From the Editor: The Power of Associations

In-plant Graphics Editor Bob Neubauer

I read a LinkedIn discussion last month questioning whether industry associations still provide any value in this interconnected age, where social media and video conferencing seem to have made physical meetings obsolete. Thanks to Google, some argued, people no longer rely on associations for technical data and guidance.

The topic sprang from the news that Printing Industries of America was downsizing: cutting staff, selling its training/testing facility and replacing its on-site training program with distance learning. But I thought of it again when I learned that the 36-year-old National Government Publishing Association was planning to merge with the larger In-plant Printing and Mailing Association.

I’ve attended NGPA conferences since 1995 and witnessed its decline from a strong gathering of state printing directors to a small meeting attended by less than a dozen members. The decision to integrate into IPMA was a wise one, and will give NGPA members access to better educational sessions, more networking possibilities and a much wider variety of exhibitors at the conference. (And with one less in-plant conference to support, vendors are no doubt pleased with this move as well.)

Still, the question hangs in the air: do we need associations any more? Ever since e-mail took over our workdays, attendance at IPMA chapter meetings has dwindled, as managers realized they could get answers from listservs rather than giving up their evenings to rub elbows with peers.

Yet what of the unexpected discoveries we make when engaging in spontaneous conversation with fellow managers? An off-the-cuff remark by a manager about a new idea he is trying may light a spark in your mind and inspire you to try something similar in your shop.

When I mingle during mealtimes at conferences, I hear dozens of such conversations. At ACUP last spring, managers who had never looked beyond ink on paper were fired up to add T-shirt printing after seeing a demo of Anajet’s printer. That excitement of discovery is something an e-mail can never stir.

Related story: Restructuring at Printing Industries of America (Includes Follow-up Interview with CEO Michael Makin)

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