by Jonathan Curry
Over the past decade the Geosynthetic Materials Association (GMA) has grown by leaps and bounds, establishing itself as a leading geosynthetics organization in the areas of education, technical support and government relations. GMA’s membership has nearly doubled since 2005, GMA-supported educational conferences have attracted more than 25,000 attendees, and GMA’s lobbying efforts have reached 20 states and hundreds of elected officials, the latter resulting in the inclusion of geosynthetics language in multiple infrastructure bills signed by both President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump. The activities are critical in achieving GMA’s mission of advancing the industry together and growing our members’ businesses.
Since 2005, GMA’s membership has risen from 42 member companies to 83 companies. Members represent all facets of the industry, especially manufacturers and distributors of geosynthetic products. GMA members create tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue each year. Membership consists of three levels: executive council, general and distributor. Companies that join GMA at one of these levels have the opportunity for their employees to participate in a wide variety of educational offerings, government relations activities, technical focus groups and conferences. Employees of member companies gain access to unique opportunities that allow them to work with fellow members to help grow the geosynthetics market and, at the same time, increase their companies’ piece of the pie. According to the Industrial Fabrics Association International’s (IFAI’s) 2019 State of the Geosynthetics Industry report (see the April/May 2019 issue of Geosynthetics), the geosynthetics industry will grow by 4% in 2020, which means the pie is getting bigger.
Supporting geosynthetics conferences has been a core part of GMA’s strategic plan, and since the 1980s, GMA has helped its parent association, IFAI, organize more than 20 conferences. Conferences grow the industry through collaboration, education and the sharing of new ideas. GMA hosts member meetings at these conferences, and its leadership meets to set the association’s agenda for the year. GMA’s next set of annual meetings will be at the IFAI-hosted Geosynthetics Conference 2020: CASE STUDIES, in Charleston, S.C., March 8–10.
GMA ramped up its government relations activities starting in 2005, hiring the D.C.-based lobbying firm Whitmer & Worrall to represent GMA’s interest in our nation’s capital. This partnership has blossomed over the years, resulting in GMA playing a critical role in coal ash policy and geosynthetics being named in a half dozen pieces of legislation, such as the Obama-era Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) and the 2018 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill signed by President Trump. GMA has honored senators and representatives with the GMA “Leader of the Year” award; Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., was the most recent awardee, receiving the honor for his exemplary work promoting innovative materials, including geosynthetics. Success at the federal level naturally led GMA to expand its government relations program to the state and local levels, and since 2012 GMA has visited 20 states, delivering a message about the benefits of geosynthetics to regulatory agencies, governors’ offices and contractors from coast to coast, even as far away as Alaska. Giving members the opportunity to connect with key policy makers opens the door to greater acceptance of geosynthetic products and establishes strong communication channels between GMA and regulatory agencies.
GMA is an organization that continues to evolve and grow. In 2019, GMA will be hosting multiple Lobby Days in Washington, D.C. These events are free to employees of member companies and give industry professionals the opportunity to lobby Congress for greater inclusion of geosynthetics language in infrastructure bills. GMA plans to visit multiple states to discuss how our members’ products can save states money, increase the life of critical infrastructure and protect the environment. Lastly, GMA will prepare to host annual meetings beginning at IFAI’s Geosynthetics Conference 2020: CASE STUDIES and look for new ways to engage its members and grow participation. The future looks bright for the geosynthetics industry, and GMA looks forward to working with the industry to continue its growth.