“How would you like to go to a regional MEP meeting?” asked the WMEP’s CEO Buckley Brinkman as he detoured into my office.

“A what?” was the response in my head as I mentally ran through the lists of acronyms I was quickly learning on my first few weeks on the job.

From the confused look on my face he went on to explain, “You know, meet with other MEPs (Manufacturing Extension Partnerships) from other states like Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.”

“Sure thing, sounds like a good idea,” I said.

So a few weeks later we climbed into our leader’s Ford Explorer, set the GPS to Indianapolis and we were off.

I wasn’t sure what to expect in a six-hour drive with my new boss and a co-worker. I brought along some questions I had about the organization and my new role and these occupied our conversation until about the state line.  Thereafter, ESPN radio, other work projects, and random topics kept us occupied/entertained along the way.  As we got closer we worked on coordinating a dinner meeting, which predictably was at a place that featured meat on a grill, the Weber Grill restaurant, in Indianapolis.

Walking into the meeting room in the restaurant I saw exactly what I expected to see, a room full of seasoned Midwestern manufacturers, who mostly opted for the top sirloin special when orders were taken.   Dinner conversation had the stops and starts typical of meetings of people who have things in common but perhaps don’t know each other that well personally.  I sat next to a MEP staffer from Michigan, and enjoyed hearing about how they approached some of the same topics we were working on.  I also heard a lot about his upcoming retirement plans and grandchildren, both of which brought a smile to his face.

The next day was the official meeting, and the room quickly got down to business.  This was a room full of folks who could run effective meetings in their sleep, which was quite refreshing.  What became instantly apparent to a newbie is that each MEP was proud and passionate about what they were doing to help small and medium size manufacturers in their state.

They were very willing to help each other, share information about what was working and where they were having difficulties, and connect each other to resources they needed to be successful.  It was a great meeting, and I took back many ideas for the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

It occurred to me that this meeting was pretty similar to meetings we offer that bring together manufacturers working on common issues.  At these meetings, expertise is readily shared, and connections are made that help businesses improve and grow.  We offer monthly Lunch & Learns designed just for this purpose.  Our Manufacturing Matters! Conference is also coming up in February where more than 400 of your fellow manufacturers and manufacturing industry people will attend.  We hope you can join us and other manufacturers at an event soon!

John Stampen, Director of Marketing, WMEP