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Michael Makin Q&A -- PIA's Future Plans

May 2003
Printing Impressions contributing writer T.J. Tedesco spoke with Michael Makin, president and CEO of PIA/GATF (Printing Industries of America/ Graphic Arts Technical Foundation), at the recent President's Conference held in Key Biscayne, FL. Makin came to PIA/GATF two years ago as COO under then-chief executive Ray Roper. He was named to his current position last August. Below, Makin provides his take on the future for the industry organization.

PI: Michael, you came to PIA/ GATF two years ago from the Canadian Printing Industries Association (CPIA). Please describe your vision for PIA/GATF.

Makin: Our first priority is ensuring a smooth consolidation of PIA and GATF. I want both current and potential members to realize the benefits of combining technical, management and advocacy channels into a powerful association that can truly represent their full range of needs.

We will continue to be the primary source of information for our members when they need to know: How technology can improve their profitability; how the government will affect their business; and how management education can improve their competitiveness for the long run.

PI: One of the intriguing things you mentioned was your goal of positioning PIA/GATF as the number one source of information for all things legislative, technological and management-oriented. Specifically, how is that going to be brought down to the individual membership client base? What are you going to give them that they can use in their businesses?

Makin: On the technical side, we just completed a major member needs analysis survey. Our members want to know the impact of technology, and how that impacts their businesses. They want to know how they can improve their manufacturing efficiency and quality, which will in turn help them improve service to their customers and allow them to be viable and profitable.

PI: PIA/GATF is adept at researching and defining the role of technology. How do you use that research to inform those outside the industry (i.e., potential users of print) about how advancements in the printing world will benefit them?

Makin: We really need to position print as the medium of choice in the information technology continuum. For example, we're planning a major campaign, in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Service, to get the word out that print does offer a good return on investment. We're in the process of conducting market research to demonstrate that the ROI in printing and mailing is superior to other media formats.

Of course, we certainly have a lot of anecdotal information in that regard. Our job is to develop the empirical information our members can use to support that—allowing them to go to their customers and prove that print is a winning proposition and that direct mail is not only a viable, but preferable, media choice. By combining our technical and economic research, we're a great source of educational information for our members.

PI: You mentioned your recent member-needs analysis. What are some other key issues that you're tackling based on the recommendations of your membership?

Makin: In response to that analysis, we're doing a lot on the government affairs side. Here, PIA/GATF was instrumental in helping overturn the ergonomic standards bill. If implemented, that bill would have made it very pernicious for any printer in the country to operate.

We've also claimed legislative victories on issues such as the so-called "death tax," which was very important for our industry. Most people don't realize how important the government is to their operations. When you think about these regulations and their potential impact on your company, it's overwhelming.

PI: For a mid-size printing company of 100 employees, what do these legislative victories actually mean in terms of saving money?

Makin: In a 100-person company, the Clinton-era ergonomics regulation would have instituted measures that would have cost a company that size somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000. That would be a tremendous hit to take in this economy.

On the so-called "death tax" issue, it's immeasurable because we're talking about the overwhelming taxation of family-owned enterprises. That should never be the case. People should be encouraged to be entrepreneurs, build a business and pass it down to their families without fear that the government is going to come in and take the assets.

Those are just a few of the dollar-value benefits we strive to win for our members through legislative reform. PIA/GATF will never be accused of being inactive on any legislative front; we have the best lobbying team in Washington.

PI: Who makes up the PIA/GATF lobbying team?

Makin: Ben Cooper is the head of our legislative action team, and one of the most respected lobbyists on Capitol Hill. We also have Wendy Lechner, who specializes in human relations issues; Jim Kyger, an expert on OSHA and other workplace issues; and Gary Jones, an environmental specialist. They all work with Ben to share information and form a legislative tracking method, which allows PIA/GATF to recognize issues very early in their life cycle and take action when needed.

PI: It seems that legislative action and reform can be a hard sell when attracting new association members. It's easy to say, "Why do I need to be a member? I'm going to reap the benefits of these activities anyway." How do you combat that attitude?

Makin: That's certainly a huge challenge, but I think we're positioning ourselves well to meet it. For example, we're in the process of merging our economic and technological research arms so that we can better analyze the implications of technology from a financial standpoint. We want to be able to pinpoint the impact technology has from an ROI standpoint on both industry-wide and individual levels. We believe that dovetailing our technical and economic research efforts will allow us to do some great things in that regard, and that the results of that research would be invaluable to any printer.

PI: Do you have any closing thoughts?

Makin: People are going to be very impressed with what PIA/GATF has to offer them going forward. Associations are generally not the most nimble of organizations, but that's not my style. We aim to respond quickly to member needs and suggestions, and we can't be afraid of making mistakes in the process. We need to do what's right and what's best for individual members.


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