2024 MFA Conference news

Published On: March 1, 2024Categories: News
Veteran Australian fabricator David Elliott demonstrates his unique patterning techniques before a rapt audience.

The 2024 Marine Fabricators Conference that took place Jan. 25-27 in St. Pete Beach, Fla., was bustling with energy, creativity and goodwill. With a total of 315 registrants, 65 first-time participants and 52 exhibitors, veterans and newcomers alike enjoyed the buzzing show floor, well-attended education sessions and special networking events that included a Fabricator Olympics (kudos to winner Jess Flegel, Oyster Creek Canvas), an impressive shop tour of Awning Works and an over-the-top beach-side costume party.

First-time attendee Tina Heaston, NautiLoft Custom Canvas LLC in Punta Gorda, Fla., says she particularly enjoyed the roundtable discussions which involved moving among different groups to discuss topics such as small tools, employee retention, upholstery and digital technology.

“Meeting everyone and networking was key,” says Heaston. “Learning so many different topics in a short burst of time was invaluable to me.”  

As for what she would say to someone on the fence about going to next year’s conference, “I’d say ‘Do it!’ The information and networking that you’ll receive will do nothing but help you and your business. The cost, time lost in the shop and the energy can be reproduced with your newly found friends in your networking pool. The knowledge, speed and the confidence that you gain from the classes can only benefit you in the long run!”

Jess Flegel, Oyster Creek Canvas, claims victory and a roll of Utopia from Keyston Bros. as the first-place winner of the Fabricator Olympics.

Second-year attendee Annie Mahle, owner of Georges River Canvas in Rockland, Maine, was also struck by the generosity of her fellow fabricators. “Their craft and knowledge is an inspiration and only serves to encourage me to be better every day,” says Mahle. “As a life-long learner, whether you’ve been in the business for four years, like me, or 24, 34 or 44 years, there’s always something more to learn. The fabricating we do on a daily basis can feel separate and by-yourself, but when we are all in a room together with the singular purpose of sharing and learning, there’s nothing that feels separate or alone about that!”

Mahle says this conference was very special due to the participation of veteran Australian fabricator David Elliott. “He’s a legend,” says Mahle, who vows to attend the conference each year going forward “for the sake of my business and in support of our collective good work.”