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Association Bisnow
   
February 12, 2008
 
       
 
CONSOLIDATION STRENGTHENS ASSOCIATION'S BOARD

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We've heard the grumblings, so we know:  Industry consolidation can be a headache for associations.  But for Walter McCormick, CEO of USTelecom, consolidation has had at least one big upside:  a better-functioning Board of Directors.

 

USTelecom was founded in the late 19th Century as the voice of independent phone carriers and today represents some 500 broadband service providers and suppliers.  Walter says it's important for an association to "walk the walk."  To make his point, he gave us a peek at USTelecom's new website (going live in a matter of weeks).  It's stuffed with video content that shows off broadband's possibilities.

 

With the number of big telecom players shrinking due to mergers (eg, former members GTE, Bell Atlantic, and Nynex are now all part of Verizon), USTelecom reduced the size of its board from 50 to 18 in late '06.  Walter says the change has given USTelecom's board meetings a much tighter focus and improved the quality of discussion.  Before, "if everyone spoke for only three minutes, that was three hours."  The board has three annual meetings--two in DC, one at the site of its annual convention--and absent members are allowed to participate by videoconference.  (There they go, walking the walk again.)

 

Walter's 17-year-old son, a senior at Gonzaga, is an Eagle Scout. One of his 12 required badges is in the field of communications--naturally, Walter led that part of his troop's training.

 

Pruning 32 board members could have been tricky business, but USTelecom chose them though a member vote.  The fact that the board is elected, Walter says, gives its actions added legitimacy.  Speaking of elections, we caught the smiling CEO in a fine mood last week, just as John McCain was becoming the presumptive Republican nominee.  Walter gained "tremendous respect" for the Arizona Senator during a stint as the chief Republican counsel to the Commerce Committee, and has been a supporter ever since.  Over the last year, he's helped with McCain fundraisers in his native Kansas City, Seattle, and DC.  He was even with the campaign this summer in Sedona on the weekend that McCain famously restructured his operation.  But when it comes to his association duties, Walter doesn't play favorites.  He pointed out to us how it was telecom advances are helping all the candidates raise money over the internet with Barack Obama famously raising $1 million a day over the Internet in January.

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