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Friday, February 8, 2013

AN ALPHABET SOUP OF ASSOCIATIONS

Over the past several months, John Stewart has launched a new association for the printing industry, The National Print Owners Association (NPOA). The graphic arts industry needs another association like an octopus needs another arm. I predict that, like early  models of the Ford Motor car, it will sputter, emit smoke and fumes and stall out. Having written or published in a dozen industries, I have learned that associations are an integral part of the business equation. I remember ALI (laundry), NSGA (sporting goods), NCDA (dry cleaning), NHCA  (hairdressers), and API (paper). .  Each had its own focus, whether technology, marketing education or economics. But in 1979 I was unprepared for the number of associations serving the printing market. There were  three national printer alliances 34 years ago, Printing Industries of America (PIA), Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF), and National Association of Printers and Lithographers (NAPL) Serving vendors was the National Equipment and Supplies group (NPES) Topping off the social network of the industry were scores of Craftsmen and Litho clubs in virtually every major city. Hoping to learn more about the biggest, I called Rod  Borum, president of PIA, located, at the time, in Arlington, Virginia. He and his sidekick, Randy Shingler invited me to visit. "Plan on spending two days here. We've planned a rigid schedule for you to meet with all  of our top people," I was told.

It was a jam-packed couple of days. At the time there were eight special industry groups (SIG's) and I spent time with each of the heads of those organizations, including Government Affairs, Web Offset, Electronic and one for marketing executives (GAMIS). And I can't forget a group aimed at envelope producers. PIA, at the time, had 33 local affiliates (sources tell me, what with mergers and shrinkage, there are only 23 today and PIA membership is approximately half of what it was at its peak) The SIG's have also dwindled down to a precious few. I asked many questions and Rod and Randy were straightforward with their answers. Income came from 13 percent of dues paid to local affiliates along with revenues from a major conference that appeared to be nothing more than a tax deductible vacation for its members. PIA was not actually an association, it was a confederation, with the strength of the organization provided by the local affiliates to which its members belonged. There was no question that PIA had the greatest membership and the best connections with the larger printing firms.

My next stop was Pittsburgh to visit with Gil Basset, who headed GATF. The association was focused on technical executives, but had membership of less than a thousand. I decided it didn't offer the relationship that could benefit GAM  Next stop, Teaneck New Jersey, home of NAPL. I met with Bill Lamparter, a well spoken guy who  knew what he was talking about. He gave me the history and the mission of the association in a stentorian voice.  In addition to members' dues, NAPL managed  and co-owned  with PIA Graph Expo,  an annual conference that  most of our advertisers exhibited. NAPL organized and sold booth space, taking  a management fee off the top, splitting whatever profit remained with PIA.I it appeared that a solid relationship with the group might be just what GAM needed. Just as we concluding our session, Phil Battaglio, who had heard I was visiting and barreled in  to ask me to stop in his office before I left.

Phil explained that every five years a Print Show was held. The profits were divided between PIA, NAPL and  NPES, the manufacturers' association.. He asked if we had the same arrangement as in the past. "What arrangement is that," I queried. Phil informed me that Dick Lewis had been working with him for years, and bartered four pages of advertising for a booth. Naturally I asked about the cost of a booth. It was $1500 for the space we had reserved. I was astonished. Four pages in four colors totaled $20,000. "I'll tell you what, you buy the advertising and I'll buy the booth. He started ranting,  his voice becoming louder with each word, while his face became redder. "That's the deal I agreed on with Dick Lewis!", he demanded. "Dick Lewis is no longer with us," I said over my shoulder as I left his office. Because of his tirade, the decision was made to foster a relationship with PIA. But, like every politician, I reserved the right to change my position as the years passed. (Monday's blog will recount just how much PRINT 80 contributed to GAM's bottom  line. As Frank Sinatra used to sing, "It was A Very Good Year.")