PIA, NAPL Cancel Proposed ‘Marriage’ –Michelson

In what first appeared to be a natural coupling of two national printing industry groups, a joint unification task force representing the Printing Industries of America (PIA) and the National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL) recently announced that talks have ended. There will be no “Save the Date” cards, no gift registries—the two associations have called off their wedding nuptials and will remain single entities, at least for now. It’s not a nasty breakup, though; they will remain bedfellows within the Graphic Arts Show Co. (which manages the Graph Expo and PRINT trade shows, and which provides them with the lion’s share of their operating budgets; the Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation; and the Vision 3 Summit, their now-combined annual membership conference.

With economic conditions of the past several years, ongoing industry contraction, and calls for action from both industry suppliers and their printer members, an often-discussed merger looked like it would actually reach fruition. After all, redundancies in executive-level and back-office staffing, educational/training efforts, economics data and the cost of separate headquarters could be eliminated. Printers and industry suppliers would be able to join one association, and not have to choose one vs. the other, or pay dues to belong to both. Industry advocacy would be louder, resonating from one, combined voice.

But, in the end, marrying the direct, national membership structure of the NAPL with the localized affiliate structure of the PIA proved insurmountable. Local delivery of member services through the PIA’s 23 affiliates may work best for standalone, regional printers. But, a conglomerate like Consolidated Graphics would opt solely for a national membership, to service its entire U.S. network of local print shops.

Others might point to partisanship and job self-preservation as key contributing factors in why the unification talks failed. Getting so many stakeholders—executive directors from each of PIA’s affiliates, as well as NAPL and PIA board members and CEOs at the national level—to agree on a structure that would satisfy all vested constituents is comparable to all of the political jockeying that occurs in Congress.

Either way, you can’t fault the printer task force members—PIA Chair Laura Lawton, NAPL Chair Darren Loken, John Berthelsen, Tim Burton, Keith Kemp, Niels Winther and Nigel Worme—who volunteered much time and effort trying to make it happen. But, stay tuned: harsh economic and industry realities may some day force a shot-gun wedding.

Mark T. Michelson

  • John Berthelsen

    I just wanted to thank you for a very fine commentary on the matter and your even handedness in relating what took place. You have a very good grasp of what the desired need was and what took place. There were many dedicated people who put great effort into trying to make this combination happen and it certainly was not for any lack of trying. (Which you point out.) Although many of us felt that after years of talk, the planets had come into alignment, it just wasn’t so.

    As you stated in your last sentence, the day may come when financial considerations force further actions.