1/27/2020 | 4 MINUTE READ

Meet Cate Smith, PMPA’s New Executive Director

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Cate Smith was recently named the executive director of PMPA. She brings to the table a range of experience relating to professional association management.


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This month's Last Word is a discussion with the Precision Machined Products Association's (PMPA's) new executive director, Cate Smith. Ms. Smith started her role with the association on Dec. 2, 2019.

PM: Please give us some of your background story and how your previous experience can carry over, first, to directorial duties of the association, and second, to contributions to the precision machined parts industry as a whole.

My 22 previous years in professional association management have been an ideal preparation for this position with PMPA. In school, I was always involved in extracurricular student organizations, but had no idea that my interest in bringing people together for a common good could end up being a

Cate Smith, executive director, PMPA


My legal training (I have a law degree) taught me to think methodically and communicate clearly, and my work in association management has been focused on building collaborative relationships and seeking efficient spending for the benefit of the membership and the budget. My master’s degree (in public administration) provided me additional insight that may help with endeavors involving external partners and government relations.

I have completed a certificate in Cooperative Selling and have one class left for a Training and Development Certificate. These will certainly help us grow membership and programming in the future. Finally, manufacturing has been the foundation of my family’s history.


PM: What do you view as the most intriguing part of this position that perhaps made you feel like you're in the right place at the right time?


I was very intrigued by the new relationship with Gardner Business Media (through its new Gardner Metalworking Association Services division) and how I might fully serve PMPA while also having a future positive influence on other similarly situated organizations. I want to build a culture of cooperation and see this potential within PMPA and through Gardner, to other associations. But the most intriguing aspect is my return to manufacturing.



My maternal grandfather was a burly, hard working, tobacco-spitting machinist in Pennsylvania with hands each the size of a junior baseball glove. I have a photo of him in my office running an eight-spindle Acme. My father worked in the steel industry for almost 40 years and often described his start as “sweeping floors in the machine shop” before ultimately working his way into upper management. To help support myself in college, I worked in a steel mill each summer where I enjoyed the hard work and camaraderie, as well as the idea of making steel used to make things that people needed.

The first day I came into the PMPA office to meet the staff happened to be the third anniversary of my father’s death. That same afternoon I found a pencil in my desk from the career tech school where my husband works; a school 30 miles away from the PMPA office. Altogether, the shivers I felt almost took my breath away, and I knew that despite the hurdle of learning about precision machining ahead of me, I was where I was meant to be; carrying on the family tradition in a new way.

PM: What do you see as your first steps in getting to know the industry better, including its major players, and more specifically, PMPA's member companies?

Before the proverbial ink was dry on the offer to become the executive director, I attended the afternoon sessions of the Tech Talk held in Cleveland at the Lorain County Community College. I attended incognito so I wouldn’t interrupt the sessions and divert attention from the learning process. There is also no limit to the information I’ve been able to read at the office and take with me as part of my self-imposed homework.

As part of my continuing quest for knowledge and desire to be more fluid in my understanding of precision machining I have recently started the prerequisite Introduction to Manufacturing course at my local adult career center, then plan to take Introduction to CNC. I am looking forward to visiting PMPA shops to learn from members first-hand.

PM: Tell us about upcoming PMPA events. What should we get excited about for 2020 and beyond?

I am excited to see everything that PMPA does in the coming year and beyond! I am very impressed with the services we offer to our members daily and can see that membership is an investment with positive returns. The meetings and events have been designed to be sure that throughout the year we are meeting the business and technical needs of our various categories of members so that in addition to helping their bottom line we are helping the future of the industry.

The recent Tech Talks, single day seminars to encourage dialogue and chapter activity in a geographical area, have been well received. I hope to see these improve and multiply or perhaps create an economical hybrid model which may include an element of simulcasting with the live meeting.

PMPA is offering an exciting Mastery Program this year. The program consists of three different bus tours visiting shops and suppliers in our industry. It will start immediately after the National Technical Conference (NTC) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The second trip will be in the Toledo/Detroit area, and the third trip will be after the NTC 2021 in Cleveland. With Miles Free as the tour guide, the value of the exposure and knowledge that the attendees will gain is immeasurable.

I am looking forward to working with the staff at both PMPA and GMAS. So far, I have experienced a very collaborative and welcoming atmosphere.