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Make the Most of AICC Events

By Greg Jones

November 11, 2021

width=311Engaged Associate and general members are reaping the benefits from a successful SuperCorrExpo® 2021! Not only were we rewarded with relevant and informative education sessions, but we were also able to reconnect in a safe and productive manner thanks to the efforts of AICC and TAPPI. I would be remiss if I did not also recognize and thank Jay Carman, with the unwavering support of his wife, Terry, for his leadership over the last two years. Building on this legacy, there is excitement as Gene Marino steps into his new role as AICC Chair.

width=219While attendance was nearly half that of 2016, those who made the decision to attend definitely made the decision to also engage. With the COVID-19 pandemic still in flux, most participants came from the United States and included all the major integrateds, who were well represented by their top capital equipment decision-makers. In addition, a vast majority of leaders from independent box plants also made the commitment to attend. Combined, the event delivered on high-quality visitors. If you were to compare the domestic attendance of 2021 versus 2016, we were sitting close to 75%—a great testament to the industry and commitment of all involved. With that noted, there was also a strong contingent of influential decision-makers representing North, Central, and South America who came from Smurfit Kappa of the Americas.

Beyond networking, the event programming was also strong. From the keynote speakers to educational breakout sessions, there were valuable takeaways throughout. Pete Watson, CEO of Greif Inc., shared insights into the culture his organization has built. He also highlighted the company vision around industrial packaging and their desire to be the best-performing customer service company in the world. While he acknowledged they may not achieve it, he reinforced how imperative it is for the organization to constantly strive for that in all it does and the culture it develops. This “servant leadership mentality,” as he put it, is about understanding that “before you can lead, you must first learn to serve—it is not about you!” This came as no surprise to me, as I had been blessed by interaction with not only Watson himself, but also Tim Bergwall and Chris Krumm, who are all leaders who walk the talk. It’s these interactions and friendly business insights that make it all worth the investment of attending, exhibiting, and engaging.

Another highlight of the week was to witness the well-earned induction of Doug Muller, of The Haire Group, into the AICC Hall of Fame. He has obviously impacted many lives, and I would strongly suspect he has also demonstrated a strong servant leadership presence within his organization, community, and home. Muller’s humility, love for his family, and respect and efforts for the industry and his team at Haire were well captured during his acceptance and created a very moving moment—a true gentleman whom all of us are better for knowing.

And while I am certain that Muller and Watson had great experiences, it was certainly a celebration for any attendee. There was ample opportunity for visitors and exhibitors alike to reap the rewards of a stable and thriving industry. However, success comes only to those willing to engage. When I joined SUN in 2012 and would attend these events, SUN did not make the most of them. Few colleagues had attended the programming that was being provided, and even fewer volunteered their time to serve on committees or participate in events. Three years later and under new leadership, SUN’s team committed to fully engage and has truly reaped much more in return than we invested. In fact, I had a fellow exhibitor approach me at SuperCorr and ask, “Should we join AICC as an Associate member?” I replied, “If you invest and engage, it will be one of the smartest and best investments you make.”

As we look to future events, I strongly urge you to participate and engage. SuperCorrExpo 2024 is already gearing up to exceed expectations, with event space already reserved at the size of the past event. I anticipate the next three years will only solidify it further as the leading global corrugated event. In the meantime, we all have the AICC Spring Meeting in Palm Desert, California, April 6–8, and Corrugated Week in San Antonio, Texas, September 18–21, along with several regional events, to look forward to. Act and take advantage of the opportunity. I plan and expect to see you all there!

Greg Jones is executive vice president at SUN Automation Group and is vice Chair of AICC’s Associate board.