March 2016 was a great month for GMA to ramp up its 2016 federal and state lobbying efforts. GMA members and I had the opportunity to meet with three federal agencies in Washington, D.C. These meetings allowed GMA to educate government officials about the benefits of geosynthetic materials and at the same time encouraging federal agencies to incorporate geosynthetics into infrastructure specifications and projects.
GMA’s current membership includes more than 80 companies that manufacture, distribute, and install geosynthetic products around the world. These products can be incorporated in roads, bridges, landfills, retaining walls, and many more applications. For this reason, GMA needs to have a diverse government relations program that creates a heightened awareness about all geosynthetic materials.
Department of Commerce
On March 3, GMA met with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) to discuss the opportunities that U.S. producers of geosynthetics have in foreign markets.
OTEXA offered guidance on how it can assist GMA members in increasing awareness of geosynthetic products domestically and internationally. We discussed grant programs, market research, international trade shows, and the opportunity for geosynthetic trade missions.
Opening a dialogue with OTEXA was a great opportunity for GMA members to discuss challenges they are facing abroad and also for OTEXA to expose our members to the vast resources offered by the Department of Commerce.
GMA plans to follow up with OTEXA to discuss our members’ international footprint, market research, and to take advantage of OTEXA’s ability promote the geosynthetics industry.
On March 4, a delegation of GMA members and I had introductory meetings with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation. During these meetings, we expressed our appreciation for their consideration of geosynthetics in multiple infrastructure applications and specifications.
We were also able to spread awareness about the recent FAST Act language supporting the use of geosynthetics in transportation applications. During these meetings, GMA members were eager to learn about federal programs that can assist our industry, such as the Every Day Counts program. Introductory meetings such as these help expose our members to the inner workings of federal agencies and they also give GMA the opportunity to create a positive dialogue that can lead to the successful adoption of more programs that encourage the use of geosynthetic materials.
GMA and IGS–NA co-sponsor WCSD seminar in New York
GMA recently co-hosted a Waste Containment Systems Design (WCSD) technical seminar with the IGS–North America chapter. The event was attended by more than 100 participants, many of them were engineers from near and far: New York, Maryland, New Jersey, and Texas.
Attendees had diverse backgrounds as students, consultants, contractors, manufactures, distributors, and installers. The day-and-a-half event was made possible through the support of Robert Phanuef at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Back on Oct. 20, 2015, GMA had met with Phaneuf and his colleagues at the DEC as part of our state and local government relations program. During the meeting, GMA and David Suits, the executive director of IGS–North America informed the DEC of our ability to execute continuing education programs. The WCSD seminar in Syracuse, N.Y., March 22–24, was a direct result of this meeting.
Lastly, I would like to extend a special thank you to GMA members Bruno Herlin (Terrafix Geosynthetics), Steve Mayes (GSE Environmental), and Chris Eichelberger (Agru America). Each of their companies helped to sponsor this technical seminar and they each gave presentation to the group. GMA member TRI Environmental also provided the services of Abigail Beck as a leak detection instructor for the course.
Educating all those working in or with the geosynthetics industry about the proper application and installation of geosynthetics products is an important part of GMA’s mission. The Syracuse seminar was a prime example of how GMA can collaborating with an organizations such as IGS–North America and N.Y. DEC to provide meaningful education opportunities for engineers and others working in our industry.