Saturday Feb 04, 2023

A Farewell Chat with AEM President Dennis Slater – Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM)


When AEM President Dennis Slater announced his retirement earlier this year, the decision was met with a great detail of support and gratitude from association staff, member company representatives and industry peers. For nearly 40 years, Slater has worked on behalf of equipment manufacturers and the customers they serve, and his efforts and accomplishments have left a firm and lasting footprint across AEM and throughout the industry at-large.

Now, as his retirement draws near, AEM caught up with Slater to discuss his earliest years with the association, his hopes for AEM’s future, what his role as President has meant to him and much, much more.  

AEM: How did you get your start with AEM, and what were your earliest years with the association like?

Slater: My time at the association began working as a publications editor – writing press releases, writing the newsletter that has since transformed into the AEM Industry Advisor and talking to the media.

It was a job I held for about three years, and then, one day, the gentleman who ran the CONEXPO trade show left the association. Even though I have never even attended CONEXPO before, I went into the boss’s office and asked if I could be the person to run it. Well, he laughed at me, and so I went home and told my wife, “I think I made a major career mistake.” Then, the next day, he gave me the job. From there, I really started learning the business of trade shows. That was 1985, and my first CONEXPO was two years later – in 1987.

And when I think back to my early years, I’m always reminded of the fact that we were such a small group. When I started with the association in 1982, we employed 15 people and one person in Washington, D.C. Our work primarily dealt with statistics, technical work and meetings. And, of course, we had the CONEXPO show. But in those days, it was held once only every six years and, as amazing as this sounds today, it was the only show we had.

As I gained experience in running CONEXPO, I really learned to like my role and worked to bring in additional people to help. I also realized a once-every-six-year trade show wasn’t good for the industry, and so I worked to develop the merger that eventually formed what is CONEXPO-CON/AGG today. It’s a long story, and there’s certainly more to it, but that’s how I went from being a writer to being someone who runs trade shows for the organization.

AEM: You’ve spent the last two-plus decades as President of AEM. What has that role meant to you, and what are you most proud of accomplishing?

Slater:  One thing comes to mind above all others. It was about two years into my presidency at the Construction Industry Manufacturers Association (CIMA) that the effort to form AEM really got traction. Being one of the architects of forming AEM is something I am really proud of, as it required bringing together two organizations in CIMA and Equipment Manufacturers Institute (EMI) to form AEM as an organization that represents the entire industry. So, to me, when you consider everything that’s happened in my career, the formation of AEM has to be the biggest accomplishment.

However, I also have to mention our advocacy …….


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