By Lucie Passus
During quarter 4 of 2013, GMA’s parent organization, the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), underwent some reorganizational changes and Andrew Aho, formerly GMA’s managing director and a regular contributor to this column, was named IFAI’s director of membership and divisions. As a result, I now have the pleasure of managing GMA and contributing to this column in each issue of Geosynthetics.
In November 2013, the GMA executive council* convened in Atlanta for a one-day strategic planning session to lay the groundwork and vision for GMA’s future. As part of this meeting, council members reviewed and assessed GMA’s activities for the past year:
- In April 2013, GMA contributed to the organization of the very successful Geosynthetics 2013 conference in Long Beach, Calif. The event attracted more than 1, 200 attendees and 120 exhibitors, the most ever for this biennial conference and the largest show floor to-date.
- In 2013, GMA’s federal government relations program continued to make inroads in the halls of Congress. With the support of key members of Congress, GMA was able to include the following language in the House Bill for the Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA): The Secretary, to the extent practicable, shall encourage the use of durable, resilient, and sustainable materials and practices, including the use of geosynthetic materials and innovative technologies, in carrying out the activities of the Corps of Engineers. At the time of this writing, the WRRDA bill was still in conference committee (i.e., both versions from the Senate and House bills were being reconciled) with a vote that was expected in January 2014 (GMA was been actively working to protect the House language).
- 2013 was also the start of GMA’s State and Local Advocacy Program, as GMA members met with officials from departments of transportation and state environmental protection agencies in Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and Texas. GMA and the message it carried were well received and all six states expressed interest in continued dialogues with GMA for potential partnerships.
The success of any strategic planning session lies in leaving the meeting with a good roadmap for the future and, as such, the GMA executive council identified several key areas essential to growing and expanding the geosynthetic industry, including:
- continue building on the government relations accomplishments at the federal and state/local levels.
- develop effective marketing and communication materials for the geosynthetics industry.
- update written materials and industry coursework, particularly in the public and educational sectors, to be more inclusive of geosynthetic materials and innovations.
As we head into 2014, and in alignment with the goals set out by the GMA executive council:
- GMA will visit the Pennsylvania and North Carolina DOTs.
- partner with the Texas and Virginia DOTs to host several NAGS/GMA short courses for their staffs and other engineers, contractors, and distributors.
- continue working with the Federal Highway Administration on completing a series of geosynthetic installation pocket guides for practical use in the field.
- head to Washington, D.C., March 4–5, 2014, for its biennial lobby day event (look for the fall lobby day in September).
- conduct a research study on how to more effectively market and promote the geosynthetics industry to the public.
*Current GMA executive council members: Crown Resources, Polymer Group Inc. (PGI, formerly Fiberweb), GSE, Propex, TenCate, Tensar, Thrace Linq, TRI, and Willacoochee Industrial Fabrics.