3 Questions with … Angelia Erbaugh, president, DRMA

Inspired by her members, Erbaugh leads association through recession and better times.

If you go:

What: Advanced Manufacturing Technology Show

When: Wednesday, Oct. 21 and Thursday, Oct. 22

Where: Dayton Airport Expo Center, 3900 McCauley Drive, Vandalia.

For more information: www.daytonrma.org

Angelia Erbaugh sat in her Dayton Convention Center office and held up a pen.

“How does someone sell this for 79 cents,” said the president of Dayton Region Manufacturers Association (DRMA).

Good question.

How do entrepreneurs pull together materials, labor, distribution, technical know-how, market savvy and a hundred other strengths and intangibles to make something people are willing to buy?

It’s what manufacturers — and Dayton itself — have been doing for hundreds of years.

For 18 years, Erbaugh has led the DRMA, the local trade association and voice for Dayton-area manufacturers of all stripes and sizes.

Some of those years have been challenging, to say the least. Erbaugh was at the association’s helm during the Great Recession when it seemed layoffs and business closings were daily events. She has sought to dispel stubborn misconceptions about what manufacturing is today, encouraging local companies to open their doors to students and parents, to show that assembly lines and dead-end jobs no longer rule the roost.

Erbaugh has weathered the storm, in other words. And so have her members.

“They’ve had to be nimble,” she said. “They’ve had to reinvent themselves.”

DRMA’s annual trade show will be Oct. 21 and 22 at the Dayton Airport Expo Center in Vandalia. We talked about that and more recently. This is edited and condensed.

Q: Your signature event is coming up. Tell me about it.

Erbaugh: "What's exciting this year is that we have a record number of sales. Which means that we have a record number of exhibitors — about 173 exhibitors. And people are still calling every day, which kind of blows our minds. …

“We use the show to provide 40 percent of our income for the year. Every trade association struggles to figure out what other revenue streams they can generate in addition to dues because they can’t live on dues alone. So this is one of the things that the IRS allows trade associations to do without being taxed on that income.

“It indicates there is a lot of enthusiasm for manufacturing from the businesses. Suppliers are the exhibitors; manufacturers are the attendees. If suppliers weren’t feeling optimistic about being able to sell their stuff, they wouldn’t be interested in exhibiting this show.”

Q: How did you come to DRMA?

Erbaugh: "I spent 10 years in the banking industry. … The lady I worked for was really phenomenal. And actually, she left banking, and she bought a tool-and-die shop — just coincidentally. But while she was still at the bank, I was riding up the elevator with her. I was watching her; she was so passionate about what she was doing, as far as her lending. I said, 'I want to find something as inspiring to do.'

“I did well. But it was not me. Somebody told me about this lady who did things like that in small businesses. I met her, interviewed with her, she hired me. That was Antoinette Lucente (president of Blue Gill Consulting Group) who had the contract to manage our association (from 1991-2000).

“I left for two years, helped a friend of mine do a start-up business. During that time, the board, under the direction of Dave Dysinger, said, ‘Really, if we want to grow this thing the way we want to, we need full-time attention.’

“They sought me out, asked me if I would be interested.”

Q: After 18 years, what inspires you? What drives you every day?

Erbaugh: "I love my job. I have 18 years more work to do. Why I love it: No. 1, I'm a good project manager. I can keep 17 balls in the air at one time. It just fits my skill set.

“But what inspires me about this is: I love manufacturing. I love the minds of people who can make something out of nothing, put together all the processes it takes to do that — and they make a buck out of it. It’s fascinating to me. These people inspire me.”

Know someone who can handle Three Questions? We're looking for behind-the-scenes-but-still fascinating Miami Valley residents with something to say. Send your suggestions to tom.gnau@coxinc.com.

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