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Tradition and transition

Editorial | May 1, 2018 | By:

Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.
~ Gustav Mahler

I can’t help but date myself if I tell you that when I started working at IFAI in 1988, staff were still allowed to smoke in the office, we had a fax machine that was so large it had its own room, and the magazines were still typed on typewriters and corrected on galley proofs supplied by the printer. Most of our business was conducted by phone or mail. The desktop computer hadn’t arrived yet, and if we wanted to communicate with someone outside the country, we used the telex machine.

In the industry, backlit awnings were all the rage, and the camping products and personal flotation devices industries had just left the U.S. for Korea. Ballistic protection vests had been gaining acceptance in the military market; the geosynthetics industry was gaining market in the landfill lining business; and the automotive industry was working to standardize the fabrics used in vehicle manufacturing to streamline and economize production.

I know that many of you have been in this industry long enough to see all that and more. Talking to Roy Chism recently about the alarming encroachment of metal awnings into the market and how it is similar to the advent of fiberglass awnings, he recalled being a child in the family business with his dad and smelling the scent created by cutting fiberglass. His dad said to him: “Smell that, son—that’s the smell of money!” We don’t see many fiberglass awnings any more (at least not new ones), but the Chism Company continues to thrive by anticipating the needs of customers.

In the awning market, as in all parts of our industry, IFAI members are and always have been solution providers. Whether providing shade, personal protection, load covering, recreation products or groundwater and road protection, our members supply the innovation and expertise to solve customer problems.

Our industry is at another turning point, and we will meet the challenges of change ahead with “traditional” ingenuity and creativity. My beloved IFAI is also at a turning point: I will retire at the end of May, and a new leader will help us to reinvent ourselves, as we have done continually for the past 105 years. The new CEO of IFAI will take over an organization that is growing and financially secure. He or she will also inherit a Board of Directors who are thoughtful and highly engaged, providing guidance and direction as we move forward.

I am grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to serve this remarkable association. I never planned to do this kind of work, but found myself here when I took a mid-career turn and stumbled upon a group of professionals who are honest, earnest and hardworking: my kind of people. I will miss the many friends I gained along the way, members, volunteers and staff. It’s all of you who have made this job so satisfying and delightful for me.

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