AMBA Delivers Power – Packed Conference in Michigan

By Lindsey Munson, editor, The American Mold Builder
American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) delivered a power-packed three-day conference in early March, where attendees – engaged, elevated and evolved – in Grand Rapids, Michigan, by listening to inspiring keynote speakers, collaborating at roundtable discussions with peers, actively listening at breakout sessions and networking at the sponsor exhibit. In addition, AMBA brought new experiences to the conference from an Emerging Leaders pre-con session and a “Meet the Mentor” lunch to the Byrne Tool + Design plant tour workshop.
AMBA’s commitment to tackling the tough challenges faced by mold manufacturers was present throughout the conference, and as a team, they will continue to provide its membership and the industry with the latest trends, innovative ideas and advancements in technology and connection opportunities.
At the conference, there were several empowering and positive moments and
to name a few:
  • Troy Nix, AMBA’s executive director, lowered himself into a barrel full of ice and said, “Embrace the chill of change. Here’s to breaking through the ice and elevating yourself!” His message: To get uncomfortable because when there’s discomfort that is when a person experiences growth and development, both personally and professionally.
  • Jason Hewlett, leadership expert and motivator, began singing Journey among other songs showing off his “signature moves.” According to Hewlett, “Denying these gifts to the world breaks a promise to ourselves and to those that surround us, and we each have a choice every day to bring our signature move or hide it.”
  • David Atkins, keynote motivator, confidently tapped his chest and shared with the audience, “I have the courage to face my fears, to level up my life.” Then suggestively pointed at conference attendees as if he were asking, “Do you?” His message: That there is no warm-up in life.That life is a gift and a blessing, so when fears are faced, a person becomes stronger, which in turn pushes a team, department and company to be stronger together.
AMBA is honored to deliver this Conference each year – it serves as an investment and progressive effort to equip the industry with continuous learning and education, to deliver strategies and best practices and to open the door for networking and interactions with new and old friends.

Troy Nix, AMBA Executive Director

The master of ceremonies for the AMBA Conference, Nix brought his enthusiasm, beliefs and two bags of ice to the stage with an opening address on leadership lessons. Throwing bags of ice down, he leaned into the microphone and said, “Leadership is breaking through the ice and finding the ability to enter an uncomfortable zone. Here’s to breaking through the ice and elevating yourself!” As a leader, whether in the front office or on the facility floor, it is easy to fall short in discomfort when the brain registers discomfort and signals to “stop” – this is a human’s fail-safe mechanism. It’s the brain’s trigger to stay in the “comfort zone” at all costs. When this happens, a leader sacrifices personal and professional growth. It’s important as a leader to know what it feels like to be “uncomfortable” and to learn to lean into the discomfort.

Nix said, “Research proves people who embrace discomfort

  1. do better during (life) changes;
  2. are more engaged, motivated and persistent and
  3. can be motivated when viewed as a sign of making progress.”

By embracing discomfort and leaving the easy zone, the return is priceless – it’s in the experiences gained, lessons learned and growth personally and professionally. As Nix lowered himself into a barrel filled with ice and cold water, he said, “Embrace the chill of change because this is where innovation and inspiration reside.”

Jason Hewlett, Leadership Expert and Author

Hewlett opened his keynote speech belting songs from Elton John, Journey and REO Speedwagon and, as music filled the conference room, attendees were mesmerized by his talent of sounding identical to the icons. These are his gifts – his “signature moves” – the thing that makes Hewlett uniquely him. Denying these gifts to the world breaks a promise, he explained, and we each have a choice every day to bring it or hide it. With humor and heart alongside his “signature moves,” Hewlett spoke about three areas of The Promise: Audience, Family and The One.

The Promise to Your Audience
Hewlett opened with a story about an airport shuttle driver named T.J. He said her “signature move” was her specialty in customer service, showing up every day to deliver the promise she made to her passengers – the promise of delivering “Yee-Haw” moments. “If we make a promise every single day to show up to our performance, we will change the lives of the people we interact with,” he said. “It comes down to our signature moves. Think about the promise you’ve made to each of your customers. They are your audience, and that becomes your brand promise.”

The Promise to Your Family
The promises made to the family directly influence company culture. Being a leader who is present in the day-to-day with clear intentions and a direct promise to employees (to family) will ignite them to find their signature move and put it into action. This then drives retention, business results and positive customer experiences.

The Promise to the One
Hewlett said, “We keep promises to everyone else, but not to ourselves.” The promise made to oneself should showcase the gifts and talents that make “oneself” unique. This promise should be shared with the world.

Omar Nashashibi, The Franklin Partnership

American Mold Builders Association’s lobbyist in Washington, D.C., Omar S. Nashashibi addressed the uncertainty that comes with every presidential election year through a timely update on the state of tariffs on China, how elections already are impacting tax policy and navigating the 2024 election and if it will prompt a change in direction for regulators. “The Government impacts all of US manufacturing from the in action and action that is happening, and Washington needs to hear from manufacturers,” said Nashashibi.

In addition to the update out of Washington, Troy Nix, AMBA executive director, Laurie Harbour, Wipfli (formerly Harbour Results, Inc.), and Nashashibi conducted a fireside chat on the conversations they’re having with government officials on downstream supply base readiness and the implications for US mold builders. They encouraged attendees to set their companies up for success by building a profile on AMBA’s website,, under “Find a Mold Builder Tool,” utilizing the tool opens two doors; a door for a company to be found and a door for a company to find resources. Harbour said, “It is important to be accessible; matching moldmakers with mold builders is key to the manufacturing industry.”

David Atkins, Keynote Motivator

David Atkins’ career included time spent on patrol, in investigations and undercover units with the New York State Police Department and was a first responder at Ground Zero on 9/11. While serving, he also built a million-dollar, international business with Beachbody. Adkins started his keynote by sharing, “Excuses are well-planned lies.” The ‘greats’ talk about the victor mentality, not the victim mentality.”

Atkins encouraged attendees – to make a positive change and to not leave this conference as the same person. He said, “To engage, elevate and evolve as a person … to dominate!” It is important to be intentional in being the best version of yourself, Atkins said, “… you are robbing the world of you. There is no practice in life – all we have is today!” With that, Atkins shared The P3 Framework – Your Personal Perseverance Project:

Vision – It is having the vision within oneself to live it, breathe it and make it a reality.
Mindset – A mindset that isn’t strong will let life’s circumstances dictate the response, but if flipped the learning is a person cannot control what happens, but can control the reaction. A positive mindset is a powerful tool for success.
Urgency – “It’s the start that stops most people,” said Atkins. Tomorrow is not guaranteed and there is no perfect time to start; it’s in a person actively pursuing a goal and following through.

Peer Exchanges to Engage, Elevate and Evolve the Industry

The AMBA Conference delivered a fulfilling three days for attendees offering opportunities to share in listening to seasoned mold manufacturing executives, holding peer-to-peer discussions, providing meaningful engagements at breakfast and lunch and closing the final day with a plant tour workshop at Byrne Tool + Design.

The Emerging Leaders Pre-Con Session faciliated by Kelly McDaniel, DeLisa Group, ended with a panel of seasoned mold manufacturing executives covering topics of dealing with tension and conflict, managing relationships and handling resistance to change.

The new topical rounds were 75 minutes of dialogue among peers broken down into specific topics, offering discussion on US mold manufacturing operations and the challenges being faced, best practices and new technologies.

Each day there was an allotted experience in breakout sessions, giving conference attendees time to listen to insights, advice and resources from presenters on a variety of topics ranging from business management to workforce strategies.

AMBA New Member Benefit From ITR Economics

Troy Roberts, Tolerance Tool, LLC, and Troy Nix, AMBA executive director, presented AMBA’s newest members-only resource, the ITR Economics Program, which forecasts industry conditions and improves business stability.

As of January 2024, at no cost, members of AMBA have direct access to a full, simple-to-read quarterly report provided by ITR Economics that includes the US macroeconomic outlook, general direction of the economy and analysis of five major end markets (North America Light Vehicle Production, US Total Retail Sales, US Medical Equipment and Supplies Production, US Private Nonresidential Construction and US Agriculture, Construction and Mining Machinery Production).

To access the AMBA member-only webinar recording on the ITR Economics Program from Tuesday, May 21, 2024, visit

Photos courtesy of Jimmy Renallo, Creative Technology,