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BIA CONFERENCE RECAP -- Class is in Session

June 2002

Though the winds of change continue to blow throughout the graphic arts industry, one constant remains: There is always something to learn. The Binding Industries Association International (BIA) provided a valuable educational forum at its recent international conference, held recently at the J.W. Marriott Resort in Las Vegas.

This year's conference was dubbed BIA University, and it provided attendees with opportunities to discuss the changes within the industry as a whole and the association in particular.

An opening reception gave attendees a chance to rub elbows with industry peers. According to Brent Eckhart, president of Eckhart & Co. and the outgoing BIA president, "There is no better opportunity to network with my peers from around the country—or around the world, for that matter—than this conference."

The first morning opened with two roundtable discussions. These "Early Riser Discussions" were a daily feature of the three business days of the conference, and gave attendees the opportunity to bounce problems and ideas off of industry peers in an informal setting. The opening ceremony followed, and led into the day's slate of guest speakers.

Powerful Future

First up was Niall Power, president and CEO of the Printing Industries of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin (PII and PIW), who opened with a report on association interrelationships and his vision of the future of the BIA.

Next was NPES consulting economist Michael Evans, who delivered a sobering perspective on the economic landscape both now and for the immediate future. A few of his forecasts: There will be a continuing lack of pricing power; increased high- and low-end consumer spending; and an overvalued dollar.

David Perkins, of Amvest Financial Group, was next with a state-of-the-industry report on mergers and acquisitions. Perkins provided an update on several major industry consolidators, and concluded that most haven't performed to the lofty expectations they set during their buying sprees.

The morning's fourth speaker was Cal Poly professor Malcolm Kief, who discussed education and training of the binding industry's future work force. Kief urged the attendees to work with local technical schools, universities and association affiliates as additional educational resources.

The rest of the conference provided plenty of educational opportunities. Each morning featured small roundtable discussions around a specific topic, which ranged from polypropylenes and adhesives to a well-attended session on employee/management relations.

The value of these intimate discussions was not lost on attendees. Many expressed that they were the motivating factor behind their attendance at the conference.

"I truly value these technical- and issues-specific, peer-to-peer discussions," notes Eckhart. "I have never left a BIA conference without several ideas on my notepad that are slated for immediate implementation when I get back to the office."

When attendees weren't busy picking the brains of those around them, they were soaking up information from vendors during the tabletop display showcase. There were a few dozen suppliers on hand to educate attendees on their latest equipment, and to make connections with potential customers.

Attendees also took some time between sessions to check out the entries in this year's BIA-sponsored Product of Excellence awards competition. Entries are submitted in Trade and Looseleaf categories and will, for the first time, comprise a traveling exhibition that will take them to schools, libraries and seminars throughout the year.

Of course, no conference would be complete without a little respite, which came in the form of a golf tournament. Participants headed to the lush Badlands Golf Club for a best-ball tournament. Battling stiff winds, the participants nonetheless enjoyed the opportunity to display their golf prowess and take advantage of yet another great networking opportunity.

In addition to being a forum for discussing the industry as a whole, there was plenty of discussion regarding the BIA itself. Like many other trade associations, the BIA had a challenging 2001 that saw a decline in membership. However, discussions at the conference were decidedly positive. Members embraced many of the avenues the BIA is pursuing to increase the value of association membership.

Industry Relationships

"I'm very excited about our relationship with the PIA," says Kevin Rickard, vice president of Chicago-based Rickard Bindery and a BIA officer. "This is a great opportunity for everyone involved to provide significant value for each other. This is the right direction for the BIA to be headed, and I'm looking forward to being a part of it."

Incoming BIA President Steve Silberman, president of American Thermoplastic in Pittsburgh, and fellow BIA officer Bob Windler, president of Diecrafters Inc., were equally excited about the direction of the BIA.

"The relationship we've forged with the PIA truly creates a win-win-win situation," contends Silberman. "It helps the BIA tremendously by improving our visibility in the industry. The PIA wins, as well, since their members have access to a wide range of potential postpress services partners. And BIA members are the biggest winners, as the value of membership skyrockets when we can place our message in front of the entire PIA population."

Final words of wisdom come from Jeff Marr, vice president at Colter Peterson. "Like many organizations, membership in the BIA is only as valuable as what you put into it. The members that actively participate and are involved in the organization and its programs are the ones who receive the benefits."

Class is now dismissed for the summer. But don't forget to come back in the fall for BIA's Mid-Management Seminar, to be held October 3-5 in Chicago.


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