2016 was another strong year for the Geosynthetic Materials Association and it was my honor to work with the Executive Council and our membership to manage all of GMA’s activities throughout the year.
GMA ended the year with 13 Executive Council members and a total membership of 75 companies. In addition to a strong membership, GMA has a robust lobbying program and five focus groups (Geotextile, Geogrid, Environmental, Erosion Control, and Distributors). These groups are made up of employees from member companies and they work hard to provide technical guidance and connect engineers across the country to industry lead education opportunities.
GMA’s yearly activities allow its members to connect with government agencies and academia to promote the industry. Below is a summary of GMA’s 2016 activities.
An important part of GMA’s mission, is to help provide high-quality education opportunities. In 2015, GMA was a leading sponsor of the Educate the Educator program organized by the International Geosynthetics Society–North America chapter (IGS–NA).
In March 2016, GMA had the opportunity to partner with IGS–NA again to co-host a day and a half long Waste Containment System Design Seminar in Syracuse, N.Y. The course was attended by more than 100 engineers from New York, Maryland, New Jersey, and Texas. GMA members Terrafix Geosynthetics (Bruno Herlin), Agru (Chris Eichelberger), and GSE (Steve Mayes) presented during the conferences; TRI Enviromental’s Abigail Gilson provided instruction on leak detection.
In 2017, it is my hope the GMA can continue to sponsor meaningful geosynthetics education opportunities such as the New York seminar and continue to involve member companies in the programing.
GMA started 2016 off by celebrating the inclusion of geosynthetic language in the transportation FAST Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in December of 2015. Sec. 1428 of the FAST Act states that:
“To the extent practicable, the Secretary shall encourage the use of durable, resilient, and sustainable materials and practices, including the use of geosynthetic materials and other innovative technologies, in carrying out the activities of the Federal Highway Administration.”
The inclusion of this language in the bill can be directly attributed to the hard work of GMA’s lobbying team in Washington, D.C., and to the members that attend GMA’s biannual GMA Lobby Day in Washington. GMA Lobby Days typically consists of 30 meetings on Capitol Hill attended by a delegation of 30 GMA representatives. In 2016, GMA hosted lobby days in April and December.
2016 ended with the passage of the WIIN Act (Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation), formerly the Water Resources Development Act. Sec. 1173 of the WIIN Act, defines geosynthetics as an innovative material and calls for the secretary to contract with the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences to develop a proposal to study the use and performance of innovative materials in water resource projects carried out by the Corps of Engineers. This was another major win for the geosynthetics industry and will help solidify our spot as a leading innovative material in the environmental protection and water resources industries.
GMA’s long-term investment in its federal lobbying program has paid major dividends for all its members in the past few years and I would like to call on all readers to help spread the word about these achievements. GMA’s work on Capitol Hill has educated lawmakers and encouraged the use of more geosynthetic products in a wide range of infrastructure projects across the country.
State and local lobbying
GMA’s state and local lobbying program picked up steam in 2016. GMA Executive Council members and I visited four new states: New York, Louisiana, Michigan, and South Carolina. During each of these visits, 10–12 GMA members met with state transportation and environmental departments, along with governors’ offices and contractor groups.
Meetings such as these help GMA establish an open dialogue with states regarding geotechnical issues and the benefits of our members’ products. Each meeting gives GMA the opportunity to educate state officials on the benefits of our products, review state specifications, and arrange for future education opportunities. In addition to GMA’s state and local lobbying activities, GMA focus groups and Executive Council also engaged in work with Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina during 2016.
GMA 2016 meetings
Each year, GMA hosts a series of annual meetings. These meetings give members and me the opportunity meet in person to discuss GMA activities and keep the association activities and agenda on track during the course of the year.
April 10–13, 2016—GMA hosted four focus group meetings (geotextiles, geogrids, erosion control, and distributors) and a general membership meeting at GeoAmericas in Miami. These meetings were led by Executive Council Chairman Keith Gardner and three other focus group chairs—Mike Clements, Fred Chuck, and Keith Harris.
April 27, 2016—GMA hosted its spring lobby day in Washington, D.C. GMA members met with 29 congressional offices and lobbied for key infrastructure legislation such as WRDA and a well-funded FAA bill.
October 19–20, 2016—GMA hosted a roundtable discussion at IFAI’s annual Expo show and also presented a pavement interlayers panel discussion at the first ever Geo Charlotte conference held in conjunction with the IFAI Expo. (IFAI is the Industrial Fabrics Association International, the umbrella not-for-profit company with 14 divisions, including GMA.)
December 1, 2016—GMA hosted its Fall Lobby Day meetings in Washington, D.C. These meetings were held in December to give GMA the best opportunity to meet with congressional offices after the national elections. President-elect Trump’s infrastructure plans were a hot topic of conversation, along with coal ash, water resources, and the FAA bill.
2017 GMA Meetings—GMA will begin 2017 by hosting five focus group meetings and a general membership meeting at Geotechnical Frontiers in Orlando Fla., March 12–15. Stay tuned for details regarding these meetings and GMA’s Spring Lobby Day.
Awards and acknowledgments
April 27, 2016—U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) received the “GMA Leader of the Year” award for authoring the amendment that allowed geosynthetic language to be included in the FAST Act. The act allocated $305 billion to support federal highways and bridges.
June 20, 2016—GMA announced the biennial award and lecture series named for Dr. Robert M. Koerner, founding director and now director emeritus of the Geosynthetic Institute.
The inaugural award recipient is Dr. George Koerner and he will deliver the first Robert M. Koerner Lecture at Geotechnical Frontiers 2017, in Orlando. Subsequent awards will be presented at the biennial Geosynthetics Conference organized by the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI).
October 18, 2016—GMA’s Executive Council Chairman, Keith Gardner, vice president of sales & marketing with Toccoa, Ga.-based Crown Resources, was recognized as a recipient of a 2016 Outstanding Volunteer Award. The award was presented by the leadership of the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) Oct. 18 during its annual Expo held in Charlotte, N.C.
GMA Activities Report
September 2016—GMA published its first ever “GMA Activities Report.” This report is exclusive to GMA members and aimed at keeping members and their employees up-to-date on our association activities. The report includes updates on focus group activity, state and federal government relations programs, industry trade shows, and announcements about upcoming GMA activities.
If your company is a GMA member and you are not receiving this Activities Report, please send an email to Janelle Wells (firstname.lastname@example.org).
2016 GMA site visits
During 2016, I participated in six site visits with GMA-member companies (Crown Resources, HUESKER, Owens Corning, Skaps Industries, TenCate Geosynthetics, and Tensar).
Managing GMA is a privilege and having the opportunity to meet with members to learn more about their companies helps me best serve the GMA membership. If you are interested in a GMA site visit or a member briefing, please contact me anytime to schedule a call or visit.
In closing, GMA had a very busy 2016 and 2017 is already under way. GMA’s mission is to provide engineering support, business development opportunities, educational programming, government relations expertise, and industry recognition to its membership and to the readers of this magazine. I look forward to helping GMA continue to achieve this mission in 2017 and at the same time work with members to advance the geosynthetics industry.