By Bryan Gee
I am honored and humbled to assume the responsibilities of chair of the Geosynthetic Materials Association (GMA) executive council. During my time as an active participant in GMA, the organization has been fortunate to have the excellent leadership of Boyd Ramsey, Keith Gardner and Fred Chuck as chairs, and we are fortunate to have Chuck remaining with us as executive director. I will do my best to continue building our association on the solid foundation left by my predecessors.
As we look to the future for GMA, we need to focus on three primary areas where we have the greatest opportunity to positively affect our industry:
- Awareness and advocacy
- Membership benefits and growth
- Identification and fulfillment of end-use customers’ needs
In the areas of awareness and advocacy, we are building on a strong track record and adding new initiatives to further extend our influence. Our government relations efforts at both the federal and state levels are the envy of other industry associations—we are known and respected by both executive and legislative branches, and we have used that strong position to forcefully advocate for the recognition of the benefits we provide in the transportation sector, the environmental sector and beyond. Now we are adding initiatives in marketing and education for the industry to grow our presence even more.
As we look for ways to grow our membership and offer additional value to our members, we will be soliciting input through a member survey. We will use the information we receive to generate new ideas and opportunities to make GMA a positive driver for growth in the businesses of our member companies. We will also review our strategic plan and adjust it as necessary to position GMA for continued success as an association.
Finally, each of us in the industry depends on the success of our end-use customers. Using the information from our industry marketing initiative and other opportunities to hear the voices of our customers, we will explore new ways to improve our ability to deliver the significant benefits offered by all our products and services.
This is an ambitious agenda for an uncertain time, with the COVID-19 pandemic and other world events promising more surprises to come. But GMA has proven its strength over the years, and there is every reason to believe that with the unique and talented people in our organization, our success can continue. I sincerely hope you remain safe and successful through the pandemic.
As my friend Dr. David Elton, at Auburn University, says: Stay positive. Test negative.
By Fred C. Chuck
While sheltering-in-place orders and travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have prevented us from continuing our visits to Washington, D.C., as well as limited our state and local lobbying efforts, GMA has nonetheless continued conversations with many congressional offices, particularly those with GMA member constituents. The conversations have ranged from discussing language for the reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), to exploring potential innovative materials language within the proposed infrastructure bills, to holding a new discussion with members of the education committees proposing possible options for funding expanded geosynthetics education at the university level. Our congressional relations are opening the doors for us to hold discussions at the state and local levels.
Our focus groups and task forces continued to push on with opportunities to effect changes beneficial to the expanded use of geosynthetics. The Geotextile and Geogrid Focus Groups worked in conjunction with the National Transportation Product Evaluation Program (NTPEP) Geosynthetics Committee and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) COMP TS-4e Technical Section on Geosynthetics. The NTPEP cooperation worked on revisions and updates to the Geotextiles and Geosynthetics (GTX), Geosynthetic Reinforcement for Walls and Fills (REGEO) and newly proposed Summary of Subgrade Stabilization Geosynthetics (SSGEO) work plans, while the AASHTO work was targeted at bringing the M288 specification in line with 21st-century geosynthetic products. The Marketing Awareness Campaign Task Force moved ahead with plans for phase 2, a sprint plan to prove the concepts developed during phase 1 and hopes to gain confirmation to initiate the digital awareness campaign by the first quarter of 2021.
Washington, D.C., has been in a quarantine lockdown: 14 days if you visit from a listed state. Just as we moved from in-person to virtual visits in D.C., we converted our Waste Containment Systems Design Seminar from a two-day, 13-hour in-person program to a virtual platform over three days with two, two-hour sessions each day.