Talks End as No Clear Path to PIA/NAPL Merger

PITTSBURGH—It looks as if the proposed “blending” of the Printing Industries of America (PIA) and the National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL) is dead in the water. The joint Unification Task Force, formed last February to evaluate a possible merger between the two industry associations, couldn’t devise a mutually satisfying plan and decided to end negotiations.

While the two groups have decided to remain independent, they will continue their active collaboration on key programs and ongoing partnerships in the Graphic Arts Show Co., GAERF and conferences such as the Vision 3 Summit.

The Task Force concluded that it was not possible to formulate a combined entity that accommodated the diverse needs of both a direct and locally delivered structure. However, the Task Force has generated a new understanding of each organization’s operations and encouraged each group to serve its membership by continuing, and building upon, beneficial collaborations.

Laura Lawton-Forsyth and Darren Loken, co-chairs of the Unification Task Force, issued a joint statement regarding the group’s work: “Our organizations have a great deal of respect for each other. The Task Force studied several approaches to unification, as well as facilitated several months of good conversations about how to best serve our industry and our members.

“Despite our best efforts, at this time we feel it’s in their best interest for the two associations to remain independent, but actively collaborate on key events and programs. We look forward to continuing a mutually beneficial relationship.”

The Unification Task Force was made up of representatives from both boards and was expanded over the past six months to include a broader range of affiliate managers, vendors and printer members. The group studied key issues around the potential of unification, including legal, financial, governance, membership structure and programs. Task Force members volunteered their time to study and research these issues and to gather input from a range of stakeholders.

  • printerowner

    This industry needed this to happen now while the two main trade associations are fairly healthy. To have it blocked before it ever got to the membership of either organization was simply not right. Printer members deserved the best of both organizations. Manufacturers, suppliers and other vendors to our industry would have been more supportive of one well run organization than having to choose with their pocketbook between the two.

  • john

    what a joke! Our industry is consolidating at a breakneck pace. In fact, it’s being led in many cases through NAPL efforts.

    But….. the two organizations are SO……………………. critical they cannot merge??

    Good luck with that PIA & NAPL

  • aspireforbill

    There were good people studying this and if they decided it was not right, that’s enough for me. We need to have faith that the RIGHT agreement is still out there, yet undiscovered. Thank you to the Task Force for your time and dedication.

  • David

    To those unfamiliar with both organizations, this probably does seem like folly. I have been involved in leadership with both, as a board member and Chairman at the affiliate level for PIA and as a board member and executive committee member with NAPL. I am on neither board now, and left both before these negotiations got started.

    The Chairpersons of both organizations that tried to find a way to make this work are both highly principled, smart folks and I have tremendous respect for their efforts. I have high regard for both organizations and my company is a longtime member of both.

    I favored the combination of the two if done well. To me, “done well” does not mean the acquisition of NAPL by PIA. In speaking with my many fellow printers that were involved exclusively with PIA I found that many of them viewed this merger in that light.

    NAPL (when I was involved in leadership, not that long ago) believes strongly in the direct membership model. For the “NewOrg” that was to be formed to have a direct membership model, perhaps with regional offices in place of the affiliates, more than 20 organizations would have had to vote to disband themselves. Anything short of this would result in what is essentially the acquisition of NAPL by PIA.

    The continued existence of the affiliate structure would insure that no significant change to PIA would occur after the “absorption” of NAPL by PIA. I borrowed the word absorption from another printer that I was discussing this with.

    I believe that the affiliate structure is flawed and that a regional structure where the staff of those regional organizations are part of the national organization makes the most sense from a business standpoint. Every affiliate is struggling, and it is almost impossible to operate in a break-even mode and deliver much in the way of services on membership dues income. Trade organizations as a whole are struggling, not just ours. To support more than 20 organizations simply requires too much money.

    Who gains? If you wish to avail your company of the services of each organization, join both. Competition is one of the reasons you have a choice of two organizations. Competition is not a bad thing. If you value one over the other join only that one. Would it be a good idea for Heidelberg, Komori, KBA and Roland to all merge? It would probably make business sense for the resulting organization, but I don’t think our industry would be served very well.

    I respect the views of those that disagree, but I am not disappointed that this combination did not occur in light of the path it would have had to take. I would rather have two organizations to support than to have NAPL “acquired” by PIA.

  • printinmyveins

    David, while I agree with you that competition is not a bad thing, I’m not sure that applies here. Not for profit associations and for profit companies have very different objectives. One is there to serve its membership and the other is to make profit.

    Over the last 5 to 10 years I’ve struggled to see what the value proposition is to either association. There are too many redundant programs, events and departments that members and suppliers feel obligated to support and I’m not convinced that either association has the financial stability to do any of things very well. For example, do we really need two economics departments?

    What happens if Graph Expo continues to struggle? Can these associations survive without the annual GASC contribution?

    In this case a merger seems like a no-brainer if they were really looking out for their membership and the industry. The lack of compromise seems to be political and that’s never good for anyone but the incumbents. I don’t think anyone cares who acquires who or what the association is called as long as the new association is stronger and focused on its members. I’m just not convinced that two weakened associations competing for membership and supplier dollars in a shrinking industry is healthy.