The Coalition of New England Companies for Trade held its first conference 17 years ago in Mystic, Conn., with just 80 attendees. It has grown to have an expected Newport audience this week of up to 275 professionals interested in learning new best practices to confront challenges centered on business importing and exporting.
The 17th annual Northeast Trade & Transportation Conference on April 2-4 will feature first-time educational components and a keynote address presented live via webcast.
“This conference is critical for Rhode Island for so many reasons,” said Karen Kenney, COO of Liberty International Inc., and chairman of the board for the coalition. “The Trade & Transportation conference in Newport is a ‘must’ for Rhode Island importers and exporters.” This year marks the 15th conference held in Newport, which Carol Turner, executive director of the coalition, said is a “great in-between” location for members who come from northern New England, New York and New Jersey. The Hyatt Regency Hotel on Goat Island is this year’s main meeting venue.
“That first meeting showed us the value of face-to-face meetings,” Turner said. “People don’t always want to do business by phone or email. They need to get away from the office setting and meet their suppliers, buyers, peers and colleagues in person to exchange their stories and solutions.”
The two-and-a-half day conference will feature dozens of trade and transportation executives to cover, through lectures, panel discussions, town hall style meetings, and an off-the-record session, on important industry issues.
This year’s conference program has been lengthened by half a day, which Turner said could be the reason for an uptick in the average 240-person attendance.
She said the coalition also has added more a-la-carte-type packages so that professionals could choose to attend only the portions of the conference they needed.
“In this economy, it’s important to offer many options,” Turner said. “So, there are more people registering for just one day or the other, rather than choosing between the whole conference package or nothing.”
Speakers will include executives from major U.S. importing and exporting companies, including Ocean Spray and Staples, the Wine & Spirits Shippers Association, The Gem Group and Hasbro Inc.
Steve Silva, senior vice president of global logistics for Hasbro, will take part in a panel discussion on “Current Issues Facing Stakeholders in Ocean Transportation” that will cover topics including overcapacity and its pricing impact, acquiring supply-chain talent, and sourcing strategies in a changing global environment.