Volume 34, Number 11,  November 1999

NAAMM Members Describe their Recent Vote to Join GANA

A Natural Evolution

by Tara Taffera

A rapidly declining membership, coupled with the fact that current members were looking for ways to cut costs, were just a few of the reasons that prompted members of the North American Association of Mirror Manufacturers (NAAMM) to join the Glass Association of North America (GANA). The near unanimous vote, 16 yes with one abstention, was the culmination of months of member deliberation and discussion.
“NAAMM has served its members well, but the time has come for a change” said NAAMM president Lee Harrison, of Walker Glass Co. in Montreal, Canada. “GANA’s growing influence as an industry leader will give added impetus to our efforts to better serve the mirror industry.”
NAAMM members are no stranger to GANA. In fact, in 1997 NAAMM selected Association Services Corporation as its management company and moved its offices to Topeka, KS. Associated Services Corp. is the same company that manages GANA, as well as other industry associations.

Membership Decline

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NAAMM president Lee Harrison (at a meeting earlier this year)
was one of the 16 NAAMM members who voted for the association to become part of GANA.

Many NAAMM members described the decision to join GANA as a “natural evolution.” With expensive dues and rapidly declining membership, the association knew it had to make a change.
“For several years, we’ve been struggling to maintain our own identity and increase membership and have not been successful,” said Jim Sessoms, president of Gilded Mirrors Inc. in Maryville, TN. “It was time to do something—we weren’t able to grow.” In fact, had NAAMM not made a change, membership may have dropped even further. Chris Beeler, president and CEO of Virginia Mirror Company in Martinsville, VA, said some glass manufacturers were looking for ways to cut costs and leaving NAAMM was a viable consideration.
According to John Matthews, vice president of Carolina Mirror Company in North Wilkesboro, NC, NAAMM had dwindled to nine members from 21 members five years ago. “When vertical integration came along, it drastically reduced our membership,” said Matthews. “But, now that we will all be part of one organization we can all work together.”

Working Together
In fact, “working together” with customers and suppliers and “joining a diverse group” were some of the major advantages cited for uniting under the GANA banner. “Having customers in both the distribution and installation divisions will be a big plus for both sides of the customer/supplier equation,” said Bill Birch, executive director of GANA. “For a number of members, it will be an opportunity for them to be part of an organization to which many of their customers belong.” NAAMM members agree. “This is a good move because we are getting together with more people in the industry,” said Beeler. “We will now be able to do more things because we are under a bigger umbrella.”
Birch added that NAAMM will also gain more credibility and clout in the eyes of regulatory agencies and the government. “The bringing together of fabricated products under one banner makes sense—the ability to effect change is increased,” he said.

Lower Dues/Increased Membership
According to Ron Brock, president of Sunshine Mirror in Ft. Pierce, FL, the cost of NAAMM membership will be substantially less with GANA, which many members say will make the association more attractive in the eyes of potential members. Adding to that is the fact that GANA already has many mirror manufacturers as members, who are not currently part of NAAMM (these individuals will automatically become members of GANA). And Matthews said mirror manufacturers who are not part of GANA and dropped out of NAAMM due to high dues, may now rejoin NAAMM because the dues are lower. “The new dues structure makes sense,” said Beeler. “There was a perception in the industry that NAAMM was high-priced.”
“I think NAAMM will be strengthened by the ability to attract additional companies to its membership,” said Birch. Brock agreed. “It will be a lot easier for companies to join NAAMM because they’re already members of GANA,” he said.

Loss of Identity
Members have cited many advantages of joining NAAMM, but are they giving anything up? Many say that while they are pleased with the decision to join GANA, they admit the association is losing its identity by making the move. Brock said he wanted NAAMM to join GANA for several years, but others believed the association should remain independent.” “Personally, I, as most of us were, was in favor of staying separate, to maintain our own identity,” said Sessoms. “But after a few years of making no progress, we saw that we had to do something else.”
According to Matthews, that “something else,” joining GANA, was given heavy thought in the past year.
“I think it is a natural evolution that we join GANA,” said Beeler. I was against it in the 80s—but now the time has come.”

Other Alternatives
Others aren’t so sure. Jim Charles, director of flat glass sales and marketing for Binswanger Mirror in Memphis, TN, accounted for the one abstention in the voting process. “My desire is the same as everyone’s,” said Charles. “To grow in membership and be more representative of the mirror industry.” But, Charles isn’t convinced, as others were, that joining GANA was the only option. “I feel there were other efforts that could have been made,” he said. Charles said one of these efforts would have been for NAAMM to stay separate but reduce its dues, making it more affordable for companies to join.
But, according to Birch, NAAMM had no other options. “I think they [NAAMM members] were convinced that if they made changes it would be with GANA. I don’t think they considered any other alternatives—in fact, I don’t think there are any.”
While Charles may not agree with the decision of other NAAMM members, he is ready to move forward with the association’s new affiliation. “If it will improve our membership and representation of the industry, I’m all for it,” said Charles. “The goal is to make us stronger to fight for the needs of the mirror industry.”

Going Forward
One of the association’s current “needs” is to work with the state of Minnesota in determining an appropriate protocol for TCLP mirror cullet. Since the state is unwilling to accept the NAAMM protocol, which was approved by EPA, the mirror industry will continue to work with its customers in an effort to resolve this matter.
While some may contend that NAAMM’s issues will get lost, in the midst of other issues facing GANA, Matthews doesn’t see this as a potential problem. “Even though we will be part of a bigger identity, we believe we will receive great support from GANA,” he said. “I think everyone who has been part of GANA to date has experienced benefits they didn’t initially realize,” said Birch.
Birch says all of NAAMM’s current programs and services will be transferred to GANA on January 1, 2000. Members of the new mirror division will meet for the first time at Glass Week 2000 in Orlando, FL, January 29 to February 3.   

Tara Taffera is the editor of USGlass magazine.


Copyright 1999 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.