DSC_0011 web Employees at the CPSC’s National Product Testing and Evaluation Center take PRS attendees through the center’s testing labs, among them its Offroad Power Sports facility.

DSC_0415 web PRS offered attendees numerous opportunities to engage with speakers and share experiences.

PPAI’s Product Responsibility Summit, held in September in Bethesda, Maryland, featured three days of insightful and extensive product safety and compliance programming. Formerly the Product Safety Summit, over the past five years the Summit has grown into PPAI’s most well-attended education conference and the must-attend program for safety and compliance professionals at companies throughout the promotional products industry.

“We’ve come a long way over five years of Summits,” says Gene Geiger, MAS+, president of Geiger, event co-chair and chair of the Product Responsibility Action Group. “In the beginning we worked to bring awareness of the importance of product safety. Now we are diving deep into compliance and responsible sourcing with sourcing and risk management professionals. This year we added the rapidly emerging issue of corporate social responsibility to the program. Consumers and large companies are increasingly concerned that products they buy have been made in factories where worker rights and safety are respected. Attendees were given the knowledge and tools to begin to put CSR policies and procedures in place in their firms. “

More than 170 industry professionals were on hand for two days of education on the most pressing product safety issues, along with panel discussions led by industry thought-leaders and subject-matter experts, and a number of networking opportunities. On Monday, early arrivals also got an inside look at the CPSC’s National Product Testing and Evaluation Center in Rockville, Maryland, during one of two sold-out tours. Opened in 2011 and located near the Summit’s Bethesda location, the testing center houses the CPSC’s state-of-the-art testing labs and equipment, and engineering staff.

“It was a really good experience for me and I’m glad I came,” says Troy Jones, vice president of operations at Stellar Imports in Hawthorne, California. “On a daily basis, we work with a lot of high-profile accounts and it’s important to maintain testing protocols to ensure compliance, and to be able to come into a facility like this and see firsthand how those protocols are being tested has been very informative. It helps me get a visual of how the tests are run and the types of machinery and equipment used. And to speak to the different engineers and lab techs, and get insight on what they’re looking for and what they’re looking at is huge.”

DSC_0140 web Cheryl Falvey’s Summit presentation, focusing on two key questions—who is the regulator and what is the rule—drew a rapt audience.


DSC_0158 web Following her presentation, Falvey joined a panel discussion on understanding and acting on the differences between regulations and standards.

Its second day kicked off a two-day lineup of speakers and experts only possible due to Summit’s proximity to Washington, D.C., and the regulatory bodies headquartered there. A series of presentations, panel discussions and interactive conversations explored the regulatory structures facing businesses and how to manage them and the rules they follow, best practices and strategies for mitigating risks and handling recalls, and how to establish and run social responsibility programs. Highlights were the keynote presentations delivered by CPSC Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle and CPSC Chair Elliot Kaye.

Attendee Joanne Molina, DARD vice president of operations and procurement, says her company is committed to supplying compliant and safe goods to its distributors. “The PPAI Summit is a great resource of information when it comes to current governmental requirements on product safety. We also want to hear from other sources about different views concerning product safety so we can make good and well-informed decisions as a company.” She adds that the company views product safety as part of the life cycle of a product. “We take this subject very seriously and it is another service that we provide to our clients and the entire marketplace.”

“I think PPAI did an exceptional job this year on the Product Responsibility Summit,” says Teresa Fang, director of supplier chain management at Jetline in Gaffney, South Carolina, and a Summit panelist. “I feel like the quality of the experts this year was through the roof. The content was amazing and the notebook to take home is appreciated every year. I would highly recommend this event to anyone in the industry.”

Susan Kowelman, vice president of special projects at distributor GatewayCDI, says, “Summit provided a high level of interaction with some of the top product safety experts in the U.S., including the chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The dual focus on product safety and social responsibility provided added value to those attending and presented clear road maps for organizations to follow, and the Summit was an excellent opportunity for distributors and suppliers to share ideas.”

DSC_0012 web The members of the Product Responsibility Action Group are responsible for the direction and scope of the Product Responsibility Summit.

Assessing the Summit’s accomplishments, Rick Brenner, MAS+, president of Prime Resources Corporation and co-chair of the Summit, sums it up: “If anything was apparent at this year’s Product Responsibility Summit, it was how the compliance practices required for success in our industry at the highest level have changed drastically in just a few years and how they are continuing to evolve very quickly. A show of hands indicated that almost all of our 180+ attendees have the word ‘compliance’ in their job title. The talk among attendees was how they continue to toughen the requirements for the suppliers and factories they do business with, and the education they’re providing to their coworkers. What a sea change for an industry that had almost zero compliance professionals just five years ago. Thanks to PPAI, our attendees shared best practices, were treated to guidance by senior leadership of the Consumer Products Safety Commission and tutorials from many of the most esteemed compliance and sourcing experts in the nation.”


CPSC Chairman Elliott Kaye Addresses Critical Issues At Product Responsibility Summit

DSC_0049 webProduct Responsibility Summit keynote speaker, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairman Elliot F. Kaye, became the 10th CPSC chairman in 2014. He addressed his audience of compliance managers, procurement specialists and promotional products business owners, openly and directly for about 10 minutes and then spent the rest of the hour-long session answering questions on state lead limits, online sales, penalties, imports, future concerns and more posed by Product Responsibility Action Group Chair Gene Geiger, MAS+, along with audience members.

“I want to tell you how impressed I’ve been of the work PPAI does and continues to do in the area of safety and compliance,” Kaye said from the podium. “The requirements you have in place are incredibly impressive, the materials are thorough, well-written and right to the point and I can tell you as a regulator I’m deeply appreciative of the ownership this association has taken on safety and compliance. I applaud it.”

He spoke at length about two areas of public policy in which the agency is involved: chemical exposure/consumer products (toys and children’s items plus the flame-retardant chemicals used in upholstered furniture), and brain injury in sports. As chairman and father to two young boys, he expressed his concern about both issues and talked about what the agency is doing to resolve them. He also noted three areas he expects the agency to look at in the near future: The interaction between wearable tech and bodies; remote control devices that control home appliances such as space heaters, and products produced by 3D printing. “This one is most challenging from regulatory perspective,” he said. “Who’s to blame for giving away or selling a toy that is created in someone’s home?”

When asked what misconceptions the public might have about the CPSC, he answered thoughtfully. “We are all the same as you are. We have the same problems you do, we have kids. We just want to have a safer world and not have to worry about products harming people.”


CPSC Commissioner Speaks From The Heart At PPAI Summit

DSC_0273 webWhen Hon. Ann Marie Buerkle, commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, stepped to the microphone at the PPAI Product Responsibility Summit, her first words were to praise those in attendance. “Your entrepreneurial spirit is what makes America such a great place. It’s what keeps the American dream alive and well,” she said. Buerkle, a former nurse, attorney, member of Congress, mother of six, grandmother of 16 and one of five CPSC commissioners, was appointed to the agency by President Barack Obama in May 2013. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate later that year for a five-year term.

During the nearly 60-minute presentation, she shed light on her professional background, explained how she approaches CPSC decisions, discussed some of her concerns and goals, and thanked PPAI for leading the way in its approach to product responsibility. She noted that the CPSC is a relatively small agency charged with protecting the public and jurisdiction over approximately 15,000 products.

“The problem that we have is that Washington exists in a bubble,” she said. “We make rules but don’t always understand how they affect working people. It’s important for events like this to help make us aware. Thank you to PPAI for your efforts to educate your industry and to interact with our agency.” She also called PPAI the poster child for how to create a product safety aware program.

Since coming to the agency, Buerkle has developed three pillars on which she bases her decisions: education (“It should be preferred over regulation.”); collaboration (“Strong, positive relationships with all stakeholders are crucial to consumer safety. You know the issues; we need to hear from you.”); and balance (“Consumer safety can be achieved in a balanced, reasonable way. We need to make sure the rules we make really do promote safety.”).

Her talk also touched on two issues on which the agency is currently working: test burden reduction and import surveillance, and she wrapped up her presentation with a plea for continued engagement with the promotional products industry.


PPEF Names Incoming Trustees, 2016 Board Officers

The Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF) has named its 2016 officers and completed its trustee election for the upcoming term.

Serving January 2016 to January 2017, the incoming officers are:

Chair: Pat Dugan, MAS, Budgetcard Inc.

Immediate Past Chair: Kippie Helzel, MAS, CPS/Keystone

Chair Elect and Vice Chair–Fundraising: Lori Bauer, BIC Graphic North America

Vice Chair–Strategic Planning/Budget: David Tate, Signet, Inc.

Vice Chair–Scholarship: Carol de Ville, MAS, The Branding Company

Vice Chair–Marketing: Bruce Perryman, MAS+, Embroidery Unlimited, Inc.

The incoming trustees’ three-year terms begin following the PPEF board meeting at The PPAI Expo 2016. The incoming trustees are:

Drew Davis, MAS, Specialty Incentives, Inc.

A principal at distributor Specialty Incentives, Davis has been in the promotional products industry for 15 years. A long-time contributor to PPEF, Davis has been active in his regional association, the Rocky Mountain Region Promotional Products Association (RMRPPA) and PPAI. At PPAI, he was an active member of the Association’s Technology Committee, while he held a number of offices at RMRPPA, including president, chair and treasurer of its board.

Wayne Greenberg, MAS, JB of Florida/Geiger

Greenberg, a sales partner at JB of Florida/Geiger, returns to the PPEF board for his third term. Also a two-time chair of the PPEF board, he has played an active role in a number of its programs, including awarding scholarships and fundraising. During his 30 years in the industry, Greenberg has also been an active volunteer with PPAI, including serving as chair of the board.

Brian Porter, ProTowels, Kanata & Superior Decorating

Vice president of sales and marketing at ProTowels, Porter brings 21 years of industry experience to the PPEF Board. A long-time volunteer with the Promotional Products Association of the Midwest (PPAM), he will be the regional association’s president in 2016. Porter has also been a member of the North American Leadership Conference work group for the past three years.

Stephanie Preston, HALO Branded Solutions

Preston has been in the industry and with HALO for the past 11 years, where she serves as director of marketing. She brings skills developed through considerable experience as a volunteer and fundraiser for a number of charitable organizations, including the YWCA of the Sauk Valley, the Hospice of the Rock River Valley, Whiteside Area Vocational Center and the United Way of the Sauk Valley, to her role.

RAC Elects 2016 Board of Directors

The Regional Association Council (RAC) has elected its 2016 executive officers and new board members. The new leadership lineup includes Ryan Small, CAS, president; Janet McMaster, MAS, vice president; Nick D’Eramo, secretary; D’Anna Zimmer, CAS, treasurer; Scott Hareid, RAC delegate to the PPAI Board of Directors; and Rebecca McLaughlin, CAS, immediate past president. The new officers will begin their one-year terms following The PPAI Expo 2016 in Las Vegas.

RAC also welcomes three newly elected board members for 2016. They are: Nick D’Eramo, representing District 1; D’Anna Zimmer, CAS, representing District 4; and Bob Levitt, MAS, representing District 5. Larry Arntz, representing District 1; Jeff Shaw, representing District 3; Tiffany Tarr, CAS, representing District 4, and Jon Henrickson, CAS, representing District 5, will continue their service to the RAC Board for 2016.

Tom Carpenter, MAS, and Kim Newell will be retiring from the RAC Board at The PPAI Expo.

Ryan Small, CAS, RAC President

Small, a fifth-generation Nashville native, lives by the mantra “Life is short, live large.” He is president and managing partner for Blue Dog Merch, a promotional products consulting firm, and Thread F/X, a family-owned supplier founded in 1998 that specializes in contract embroidery, screen printing and fulfillment.

Janet McMaster, MAS, Vice President

McMaster is a regional sales vice-president for Lewiston, Maine distributor Geiger. She held board positions with the Philadelphia Area Promotional Products Association (PAPPA), then the Specialty Advertising Counselors of the Delaware Valley (SACDV), in 2004–2005 and 2007–2010. McMaster is currently the board president of the Carolinas Association of Advertising and Marketing Professionals (CAAMP).

Nick D’Eramo, Secretary

D’Eramo has been co-owner of Triple Stitch Promotions and Direct Threads, based in Connecticut, for 34 years. He has served on the board of directors of the New England Promotional Products Association (NEPPA) from 2009-2015 and has held the offices of secretary, treasurer, vice-president and president and currently serves as immediate past president. Nick participated in L.E.A.D. in 2012, 2013 and 2015, and has served on PPAI’s Government Relations Action Council (GRAC) in 2014 to present.

D’Anna Zimmer, CAS, Treasurer

Currently the Texas and Oklahoma territory rep for Bag Makers, Inc., Zimmer has worked as a supplier rep for more than 19 year after beginning as a distributor sales rep for Marketing Incentives. She has served in several capacities on the Promotional Products Association of the South board, including vice president twice, president twice, and RAC Delegate for several terms. In her role as RAC Delegate, she has attended L.E.A.D. three times and helped PPAS host L.E.A.D. Local in Austin, Texas in 2015.

Rebecca Mclaughlin, CAS, Immediate Past President

Mclaughlin has spent her decade-long career in the promotional products industry at CPS/Keystone, where she is now the Erie, Pennsylvania-based supplier’s sales and operations manager. An active member of the Three Rivers Advertising Specialty Association (TRASA), she has served as the regional association’s show chair for two years, as well as board vice president and president.

Scott Hareid, RAC Delegate to the PPAI Board

Hareid is president and owner of the multi-line representative agency Hareid Marketing and has worked in the promotional products industry for 18 years. In the past 10 years, he has volunteered with the Upper Midwest Association of Promotional Professionals (UMAPP), including a term as board president. Hareid also chaired UMAPP’s Membership, Booth Show and Room Show committees, and in 2008 he worked with PPAI on the Supplier Forum held in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Bob Levitt, MAS, Representing District 5

Levitt owns of The Bob Levitt Company, a distributorship based in West Hills, California. Bob has more than 32 years of promotional products experience and has spent his entire adult life volunteering. He has served as the chairman of the board of managers for the East Valley Family YMCA for nine years, and is active in his regional association, SAAC, and has held many positions.


PPAI Staff Work Toward Industry Certifications

The PPAI Staff Certification Program is a PPAI initiative aimed at providing PPAI staff members with the knowledge base to effectively offer great member value by demonstrating competency in promotional products industry concepts, ideas, and best practices.

The majority of PPAI staff members have not served in a promotional products industry role and therefore do not typically qualify for PPAI industry certifications, so the Association created internal certifications to signify staff efforts to become familiar with industry best practices and the history of the promotional products field.

Certified Advertising Specialist, Non-Industry (CASN) and Master Advertising Specialist, Non-Industry (MASN) certifications do not require industry experience or the accumulation of required points, but their achievement is based on a passing score on the CAS and MAS exams. PPAI requires all employees at manager level or above to attain their CASN, while the Association’s directors and executive team must earn the MASN. They are only available to PPAI staff and are not transferrable to industry practitioners. Association staff at all levels must earn a Trained Advertising Specialist (TAS) certificate.

Staff are also required to meet continuing education requirements to ensure that PPAI staff members are always well-informed of new industry trends, concepts, ideas and best practices.

Learn more about the PPAI Certification Program and PPAI’s professional development opportunities one PPAI’s website here http://www.ppai.org/education/certification/.