasions when your participation and words of encouragement inspired each other, the Board, myself, and the VIA staff.
I also wanted to acknowledge the additional effort sacrificially given by my fellow board members this year. So many times I was amazed by the knowledge and wisdom of our board… so many brilliant minds that were willing to contribute in the decision-making process leading to the best possible result. I personally learned a lot from my board colleagues and will always recall with fondness this opportunity to work side-by-side.
And finally a thank you to Kathy for her positive spirit, endless energy, and hard work as she strives to make the VIA an “integral resource” for each and every member of the association. The VIA is in good hands under Kathy’s leadership and the 2018 Board of Directors.
So thank you again for all your support in making manufacturing vibrant in our local community.
Sincere thanks and best regards,
Farewell from the Past-Chair
Get real insights on how our potential VIA Health Plan Captive can help your plan:
Demonstrate effective plan designs that can reduce employer and employee costs by 20%
Understand how to use True Claims Data to generate specific solutions to control costs
Empower your employees by providing them with healthcare pricing information before the services are rendered-- saving you money!
Illustrate prescription drug programs that reduce costs for employers and employees!
Join us as we review some solutions to real problems concerning employee benefit plans-- and how small companies can enjoy the same benefits as larger companies with the advantages of a Captive.
The evening in manufacturing you won't want to miss! Join us for our 2nd Annual Spark Awards to honor excellence and innovation in manufacturing in the Fox Valley!
...March 15th, 2018...
This past quarter, our VIA members ensured their voices were heard by their representatives, with collaborative and productive discussion to give government a personal insight into manufacturing.
Craig Russell, Owner of Monitor Technologies, hosted a tour of his facility for Illinois Representative Keith Wheeler, encouraging conversation about the issues facing the manufacturing community first-hand.
In addition to this tour, the VIA hosted a Women in Manufacturing Panel for women in leadership roles to discuss the issues they face in industrial fields with Congressman Randy Hultgren. Congressman Hultgren’s office felt the meeting was beneficial and informative stating, “Manufacturing makes an excellent career choice: It pays well, allows people to support a family and allows for professional growth. We had the opportunity to listen to some of the positive as well as identify some of the road blocks in manufacturing. And, unfortunately, there are still some stigmas associated with this industry. Congressman Hultgren is committed to working with others in manufacturing so they can be overcome. But that only addresses part of the problem and Congressman Hultgren recognizes we are going to have to engage parents, teachers and the students. We have much work to do together, but we are off to an excellent start.”
After our round-table, we were graciously accompanied by a few staff members of our local representatives at our annual Economic Luncheon, which we held at the end of November. We had representatives from both Congressman Randy Hultgren’s and Congressman Bill Foster’s offices, and also Representative Keith Wheeler, who stopped by to hear about the 2018 economic outlook for the manufacturing community.
Our efforts culminated in our January Executive Forum at the Penrose Brewing Company in Geneva. Manufacturing executives were given a presentation from BKD CPAs & Advisors and heard from guest speakers, Congressman Randy Hultgren and Congressman Peter Roskam. At the VIA, we are proud to host opportunities such as these to encourage productive discussions on the latest issues facing manufacturers. This month we discussed tax reform and its effect on small businesses and manufacturers.
We are thrilled to see our members taking an active role in their local governments to advocate for small and large manufacturers alike, and we continue to foster opportunities for communication between manufacturers and Springfield and Washington.
Our Members are Heard
Rod Kelly, Co-Founder of K+L Storytellers
In many ways, US Manufacturers have long been at the forefront of innovation. Blogging is a great opportunity for them to share their creative spirit and accomplishments. Why? Because blogging increases customer engagement. According to an article published by Hubspot, B2B marketers that use blogs receive 67 percent more leads than those that do not.
A look back speaks volumes about how manufacturers have triumphed in two major areas and why blogging is a great complement to both.
Over many decades, manufacturers have been leaders in automation, which can be traced to 1913 when Henry Ford introduced the assembly line and mass production. The time it took to produce one automobile dropped from 12 hours to 90 minutes. Automation in manufacturing has come in many forms, from hydraulics to pneumatics to robotics and computers. With each new development, costs have been reduced and production has increased, resulting in quicker time to market, filling a customer need and greater company profits. These are excellent talking points in blogs.
Another area where manufacturers have excelled is in customer relationships. Whether it’s forming exclusivity agreements to produce original equipment or by just being that trusted friend. For generations, families of light trucks either purchased Chevrolet or Ford, but rarely crossed over. That customer affinity is a hallmark of manufacturing. Here again, blogs strengthen relationships.
Manufacturers, which rely so heavily on automation and loyalty, can use blogs as a quick and easy way to deliver a consistent message to customers and prospects. Another way to look at it: blogging and storytelling are really just new forms of automation -- using technology and artisanship (of content) to break new boundaries. This is no different than what manufacturers have done over the last century.
Like any new product, the first step is to figure out a blog strategy. What do you want your blog to accomplish? What will benefit your reader? What frequency will accomplish your goals? How will your blog support your mission? Once you have identified your approach, look at all your options. Blogs come in many formats:
●Writing (anywhere from a few paragraphs to longer narratives)
●Video and photo
●How to’s and guides
●Templates and checklists
●Reference material and lists
In essence, blog posts are stories about your company, your people, your values, your products and your services. They provide regular touch points with target audiences that reinforce what your sales and business development teams are touting. They can help customers resolve issues they are dealing with now or on the horizon.
How does your manufacturing company use blogs?
We want to share member company "good news" and ask that you keep us informed so we can do so.
When you've got news or kudos to share, please drop us a note or call our office hotline at 630.892.4228.
We are pleased to present these new member companies who have joined since November, 2017:
How Manufacturers Can Benefit from Blogging
Welcome, New Members:
This past quarter, one of our own VIA Members, Nicole Wolter, President of HM Manufacturing won an Influential Women in Business Award for her accomplishments in manufacturing. Originally pursuing a career in chemical engineering and finance, Wolter found herself the unexpected heroine in crisis when she saved her father’s business from nearly bankruptcy, and transformed the business to a booming enterprise with $2-3 million in sales in only a matter of a few years. After her eye-opening experience, Wolter finds she truly has “something to say.” Wolter’s story and wisdom resonates with manufacturers and ambitious young people alike. With us, she shares her story, and what she has to say to young women who are driven to succeed.
Baptism by Fire
"I started from the bottom, [...] more secretarial. [...] Then from that I sort of gravitated into learning how to do sales, how to do quoting, and from there that’s how I started to do the cost analysis. That’s when I discovered that there was theft upon my company. The guys up in the shop had started their company shell inside of my company. They were using all of my materials, my machines, my customer list, my prospect list. They knew what we were selling things for, and I found that out just because I kept hearing a competitor’s name over and over and over again, and they were beating us by pennies to a dollar. It made no sense to me. I figured either there was a rat somewhere in here that was saying something, or there was a bigger problem. So, when I was doing the cost analysis, I was watching that, even though I have zero manufacturing background, which was probably the best thing for me, because I started to investigate. [...]
At that time we only had about $80,000 of sales for the year. And, we only had a few more months of capital before bankruptcy. It was kind of like [a] ‘sinking ship’ [that] I wasn’t going to abandon. I just kind of threw myself into it. My dad and I [poured] over manuals, trying to figure out how to actually run these machines. It had been a long time since he had even touched a machine, and I have zero knowledge of how to run a machine, so we did that from five in the morning ‘til midnight. Between learning how to read those manuals, trying to turn on a machine, trying to get some kind of production out, and all the while calling on customers, letting them know what had transpired, as well as prospects, and doing interviews. I mean, it was a long, treacherous six months.
[In those] six months we were able to get our feet back on the ground. [...] Going from $80,000 in sales, to almost bankruptcy, to $3,000,000 today in shorter than six years, it’s been quite an incredible journey."
An Open-Door Leadership Style
"My door’s wide open, so if [anyone on the team] ever has a problem, an issue, a concern, a family matter, I really encourage them to come talk to me about it. [...] Whenever they do something wrong, I try to sit down with them, work it through, [asking] ‘what happened,’ ‘did we not have the right tooling,’ ‘do you need more schooling?’ [...] I have a hall of fame for the guys, and we send them to training every so often to better their craft, and so they get paid more. It’s just beneficial for us. [It’s about] having them feel like they’re a part of something."
Surprises in the Industry
"It’s always evolving. My first real IMTS show was in 2010, and to see the differences from 2010 to 2016 is remarkable, the machines are just capable of doing more, it’s more innovative. [...] It’s [also] really exciting to see more women start to show up to these events. I’m really looking forward to 2018 IMTS to see the new generation of manufacturing. I think that’s what I like the most is that it’s always evolving, it’s changing, it kind of pushes you to grow with that."
On Being a Woman in Industry
"I came into this company as ‘Oh look, daddy’s little girl.' I think there was a lot of cynicism in that. Of course, a lot of [those who felt that way] were fired or left on their own because they started their own company inside of mine. But, little by little, I had to start replacing because I knew they were never going to respect me as someone coming in and trying to change things. That was one aspect.
I think the other part of being a woman in manufacturing is I’m young, and so I don’t think people took me very seriously in the beginning, and I can respect that, because I didn’t. It took me a long time, and I had to go get smart. I went to Harper College to learn precision machining, and [...] CAD, Auto-CAD, starting from the very beginning to 3D modeling. I had to pay my dues, and I was fine with that.
But once you know what you’re talking about, it doesn’t matter what you look like-- if you’re a woman, if you’re young, if you’re old. Whatever the case may be, people will respect you if you know what you’re talking about."
Hindsight is 20/20; Advice to Young Women
"Take your time. I had so many ideas. I wanted to grow so fast that it became very overwhelming. [...] I saw something of ‘I need to go, we need to grow, we need to do stuff, I [want to] expand. I was rushing, rushing, rushing, I wasn’t taking my time. [...] I took on jobs that I lost money on just because I saw the big dollar amount and didn’t really see how long it would take to really do, to really manufacture, so I saw the dollar in the opportunity versus really ‘What am I trying to accomplish,’ ‘What are the key clients that I really want to grow with, the key industries?’ [...]
Slow down, just think, figure out your goals, how you want to get there, have a plan, and just be patient, and take it one step at a time."
How to Inspire the Next Generation of Manufacturing
"Interestingly enough, being on the advisory board of McHenry East High School, at one [time] they had ten girls that were wanting to take a manufacturing class, it was starting with Metals I. It went from ten [female students] to two in a matter of a couple weeks. [...] I had the opportunity to talk to the girls, and a lot of what they were saying [is this]: One, they were the only girl in their class, which is extremely intimidating, especially at that age. No one wants to be that lone wolf. And, especially because guys are just more mechanically inclined, and here you are as a girl who already over-thinks things, already a bit insecure, and then you have guys that are blowing past you. You don’t want to feel dumb, you don’t want to feel like you can’t do it, and you’re afraid to ask questions. [...] The second thing is they noticed that teachers are a huge reason of why they stay or go, and even [when] they really liked the teacher, just the fact that they were by themselves was a reason why they just dropped. The third thing that they said was that [...] when they go to their counselor they were saying, ‘Why don’t you do a study hall versus some of these other electives?’ And, electives, especially for manufacturing, were already so far down the list, that if you didn’t have that curiosity, and you didn’t know if you’d want to take it or not, or even had family members that were in manufacturing, you wouldn’t even bother with it. So, I think that’s another thing is we need to get counselors to [say] ‘Okay, what would you like to do, here are some of the electives that I think would be neat, or something to try just for a semester.’ And then, when they do say manufacturing, to make sure that you have more than one or two girls in that class. [...] And, start them young, start them as freshmen, give them ideas to go into something else, just at least try for a semester. Awareness, help, and guidance, [are] huge."
Nicole’s final piece of advice?: Stick with it, I’m still learning
VIA Member Nicole Wolter Wins Influential Women in Business Award
Managing Teams: Leadership Series
6th: Multi-generational Workforce
13th: Employee Engagement
20th: Super Manager
Safety Group: OSHA Updates
IT Group: Lunch and Panel Discussion
Women of the VIA Book Club
Change Your Questions, Change Your Life
VIA Captive Lunch & Learn
Technology in Transporation
HR Group: Staffing, Recruiting, Hiring & Retention
Tips from a Recruiter
Sales Professionals Group:
See Our Entire
Calendar of Events
New: Group Programming!
Do you wish you had the opportunity to discuss the current topics in your industry with other professionals? Engage in productive and eye-opening conversations with your fellow group members, with job-specific VIA Group Programming. Each program will consist of a Round-table or Panel format, and will include featured speakers. Stay in-the-know, and learn from professionals with the same background, and a whole new point of view!
Meet Our Team
Ellyn Calay, Program Manager
Former Office Manager at the Downtown St. Charles Partnership, and former Events Manager at FCAI and NiPDI, Ellyn has extensive and well-rounded experience in programming. It came as no surprise when, barely a week into her new position, Ellyn's debut event was a success! Additionally, a mother of two, Ellyn’s persevering can-do attitude and optimism make her a joy to work with, and an enormous asset to the VIA.
Kathy Gilmore, President
As the 10th President of the Valley Industrial Association, Kathy expands on her previous role as Membership Manager to work for the brightest future of the organization, so that the VIA can continue to best serve area manufacturers and the businesses that serve them.
Kathy brings an entrepreneurial spirit to the VIA having 20 years' experience as an upper level sales director for a Chicagoland kitchenware company. Rounding out her sales experience with an MBA from Aurora University in 2017, she has some fresh ideas and enthusiasm for the 115 year-old organization.
As President, she continues forward on the path to cultivate the VIA's role as a pivotal part of our community. Kathy firmly believes that the successful future of manufacturing depends upon working with our community and education partners to continue to increase knowledge among local manufacturers and also increase awareness of our vibrant manufacturing companies in the general community and the next generation workforce. As President, Kathy looks forward to seeing our manufacturers and organization continue to flourish.
Sue Secondi, Office Manager
Sue’s attention to detail and questioning nature has already proven to be of great service to the association. She is your go-to contact for all things VIA, from registering for a program, getting an invoice or collecting data for one of our surveys. Sue has an extensive background ranging from Insurance to Accounting , Business Administration, Sales, and Construction. Sue has a unique viewpoint and operates with a member centered acumen. No challenge is too large to tackle, making Sue a boon for the VIA.
Katrina Syrris, Marketing Associate
Account Manager at SocialGaines, Katrina joins the VIA team with extensive experience in reception and administrative assistance, as well as over a decade of experience working with non-profit community theatres as performer, stage manager, and most recently, director. With a focus on social media marketing strategy and VIA's E-Zine, The Voice, Katrina’s versatile skill set and energy make her a lively and resourceful addition to the VIA.