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Inside ICI 2020: A Year of Enacting Contingencies By Joseph E. Fritz, Executive Director, Investment Casting Institute L


ast year at this time, I was busy putting the finishing touches on the ICI’s 2020 budget. We were coming to the close of an exceptional year for both the industry and the Institute, and the future was bright. So naturally, our 2020 program reflected optimism as we had planned to expand our traditional offering to include a third


regional meeting, introduce a


new webinar series and hold the first Business & Leadership Development Conference (BLDC).


result, the budget that I had prepared, submitted and subsequently had approved by our Board of Directors was the largest in ICI history. The year started


were to host the 15th World Conference on Investment Casting (WCIC).


Additionally, we As a


As we have an obligation to serve the industry on both professional development and technical platforms, we took action, working within the confines of a pandemic, and safely made additions


to the remaining program, off on the right


foot, with Art & Sculpture Unlimited hosting a successful regional meeting in Miami, the Process Control Seminar was skillfully conducted in Houston, and the Marketing Committee’s promotional activities for the BLDC and WCIC were being met with strong interest. Then, with little warning, our vocabulary changed, as did our hopes for the year. With the introduction of new phrases, such as “Social Distancing” and “Shelter in Place”, we found ourselves in a position where our entire 2020 program was in jeopardy.


As the pandemic progressed, it


became evident that there were difficult decisions to be made, starting with the cancellation of the BLDC.


Shortly


thereafter, the 20th Industry Certification Course was cancelled and the WCIC was postponed to 2021. These actions, as well as numerous others, were made with full support of the Board of Directors. By the end of the second quarter, we had effectively eliminated our 2020 Member offerings.


6 ❘ December 2020 ®


starting with the webinar series. Planned for introduction in June 2020, the webinar program was originally going to be limited to four presentations. Recognizing our obligation to support the industry’s professional development needs, we augmented the webinar series and pulled the first presentation into April. By the end of the year, we had successfully provided our Members with the opportunity to participate in over a dozen free webinars. Postponement of the WCIC had the similar effect of eliminating our 2020 technical program.


Even before this


decision was finalized, we had begun our review of virtual platforms to conduct a technical conference and Expo. There was much deliberation over whether the event should include a virtual expo, be limited to just the conference, or just be completely eliminated. Since the WCIC could not be postponed a second time and the likelihood of holding a live event in 2021 was in question, we opted to offer the full conference and expo on the virtual stage in 2020. In doing so, we would meet our obligation to provide Members with technical content, while providing the ICI with a learning experience, should there be a need to go virtual with the World Conference. Looking at the year in review, 2020


North American casting sales are down 50% from the prior year.


There have


been a number of foundry closures, and I understand that there may be more to come. Many of our Members have restricted travel, both domestically and internationally, as well as limiting


visitors to their operations. National


and local governments have imposed curfews on residents and quarantines on visitors. Throughout the pandemic, we have all hoped for an effective coronavirus vaccine. Now there are three vaccines up for FDA approval, and on December 2nd, Britain granted emergency approval of Pfizer’s product. The FDA is expected to follow suit. Though this is good news, inoculating a global population is going to take time, and it is unlikely that we will fully resume normal business and travel practices by year end 2021. That brings us to where I am today,


putting the finishing touches on the ICI’s 2021 budget. Though I am taking neither an overtly


optimistic nor pessimistic


view of the upcoming year, I must remain pragmatic, being ready to pivot to meet the needs of our industry in a changing world. Next year, the ICI plans to offer a full complement of Member services, starting by returning INCAST Magazine to


full in-print circulation.


We will be hosting conventional “in- person” events, but with contingencies to support Member needs. In all likelihood, these events will be “hybrid events”, offering a virtual option for those yet to be inoculated or with travel restrictions.


As we close the books on 2020, I


want to thank you for being there for us and for each other. The remarkable thing about our industry is that we pull together to help each other through difficult times. It does not matter whether the party in need is a supplier, a customer, a competitor or simply the trade association serving the industry. Everyone recognizes that we are stronger when we work together and support each other, which simply put, makes my job very pleasurable. Thank you.


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