In Its Seventh Year, Product Responsibility Summit Continues Its Impressive Run

Over the past seven years, PPAI’s Product Responsibility Summit has brought industry leaders together with policy makers, regulatory specialists and thought leaders to focus on the pressing business implications, challenges and opportunities associated with compliance. The 2017 Summit, held in September in Newport Beach, California, was no exception. More than 175 professionals responsible for ensuring the safety and compliance of the promotional products they sell gathered at Newport Beach’s Duke Hotel to share, discuss and better understand how to manufacture, source, ship and sell safe products.

“I’m so proud of the pioneering role that PPAI has played in educating the industry and raising the awareness of product safety and compliance for branded promotional products,” says Rick Brenner, MAS+, president of RFBrenner, LLC, and co-chair of the Summit. “I want to recognize and thank all the members of PPAI’s Product Responsibility Action Group, our intensely committed volunteers who originally conceived this event so many years ago and who work tirelessly on behalf of all PPAI members. Your efforts have spawned so many product responsibility initiatives that our industry relies on, including our Code of Conduct and PPAI’s exceptional Product Safety Aware program.”

The Summit’s speaker lineup, representing a range of experts from inside and outside the industry, tackled a diverse variety of key topics such as Prop 65, working conditions at production partners, what end buyers are looking for, the latest from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), small-business compliance challenges, factory audits, import surveillance and more.

“By any measure, this year’s Summit was superb,” says Gene Geiger, MAS, co-chair of the Summit and CEO of distributor Geiger. “Because of our California location, we placed a special emphasis on [information about] bringing goods into the U.S. and the coming changes to California Prop 65, but the overall content was very wide ranging and relevant.”

CPSC Chair Ann Marie Buerkle joined the Summit through video conference, speaking on the CPSC’s role, her philosophy and her expectations for the future. She opened her address by telling attendees, “It’s the entrepreneurial spirit of organizations like PPAI that make this country great, and it is the hard work and sacrifice of people like yourselves that keep the American dream alive and well.

“Participating in a seminar such as this demonstrates your commitment to and understanding of the importance of product safety. This is an organization that gets the gold star for product safety education and awareness.”

Leeton Lee, founder of consulting firm ComplyBox and a member of PPAI’s Product Responsibility Action Group, says, “I can’t believe this is our seventh Summit, and it keeps getting better in every way. The presentations and speakers have been superb, and we believe the binder that is given to each attendee is the best one we’ve ever created for suppliers and distributors."

On its final day, the Summit took about 110 of its attendees out on the open water for a guided tour of the Port of Long Beach. Ken Uriu, business development manager, import cargo, at the Port of Long Beach, had closed the Summit schedule the day before with an overview of the port’s operations. Uriu’s presentation painted a vivid picture of the tremendous scale of modern ocean freight, and on the boat tour he returned to guide attendees through an up-close look at the massive machines and infrastructure behind the facility.

“We educate groups like yours to showcase the cargo coming through our port,” says Uriu. “It’s the best port complex in the U.S., and every import coming through here means more jobs for the local community.” The Port of Long Beach is the second busiest in the nation. Served by 140 shipping lines and connected to 237 seaports around the world, more than $180 billion in trade passes through the port each year. Uriu gave tour participants an overview of the companies and services behind those numbers, and how the port and the shipping industry have evolved over the years and where it’s going.

PPAI Board Chair Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS, adds, “I was impressed by the collective expertise in the room, and to see service provider experts and industry leaders work together and share best practices in the product responsibility arena to make our entire industry better throughout the supply chain. Our work in product responsibility is unmatched, and the benefit to all stakeholders is but one of the reasons why associations like PPAI exist.

“There are some things that we cannot do as individuals—we must come together in a collaborative fashion to accomplish meaningful outcomes for those who trust their brands in our hands. The product responsibility space is one of them,” she says. “Those who attended Summit went home with tools and ideas that will assist and improve their individual businesses and this entire industry today, tomorrow and beyond.”


PPAI Welcomes Terry Ramsay To The Publications Team

Terry Ramsay has joined PPAI as associate editor on the Association’s publications team. Ramsay has experience writing for print and digital publications as well as in marketing communications, digital production and social media. She was previously with the Autism Society of North Carolina and the financial institution BB&T.

As associate editor of PPB, Ramsay is responsible for producing several of the magazine’s product and profile sections, plays a vital role in its editorial process and manages the publications website. She is also co-liaison to the Editorial Advisory Committee.

PPB sat down with Ramsay to learn more about the newest member of the Association’s team.

PPB: What was your professional background before joining the association?
Terry Ramsay: I worked as a freelance writer and marketing consultant in a variety of different industries, including nonprofit, financial services, education and tech. Prior to that, I worked in communications for the Autism Society of North Carolina. This position required a lot of writing but also necessitated a “jack-of-all- trades” mentality, including jumping in to help with marketing planning and event management for our annual conference.

PPB: What attracted you to your new position within the Association?
Ramsay: At heart, I am a writer and grammar nerd, so I was excited about the opportunity to contribute to PPAI’s communications, and especially to PPB. I worked in traditional and digital marketing for years, so I was also excited to learn about the promotional products industry, which is relatively new to me.

PPB: What are your initial objectives for the position?
Ramsay: I have been very impressed with the level of expertise at PPAI, so my initial objective is to learn as much as possible from the professionals around me.

PPB: Outside of PPAI, what are your interests?
Ramsay: I love to hang out with my husband and two daughters. We are an active family, so we enjoy playing tennis, riding bikes and snow skiing. When we travel, we like to try new activities such as hiking local spots or taking surfing lessons. I’m also an avid reader.

Ramsay can be reached at or 972-258-3091.


Kates, Pottebaum And Hagan To Join PPAI Board

In September, PPAI members elected Lori Kates, president of IMAGEN Brands, and Todd Pottebaum, MAS+, president of Quality Resource Group, Inc., to the PPAI Board of Directors. PPAI has also appointed Jim Hagan, CEO of City of Industry, California-based supplier Sweda Company, LLC, to the at-large- director position for the PPAI Board of Directors. Kates and Pottebaum will begin their four-year terms, and Hagan his two-year term, immediately following The PPAI Expo 2018 in January.

IMAGEN Brands is the parent company of suppliers Crown Products and Vitronic, and Kates has worked in the promotional products industry for more than 21 years. In that time, she has served on the PPAI Professional Development Committee and PPAI Market Research Committee, and has been involved in the Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF). Kates has also devoted her time to participating in professional development events including the North American Leadership Conference, Women’s Leadership Conference, the PromoKitchen Mentor Program and the ASI Power Summit. She is a 2013 recipient of the ASI Supplier Woman of Distinction honor and has been recognized by the ASI Power 50 program four years in a row.

Pottebaum has spent 17 years working in promotional products and has served as committee member and chair of the PPAI Market Research Committee and as a speaker at several PPAI Expo education events. A member of Upper Midwest Association of Promotional Professionals, Pottebaum has served as president, vice president, treasurer and secretary as well as a board
member, volunteer chair and co-chair for the regional association’s End Buyer Expo. In 2015, he was named UMAPP Volunteer of the Year.

Hagan has been with Sweda since 2001, has served as chair of the Sweda board since 2015 and assumed the role of CEO last January. He is responsible for overseeing the company’s sales, operations and financial performance. Before becoming chair and CEO, he was president and CEO from 2007 to 2015, and prior to that, from 2001 to 2006 he served as vice president of sales.

The board of directors is the governing body for PPAI and plays a major role in directing its strategic activities, adopting policies and approving budgets to carry out the work of the Association. PPAI’s incoming board members bring diverse backgrounds and experiences to the Association’s volunteer leadership. Read more in the December issue when PPB sits down with each new director for their take on industry issues.


PPAI Names Ellen Tucker Director Of Business Development

PPAI has promoted Ellen Tucker to director of business development. Tucker joined the Association as its business development manager in 2014, bringing a strong background in management and advertising, and experience working with associations, to the role.

In her new position, Tucker will continue to oversee several initiatives within the Association, including sponsorship and advertising opportunities surrounding The PPAI Expo and PPAI’s publications. She will also work to develop new options for industry companies and avenues for PPAI to partner and collaborate with industry groups and associations in the marketing industry.

PPB recently spoke with Tucker on her new position and her expectations for the role.

PPB: What excites you about your new position within the Association?
Ellen Tucker: I am excited to take a fresh look at PPAI’s Distributor Engagement Program as well as to begin taking a more active role in driving ideas for new partnerships, both within and outside the industry.

PPB: In your view, how does your position fit within PPAI’s goal of serving its members?
Tucker: One of the responsibilities of this position is to develop, evaluate and drive most of PPAI’s non-dues revenue. This revenue helps to fund PPAI programs that help PPAI’s members on many levels, from education to lobbying.

PPB: What are your plans for your first 90 days in the position?
Tucker: To evaluate our Distributor Engagement Program with the goal of growing the program as well as tailoring it to each of the trade shows.

PPB: Outside of PPAI, what are your interests?
Tucker: I love to travel, both internationally and within the States; and soccer, both continuing to play as an adult and watching. I am also a diehard Green Bay Packers fan.

Tucker can be reached at or 972-258-3095.