Exiting gracefully

by Bryan Salvage
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Dr. George Melnykovich, who served 23 years as president and chief executive officer of the Food Processing Suppliers Association, is retiring. David Seckman will replace him in August.

"I will leave FPSA with wonderful experiences and memories," he told MEATPOULTRY.com.

When Melnykovich began his career with the Food Processing Machinery & Supplies Association in 1986, the association represented suppliers to the canning industry. Its trade show, the International Exposition for Food Processors, was still known as the "Canner’s Show" and was held concurrently with the annual convention of the National Food Processors Association, an association whose membership was dominated by canners.

"Walking into the IEFP in late January of 1987 in Chicago’s McCormick Place, one was greeted by large pavilions of can makers," he says.

But in the late 80s and early 90s, the canning industry literally imploded. "Mergers, acquisitions and consolidations reduced both the number of processors in the fruit and vegetable industry, as well as their suppliers," Melnykovich says. "My first significant challenge was to develop a strategy for FPM&SA that would help us survive our shrinking constituency."

Working with the leadership of the association, goals were set to increase membership horizontally by incorporating other food-industry sectors. One of the earliest and most successful ventures was expanding into the meat and poultry industry. "At the time, meat industry suppliers had their own association called MISA (Meat Industry Suppliers Alliance). They also were affected by the consolidation phenomena and were seeing their numbers shrink. After a couple of years of recruitment of suppliers to the meat and poultry industries, FPM&SA actually had more members serving that industry sector than did MISA."

MISA became one of the first industry councils of FPM&SA and served as a model of how to organize and serve a diverse group of suppliers to the food and beverage industry under a single management umbrella. "Industry councils are the backbone of FPSA now and the strength of its future growth and continued prosperity. I am most proud of that achievement," Melnykovich says.

His other achievements included expanding the association into significant international markets; its merger with IAFIS, which created FPSA, and FPSA’s new relationship with the Institute of Food Technologists, which begins with its 2010 show in Chicago.

An evolving association

FPSA evolved into a group serving every facet of the global food and beverage industry. FPSA’s principal product, Process Expo, had to mirror that evolution.

"Our members could no longer justify the costs of exhibiting at multiple trade shows to reach their various customer segments," he says. "The processor, as well, was in search of a trade show and educational opportunities for their employees that encompassed the whole of the food and beverage industry. This evolution led the association to various relationships with like-minded groups, our merger with IAFIS, and finally has brought us to our new relationship with the IFT."

When asked if he had any words of advice for Seckman, he replies: "When I received the appointment to be president of FPM&SA in 1986, George Koch, who was then president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, invited me to breakfast. He gave me the following advice, which I will pass along to David Seckman: Never hire an attorney on retainer; never drive a Lincoln Town Car or a Cadillac; and always give the chairman the biggest suite."

Melnykovich feels FPSA has hired a very bright, experienced and energetic leader who will have his support without a lot of advice. Melnykovich plans to serve FPSA in a consulting capacity at least through the coming year. "After that, we’ll see how it goes," he says. "If my plans to write the next great American novel fall through, there is always, ‘Welcome to Wal-Mart. How can I help you?’"

Melnykovich is most excited about the future of FPSA. "Our relationship with IFT brings us back to a meaningful relationship with a most important customer group," he says. "Our two events, the IFT Annual Conference and Food Expo and Process Expo, will be the single-most important educational and trade event in the food industry. It’s all about food and delivering that product from field to table in the most economic and safe way possible. How can you not get fired up about that?"

Admirable accomplishments

Dr. George Melnykovich has been president and CEO of FPSA and one of its predecessor associations FPM&SA since 1986. Prior to joining FPSA, he was senior vice-president of the National Grocers Association. He began his career in higher education having been a professor of Latin American Literature and Civilization at Hiram College and a Dean of Continuing Education at Kent State University. He has authored numerous academic articles and a book. He led one of the first food-industry delegations of processors and suppliers to the Soviet Union in 1989 and administered two U.S. Department of Commerce grants for market development in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. He is a regular speaker at the annual convention of the Mexican Food Processors Association (Canainca). Most recently, he negotiated FPSA’s new relationship with the Institute of Food Technologists.

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