Jayne Fifer, president and CEO of the Volusia Manufacturers Association, holds a sticker made for the group's 40th anniversary this year at her Ormond Beach home on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. The coronavirus pandemic forced the VMA's planned 40th anniversary celebrations to be postponed until 2021 but the group still plans to hold its annual golf tournament in November and its annual awards event will be held virtually via video in December.
By Clayton Park
Published at 2:01 pm ET Oct. 22, 2020
Jayne Fifer had big plans to celebrate the Volusia Manufacturers Association's 40th anniversary this year. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit.
The membership organization wound up having to cancel a slew of events including several planned for October to coincide with Florida Manufacturing Month. They included what would have been the second annual VMA Robot Brawl as well as "Women in Manufacturing" events that were to be held at various schools throughout Volusia and Flagler counties.
"We started the year with a lot of optimism," said Fifer, the association's CEO. "Membership was at an all-time high with 210 corporate members and we were beating all of our numbers. A lot of our member companies were also saying they expected to have their best year ever. Then the pandemic hit in March. That's when they shut a lot of businesses down, the schools and everything.
"This great plan (to celebrate the VMA's 40th anniversary and Florida Manufacturing Month) suddenly went nowhere."
The association will still hold its 10th annual Lou Fifer Education Scholarship Golf Tournament named after Fifer's late husband, the VMA's first CEO, who died in 2009. But that event which was originally going to be held in May will now take place at LPGA International Golf Course on Nov. 13 under strict coronavirus safety guidelines.
Jayne Fifer, left, president and CEO of the Volusia Manufacturers Association, and Frank Mercer of Daytona State College, lead attendees at last year's VMA's awards gala in chanting "We will, we will rock you, VMA" in December 2019. This year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the gala will be held Dec. 3, 2020, as a virtual event via video.
And the annual VMA awards gala that last year packed the ballroom at The Plaza Resort & Spa in Daytona Beach with 250 attendees will be held this year via video as a virtual event on Dec. 3, from noon to 1:30 p.m.
But by canceling or at least postponing and/or drastically altering its events this year, the VMA wound up finding another way to prove its value to members.
"I decided the VMA should focus on doing what it does best: helping members connect with one another," Fifer said.
Case in point: when one of the VMA's member companies, American Radionics in Palm Coast finally got the go-ahead to reopen its plant, its top local executive Artie Loeffler realized he didn't have a heat thermometer to take employees' temperatures before being allowed in every day at the start of their shift.
Fortunately, another member company, Germfree in Ormond Beach, had an extra one to give to Loeffler, said Fifer.
Loeffler also happens to be the VMA's 2020 board chair.
Fifer said the association is now hoping to hold the Robot Brawl in February 2021, but added that it's anyone's guess at this point whether it can happen then with the pandemic still raging.
"We had a lot of teachers and students wanting to be involved," she said. Last year's inaugural Robot Brawl drew more than 1,000 people to cheer on the 18 student teams from schools in both Volusia and Flagler counties.
As far as the VMA's 40th anniversary celebrations, Fifer said the association's board decided to hold them in 2021, keeping their fingers crossed that a vaccine for COVID-19 will become widely available sometime in the new year.
The good news, Fifer said, is that while the VMA was formed in November 1980, it didn't officially file incorporation papers with the State of Florida until November of the following year.
And because the VMA holds its annual membership drive in November each year, it has yet to lose any members this year because all paid their dues for the full year before the pandemic began.
This year's membership drive for 2021 begins Nov. 15.
She also noted the fact that this year's rescheduled VMA golf tournament is now going to be held in November on Friday the 13th.
"We're hoping for some good luck," she said.
For more information about the Volusia Manufacturers Association including the golf tournament and annual awards event, visit its website at vmaonline.com or call Fifer at 386-212-4003.
Jayne Fifer, president and CEO of the Volusia Manufacturers Association, pictured on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, holds up one of the posters she had printed up to be displayed in Volusia and Flagler County schools this year to celebrate local women in manufacturing to inspire students to follow in their footsteps. The onset of the coronavirus pandemic forced the VMA to put those plans on hold, at least for now.
Clayton Park is business editor of The Daytona Beach News-Journal. He can be reached at [email protected]