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IFAI EXPO: past, present and future

Editorial | Jun. 1, 2019 | By:

Some weeks back, my book club was discussing the book “A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression,” which mostly details the government’s sometimes tortuous efforts to convince the U.S. public that they could eat less if they’d just eat more wisely. Results were mixed, but they did sprout 100 years of constantly evolving dietary guidelines, as well as the educational apex that created “Home Economics” classes in public schools. Last week, I bit into a muffin I’d purchased on my way to work, noted air bubbles inside, and nodded sagely to myself as I recalled my eighth grade Home Ec* teacher’s timeless advice:  “Tunnels” are caused by overmixing the batter. 

I checked, of course. Verified. Not only did I learn something, I remembered it! I went home with a fresh regard for history, if not necessarily for government policy.

Few organizations reach 100 years of age, although quite a number of IFAI members have accomplished it. In 2012, the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) celebrated its 100th birthday with a party at IFAI Expo 2012 in Boston. In 2015, Specialty Fabrics Review celebrated its first incarnation as the voice of the association and the industry—the November 1915 publication of The National Tent & Awning Manufacturers Review. In 2020, IFAI Expo will celebrate its own centennial in Indianapolis, Nov. 3–6. 

Seems like a natural time to see how far we’ve come, how much we’ve remembered—and how much we’re still learning. 

Technological advances and labor issues make up two of the most important, and enduring, industry issues of the past 100 years. For the last 30 years, the pace of change has increased exponentially; research and the road to commercialization (from fiber to fabric to finished goods) is a global highway now. Few manufacturers can undertake all of this all on their own. IFAI and IFAI Expo are dedicated to the process of cooperation—with government, with universities, with other industries and within our own industry—as well as to innovation and entrepreneurship. IFAI Expo 2019 in Orlando this October continues a long tradition of learning, but is also designed to move us ahead of the trends. 

Next month will be the first of four Expo-related issues this year: July’s Exhibitor Product Preview, the Show Preview in August, the September show issue and the November issue, with this year’s show report. But we’ll also begin a countdown to IFAI Expo’s 100th anniversary, and a look at what’s happened, what’s happening, and what’s to come. Stick with us.

*Had I been thinking clearly back then, I’d have crashed the “Shop” classes instead, and perhaps learned how to change doorknobs instead of ultimately concluding that the house had been built around them. But I still know my muffins. 

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