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2024 ABMA Convention Tackles Industry Challenges

The Face 2 Face session highlighted the 2024 ABMA Convention

Artificial Intelligence and Recruiting are Hot Topics for the Brush Industry

With the scenic Omni Resort on Amelia Island in Florida as the backdrop, the 107th edition of the ABMA Convention was held last week and was highlighted by an engaging program that revolved around several key topics. Manufacturing overall is at the center of several mainstream trends including AI (artificial intelligence) and the event successfully touched on several to essentially weave a continuous thread related to businesses in the industry.

Similar to previous Interbrush years, the event saw slightly lower overall attendance with the inaugural World Brush Expo closely following in May. In fact, it seemed the anticipation for the new Expo created a buzz and positive energy amongst ABMA attendees. And that energy was evident, as attendees enjoyed the Wednesday keynote from futurist Michael Rogers that tackled the impact of AI and automation for manufacturing. The presentation also easily connected with key issues presented during the previous day’s educational sessions, which included topics like recruiting and mental well-being for workers. When you throw in the educational session on ransomware, there’s no question that manufacturing leaders are living through one of the more dynamic periods of change in the industry, which seems to be just in the early stages. 

Keynote Speaker Michael Rogers

From an ABMA standpoint, the event started with committee meetings on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. The most active discussion occurred during the membership committee meeting where overall membership was discussed as the association saw a slight decline from 2022 to 2023. Of particular interest was the dilemma of whether or not to allow international brush manufacturers to join the association. The committee discussion indicated that the number of brush manufacturers in America was unlikely to increase, so that would make membership growth challenging. Without membership growth, the existing members would likely see membership dues increase. The counterargument was that it wouldn’t be an “American” brush association if the ABMA opened up to international brush manufacturers and would actually change the agenda and mission of the association.

It was noted that the World Brush Expo was likely driving the increase in the number of international inquiries, which in turn was creating some urgency around enforcing a policy. The issue was left for the ABMA Board to discuss in their closing session on Friday morning.

Vice President R.J. Lindstrom

After the committee sessions on Tuesday and a lunch break, the event officially opened in the afternoon with an introduction from ABMA Vice President R.J. Lindstrom (Zephyr Manufacturing). That was followed by the “breakout” educational sessions which ran concurrent 40-minute sessions that were repeated so attendees could attend all three, which included:

  • Mental Health and Well-Being in the Workforce | Heather Noftall, HR Professional
  • Data and Device Security/Ransomware | Chad Reinbold, SCS, Inc.
  • Attracting Talent to Smaller Companies | Tim Pugh, Candidate Advocates

The sessions all generated active discussion with the “Attracting Talent” session being the most anticipated and the “Ransomware” session being the most feared. Attendees of that session came out with comments like, “I never want to log on to the internet again.” 

The Mental Health and Well-Being session focused on tactics companies can use to support workers. Interestingly, the interactive discussion that followed highlighted a new dimension in generational perspectives as Gen X is now supplanting the Boomers at the leadership level. Touted as the most self-sufficient and resourceful generation that happens to be caught in between the Boomers and Millennials/Gen Z, Gen X leaders are starting to wonder, “When can we ask people to just work?” And that is a perspective coming from the generation that has been largely responsible for championing and implementing an unprecedented array of benefits, support and flexibility for workers. While they certainly believe in a common-sense work environment that is safe, friendly and supportive, it was clear that there was a feeling that the pendulum has maybe swung too far. In order to succeed in the market, there surely will need to be a better equilibrium. That notion is of course challenged based on the difficulty in finding workers (covered in the Recruiting Talent session).

On Wednesday morning, the convention shifted toward the Opening Business Session led by ABMA President Chris Monahan (Brush Fibers) where all of the committee reports were delivered. Additionally, FEIBP President Alessandro Acquaderni presented on behalf of the World Brush Expo and the FEIBP. His segment highlighted a number of key trends for European brush manufacturers and was showcased by a really sharp promotional video for the 2024 FEIBP Congress set for Ibiza in October. That was followed by the keynote from Michael Rogers on Artificial Intelligence. The afternoon offered the annual Golf Scramble and other activities.

ABMA President Chris Monahan

Thursday was the final day for attendees with the Suppliers Face 2 Face session once again proving to be the most valued component of the convention. The “speed dating” style meeting format featured 29 supplier tables with 15-minute meeting sessions that ran from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Since the introduction of the Face 2 Face in 2019, manufacturers and suppliers have continued to praise the format as it offers focused discussion opportunities and a methodical approach to meeting with key clients. There’s no question that convention attendees consider the Face 2 Faceone of the top benefits of ABMA membership and of attending the convention. One attendee said, “where else can I see so many clients for the cost of one week of travel?”

Thursday afternoon was left open for attendees and the traditional Suppliers’ “A Taste of Italy” Reception was held in the evening as the final attendee event. The ABMA Board met on Friday morning for a closed session.


  • The 2025 Convention will be held March 25-28, 2025, at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines resort near Austin, Texas. The event will retain the Tuesday through Friday format introduced this year to offer better pricing on lodging.
  • Looking further ahead, future convention sites being considered for 2026 and beyond include Bonita Springs, Florida, Puerto Rico and Arizona.
  • The ABMA Officers for 2024 are Chris Monahan (Brush Fibers) – President, R.J. Lindstrom (Zephyr Manufacturing) – Vice President, Todd Leventhal (Nexstep Commercial Products) – Treasurer and Greg Miller (The Mill-Rose Company) – Past President.
  • The ABMA Board includes Ernest “Chip” Preston (Spiral Brushes), Ed Lowder (Monterey Mills), Terry Hogan (Perlon/Hahl), Tim Hack (Epic Resins), Lance Cheney (Braun Brush), Imre Karetka (Pferd, Inc.), Mike Khabibulin (Sherwin Williams) and Rachel Ciullo (Composite Cutter).

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