By Emily Buckley
Many will soon travel to the confluence of three great rivers at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. — the site of the Association of Operative Millers Annual Technical Conference and Trade Show — for three great reasons: ideas, resources and connections.
For 106 years, members have gathered at this annual meeting to share experiences with their peers, explore new technology and expand their foundation of education. From May 17-21 in Pittsburgh, attendees can count on the same, a strong focus on industry technical training, a trade show featuring industry suppliers and the most up-to-date equipment and plenty of social opportunities.
Yet, the event will look and feel remarkably different.
Under the past year’s leadership of president Dick Ferrell, the association has made significant strides toward his mission for growth of the AOM. And many of these developments will be unveiled at this annual gathering.
Reflecting this is the conference’s theme, "History in the Making."
"In part," explained Executive Vice-President Gary Anderson, "the theme is a play on Dick Ferrell’s vast resources for historical milling information as well as an indication of these strides forward. We are marking a shift in direction for the association."
Most notable of these changes is the addition to the association’s name. The board of directors met last November and voted in the new name, the International Association of Operative Millers. Members will see the new logo for the first time at the show.
The IAOM’s new web site (www.iaom.info) will also be unveiled at the show. "We hope members will find it more useful and interactive," Anderson said. "We have incorporated a listserve for members to communicate with their IAOM peers around the world, and we will use it to present information in a more timely manner."
The IAOM continues to see the conference and trade show as core to its mission. "We don’t think there’s any replacement for face to face meetings," Anderson said. "We’ve put together an outstanding technical program that will improve the quality of milling work that is done throughout the world. There’s no other place where you can learn and grow from your peers."
For the show itself, there are significant changes from the previous format. First, the technical sessions have been moved right onto the trade show floor. The "What’s New" and mainline programs will be draped off, but will require entering through the trade show floor. "As in the past, the trade show will be open while technical session are going on," Anderson said. "The goal was to integrate educational offerings right into the trade show and thereby increase traffic on the trade show floor."
To expand educational opportunities, "Technical Instruction Briefings" have been added to the program. (See the adjacent schedule of presenters.)
For the trade show, Anderson said booth sales are on target. "We have actually picked up some new sponsorships," he added. "We are very pleased with the Allied Trades continued support."
The IAOM intends to evaluate members’ opinions of the new show experience over the four-day event so they can continue to make improvements for next year’s show. Already, plans are being made for pre-conference workshops for the 2004 meeting.
"We continue to look at ways to evolve and grow the annual meeting," Anderson said. "We may be able to take the meeting outside North America at some point."
Overall, Anderson and the IAOM board of directors hope to achieve one thing with these changes: "We hope people will find their membership has increased in value," Anderson said.
Many of these new concepts stemmed from a Strategic Directions meeting held last fall, attended by AOM officers and representatives from several milling companies. There were many goals identified, including practical concerns such as upgrading the AOM’s services and evaluating the feasibility of a combined trade show with the Grain Elevator and Processing Society.
Growing the membership and international focus of the association are key goals. To help achieve this, the IAOM is looking for members throughout the globe to step forward and help bring a new IAOM around the world by volunteering to work on a global strategies committee. A meeting open to all members (tentatively scheduled for Saturday morning) will address this topic.
"We are looking for advice from the membership as to how we could truly make AOM an international organization," Anderson said. "The new name is more of an aspiration to where we want to go. We believe if we clearly designate where we’d like to be in five to ten years, people will step forward to help us get there."