Spokane Journal of Business

I-90 Aerospace Corridor Conference set in Cd’A next week

Two-day event expands beyond aerospace roots

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One of the Inland Northwest’s largest annual manufacturing conferences is coming next week to The Coeur d’Alene Resort.

The I-90 Aerospace Corridor Conference & Expo, scheduled for Tuesday, May 30 and Wednesday, May 31, at the resort at 115 S. Second, in downtown Coeur d’Alene, will have an attendance of about 225 manufacturing business leaders in the region with 60 exhibitors whose trades extend beyond aerospace.

“This year’s event has expanded to include all manufacturers—not just those in the aerospace supply chain,” says Staci Nelson, executive director of the Inland Northwest Aerospace Consortium, sponsor of the event.

“This hands-on networking conference also will include professionals associated with advanced manufacturing companies in the fields of energy, medical, and space,” she adds.

Organizers say the conference provides the opportunity for participants to learn about the latest manufacturing trends and emerging technologies along the Interstate 90 corridor “ecosystem,” which includes businesses stretching from Central Washington to Western Montana and across the Idaho Panhandle.

“This is the highlight event of the year for the INWAC,” says Jennifer Ferrero, marketing manager for the conference. “The agenda is robust and offers topics including smart manufacturing, commercial-space supply chain, quality management systems, sales and marketing strategies, and cybersecurity.”

Organizers say the informal, meet-and-greet format offers attendees diverse ways to gain a competitive advantage through exploring the latest in innovation, automation, diversification, and workforce retention.

“This year’s theme is All Systems Go and will incorporate the ever-increasing pace of business practices and the need for companies to speed up their ability to change, innovate, and operate,” Nelson says.

Mark Norton, a Spokane-based consultant and chair of the INWAC conference, says the primary value of the conference is in gathering professionals together in an informal setting to network about business-building strategies, including industry economics and development.

As employers continue to struggle to find workers, innovations are needed, Norton says.

“The lack of workforce is going to be a big factor in terms of (industry) growth,” he says. “That’s why culture in the workplace is super critical. It’s one thing to hire valued people, and another thing to keep them.”

Nelson says the ever-increasing pace of business is requiring companies to increase their ability to adapt.

“Renowned speakers from across the country will address these challenges about automating, improving processes, and increasing efficiencies in our manufacturing facilities,” she says.

 INWAC‘s student workforce program has become increasingly popular and important, Nelson says. It’s aimed at attracting students interested in aerospace or related careers. The program has drawn middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college students. Nelson says students have been enthusiastic about the potential of pursuing their careers in the Inland Northwest.

“At first, many of them figured they would get their degree at Washington State University or University of Idaho, and then have to move to the Puget Sound area or South Carolina,” Nelson says. “And we let them know that that you can build a rocket or build a Boeing plane, and you can have a part in it right here, locally.”

That local employment opportunity, along with an adaptation to their routines, has boosted interest among students, Ferrero says.

“The number of students signed up this year has doubled,” she says. “The reason is that they were invited to attend in the evening last year and had to make arrangements to get there on their own. This year, students are coming with their classes as a field trip.”

INWAC organizers emphasize it’s not too late to take part in the annual event. For registration information, visit i90aerospacecorridor.org. The cost to attend is $150 to $195.

  • Keith Erickson

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