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At the PPAI Expo 2021, Board Chair Ira Neaman, MAS, will pass the gavel to incoming chair Todd Pottebaum, MAS+, whose one-year term officially begins at the conclusion of the show. Pottebaum, president of distributor Quality Resource Group, Inc., in Plymouth, Minnesota, has a distinguished history as a volunteer both with PPAI and regional associations. He recently spoke with PPB about his upcoming term as board chair and his expectations for the year ahead.

PPB: How do you see PPAI and its board positioned to answer the challenges of the pandemic and resulting economic slow-down?

Todd Pottebaum, MAS+: PPAI’s executives, directors and its board have successfully navigated myriad courageous and difficult decisions thus far and I have complete confidence that these same individuals will plot a successful course through short- and long-range planning, both of which are designed to nimbly deliver the Association, membership and industry to safe harbor.    

PPB: What opportunities do you see for the promo industry in 2021?

Pottebaum: There’s no question that we’re in the middle of a crisis, but this industry will find creative methods to pivot and meet end buyers where they’re at.  

If the PPAI Expo was allowed to be held tomorrow it would be interesting to see how exhibitors have retooled as well as the types of solutions distributors are seeking. Would sustainability be as buzzworthy as it was just six months ago? Would diversity, equity and inclusion be more buzzworthy? Would suppliers still carry the same breadth of offerings and inventory depth as 2019? Would personal protective equipment (PPE) and work from home (WFH) have their own product pavilions? Clearly, shift is happening and it’s important that the industry comes together to share, listen and adapt to evolving needs. 

Given this shift, I see great opportunities for suppliers and distributors that offer fulfillment and distribution capabilities to meet the needs of virtual events, remote workers and fulfillment-type activities. Masks aren’t going away anytime soon, and high-end retailers turning them fashionable makes this an interesting industry opportunity. Also, distributors who excel at consultative selling will lead end buyers to solutions to connect with their remote prospects more effectively. Video calls have skyrocketed in popularity which makes today’s most valuable imprint area [the space] next to one’s webcam—I expect that we’ll see multiple products developed with this in mind.  

With all of that being said, I believe the greatest opportunity in 2021 for the industry is for us to support each other with compassion and a desire to succeed together.  

PPB: At the end of your term at Expo 2022, what do you hope to have accomplished as board chair?

Pottebaum: In my role of board chair, I’m most hopeful about the outcomes of PPAI’s new strategic plan that will be developed and deployed sometime next year. Personally, I’m hopeful that I have an opportunity to learn from all of you and give back in ways that are meaningful to the Association and membership. With a bit of luck, in person.  

PPB: What led you to volunteering in the industry?

Pottebaum: Many years ago, I earned a scholarship through our local regional, the Upper Midwest Association of Promotional Professionals (UMAPP). In an effort to repay their generosity, I asked if I could volunteer on a committee. That story in and of itself is actually pretty funny, but that simple exchange launched a career-long journey of volunteerism that has been incredibly rewarding.  


James Khattak is news editor of PPB.