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AEM president takes measure of 2022

Megan Tanel recaps her first year in the leadership role and looks ahead to CONEXPO-Con/AGG 2023

Megan Tanel speaks behind a podium
AEM President Megan Tanel Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM)

The past year has been filled with numerous challenges for the heavy equipment manufacturing industry including economic inflation, labour shortages, supply chain delays, and more. Since becoming president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) on January 1, 2022, Megan Tanel has steered the association and its members through these challenges, picking up a few victories along the way. She has clear priorities for 2023 and beyond when it comes to CONEXPO-CON/AGG, infrastructure, and technology.

Tanel knows full well AEM's core mission of advancing the business goals of construction and agriculture equipment manufacturers in the global marketplace. She originally joined AEM in the mid-90s and has previously led AEM's exhibitions and events initiatives, including the launch of World of Asphalt in 2001, and served as senior vice president, construction and utility sector before becoming president.

Tanel says the year has moved at a fast pace, and her transition into the role has been smooth. She was able to hit the ground running thanks in large part to the staff at AEM and an engaging and supportive membership. Her tenure as president began as the world was emerging from the pandemic, AEM was bringing staff back to the office, and the industry was dealing with numerous issues that were causing manufacturing and delivery delays.

Tanel says, "To be quite honest, the mood around here was pretty intense. Coming in, I didn't need to continue to rock the boat as much as it's been rocked lately. I just came in wanting to calm the waters a little bit, keep our momentum, and keep our focus where it needed to be."

AEM faces range of industry challenges in 2022 

A significant challenge this year was chip and semiconductor availability for manufacturers. Tanel says one of the major legislative victories of the year has been the passage in the U.S. of the Creating Helpful Incentives for Production of Semiconductors for America Act (CHIPS). It aims to spur investments in domestic semiconductor manufacturing capacity.

Manufacturers also continue to struggle to attract a skilled workforce. According to Tanel, 78 percent of respondents to AEM's CEO survey assert that a shortage of skilled labour is responsible for delaying production. While keeping track of labour shortage data and trends is important, Tanel also considers the bigger picture. "When it comes to workforce, every industry seems to be hurting to find workers, and I think a lot of that wraps around the perception of your industry. For us, it's making sure that people understand what our industries provide: safe working environments, a working wage, and new technologies. We can start telling a better story about ourselves and what we offer to future employees. We need to blow that up beyond just high school students and make sure their parents understand how valuable it is to have a job in manufacturing."

Also of concern is global competition - especially when it comes to doing business with China whether it is the sale of Chinese-made equipment in North America, or being able to sell domestic manufactured equipment in China. Tanel explains, "We just completed a CEO survey and of our CEOs that responded, 84 percent believe that China's unfair trade and investment practices are preventing American companies from competing on a level playing field. I don't see that being much different within Canada. Thirty-nine percent of those respondents said that the Chinese government and its trade practices, including intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer, and unfair subsidies continue to pose just enormous, long-term challenges for our companies." 

Repairing or replacing aging roads and bridges remains a top priority. "There are major safety concerns with a number of our roads and bridges, and we need to bring those up to the level that they need to be," Tanel says. The passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill in the U.S. offers renewed enthusiasm in addressing not only crumbling roadways and bridges, but also connectivity and developing a robust rural broadband network.

Looking ahead to CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2023

CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2023 is on track to have the largest exhibit footprint of any CONEXPO. More than 1,800 exhibitors are expected to participate covering nearly 251,000 square metres of exhibit space at the Las Vegas Convention Center. More than 150 education sessions will be presented by industry experts and AEM staff. 

A new awards program will debut at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2023. The Next Level Award will recognize innovations that make a difference in the construction industry - companies that push the envelope to create next-level products, technologies, and services. The criteria for the award are products that:

  • Address a common industry need in a unique and innovative way;
  • Benefit the industry across multiple applications for industry-wide adoption; and
  • Positively impact the safety, sustainability, and workforce of the industry.

Ten finalists will be chosen by a panel of Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) members based on innovation, application, engineering, scalability, and impact. 

Show attendees will have the opportunity to visit the Next Level Award finalists' booths and vote for the Contractor's Choice Award. 

There is no denying Tanel's enthusiasm as she wraps up her first year as AEM president. She looks to the future saying, "I think the biggest thing is the resilience of our members that has really shone through with this pandemic. The last time many of us were together was at CONEXPO 2020, and the world literally shut down. We transitioned immediately to make sure that our industries and every aspect of our industries were deemed essential. I think that really helped to keep many people employed, kept manufacturing going, and kept the ability to maintain our roads and bridges to be as safe as possible. But we have a lot of work to continue to do and I'm looking forward to working with our membership and their customers and our staff to accomplish the strategic plan we're in and not to slow down as we launch our next strategic plan."

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6737 West Washington Street, Suite 2400
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March 14-18, 2023
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