AFS Chapter Highlight: Wisconsin Chapter Shines at Regional
February 22, 2017
More than 700 metalcasting professionals attended the 2017 Wisconsin Regional held February 8-10 in Milwaukee. Throughout the year, AFS chapters hold regional conferences to connect their local metalcasting communities. For 79 years, the AFS Wisconsin Chapter, along with Northeastern Wisconsin and Stateline Chapters, have been bringing together metalcasters from around their state to connect and strengthen their community of metalcasters.
“The AFS Chapters in Wisconsin are just one example of success in the AFS Chapter system,” said Leo Baran, AFS director of membership. “They have found a formula with the right group of volunteers from across their state to bring consistent success to their chapters and regionals.”
Member Connections caught up with Wisconsin Chapter president, Doug Sawyer, vice president Universal Welding and Engineering, after the February regional for a chapter check-in.
Member Connections: What’s the key to running a successful AFS chapter? Doug Sawyer: First of all, as an officer, you hope your predecessor hands you the keys to an already well-running chapter. Our chapter has long-standing traditions which include: written by-laws (published in our annual directory), clear roles of the officers and board of directors, and a functioning committee structure.
The real key is having involved and committed people doing their best to make the chapter successful.
MC: What made this year’s regional such a success?
DS: We strive to present a very professional conference with a large expo, timely and highly relevant technical sessions, interesting featured speakers and an invitational casting competition. We recognize the incredible value of networking and have created a very healthy social or fellowship aspect to our conference, too.
Wisconsin Chapter President Doug Sawyer (left) and AFS CEO Doug Kurkul.
The Wisconsin Regional is developed and presented by three AFS chapters: Wisconsin, Northeastern Wisconsin and Stateline. With a 79-year history of Wisconsin Regionals, we are guided by history and traditions, but we continually try to improve it. The regional conference chair, Rick Yrigoyen of Foundry Products, Inc., put together a great Regional Planning Committee. Last year we had moved the Regional to a beautiful new venue with many amenities and it was a smashing success. We returned this year, making changes to our format based on feedback, and our attendance numbers and exhibitor participation were up. We are evaluating feedback so we can improve it further next year.
MC: What is your favorite part of running an AFS chapter?
DS: When I joined AFS nearly 20 years ago, I was told by a chapter leader that foundry people are the “salt of the earth.” He was right. This industry is full of genuine people, and I have made so many friends through my involvement with AFS. Personally I enjoy my leadership role in the chapter because it’s a bit like running a small business. This is made more challenging and interesting by the reality that everyone who is involved is a volunteer.
MC: What is the hardest part of getting members involved?
DS: It takes an investment of time to be involved with AFS. That could mean a couple hours to attend a chapter meeting or more time during a year to become a committee member or chapter leader. There is a very personal return on that investment of time. I believe the greatest challenge is reaching members in a way that helps them realize the benefits of an investment of their time with AFS.
MC: What advice can your offer other AFS chapters to expand participation?
DS: Make it personal. Our world is more electronically connected than ever, however, it’s not enough to just have an updated chapter website or even well-constructed email messages to members. I believe the key to greater membership involvement is to find ways to connect on a more personal level.