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Association Bisnow
September 3, 2008


A big welcome to new sponsor The Stout and Teague Companies.  The McLean-based real estate firm is celebrating its 25th year of providing leasing, property management, and advisory services to the area's non-profit community.  Welcome aboard!


Does location, location, location apply to a trade association? We got together three top association CEOs to ask.


Our panelists, smiling in anticipation of a tasty meal at Zola. Left to right:

  • David Rehr, CEO, National Association of Broadcasters;
  • Marion Blakey, CEO, Aerospace Industries Association, and former head, Federal Aviation Administration;
  • Marc Fleischaker, Chairman, Arent Fox law firm, association expert, and our moderator;
  • Denise Grant, specialist on association executive searches with Russell Reynolds;
  • John Engler, CEO, National Association of Manufacturers, and former Governor of Michigan; and
  • Ken Patton, real estate guru for associations at Jones Lang LaSalle
Marc: How important is a DC address?
David: Different trade associations grew up with different missions—education or training or research. But over time, it tends to be more and more advocacy-focused.
Ken: We've seen examples of associations moving out of DC over the years, like American Chemistry Council. And now you're seeing ACC coming back in. I think it has to do with the level of advocacy and the access to the Hill
Marc: Is it so far away being in Virginia?
Ken: I remember talking to Bill Archey several years ago, former president of the American Electronics Association. We talked to him about moving outside the District to save money. His response was, you're either in the game or you're not in the game. To him being in Virginia was not being in the game.
Marion: We're across the river in Rosslyn, very convenient for us because many of our big members are there. Boeing is right across the street. But it'd be wonderful to have a base close to the Hill. When you're working the Hill and things are very intense, it's nice to have an outpost.
David: Steve Sandherr with Associated General Contractors bought the ideal place across from Tortilla Coast for their Washington operation.  It's one of those things where you go in and say, I wish I had this idea. The sign is there, everybody walks by at least once a day.
Ken: We represented the Food Marketing Institute, a membership organization of independent grocers. We helped them move to Crystal City from Metropolitan Square, but when they did it they maintained a lobbying office on F Street downtown. 
Marc: What impact will the changes in lobbying laws have on your advocacy, or is it just going to raise costs? 

I'm not a lawyer, I'm an economist by training. If you look at what the government is doing, essentially they're raising the cost of entry. When I became a lobbyist I would take people to lunch or go have a beer. That's much more difficult for young people getting into this business now because of the laws. So ironically I think Congress has strengthened people who already have the relationships and made them more valuable.

Marion: And I think actually the laws place greater responsibilities on associations themselves, because in a way they've limited what the companies individually can do. We're getting called on to address fundamental issues for the companies. Not advocating a specific company's program, but they're looking to us more. 
Marc: Do the rule changes affect your staffing?
Marion: Not in response to the rule changes, but we're trying to develop a system that links compensation to performance in some tighter way, like you might see in the corporate world. It seems to be a less well-trod path for associations. It's hard to find parallels, because obviously we don't have stock.
John: It's hard to do a profit model in the sense of setting bottom-line objectives and measuring each employee against them. Historically it's not the way trade associations operate. 
Marc: Is it a challenge to keep your staff from jumping to industry or other associations?
John: A big challenge. Especially as your staff upgrades—over time you develop newer talent and that becomes very attractive. People will get opportunities to maybe have a slightly bigger job somewhere else. Losing some people is okay—a lot would be a problem.
Marc: Will there be a lot available from the Hill after the election?
John: After the election things will probably start to shift around a little. But the restrictions Congress put on their own staff, I think, may have caused some people to leave earlier and for opportunities that maybe weren't quite what they had hoped for, just because they wanted to get out from under restrictions.
Denise: We expected a slow down, which has happened, but you can't wait out retirements. We're doing searches for positions that have opened up that way at the Information Technology Industry Council and the Wind Energy Association. There's been a lot going on. 
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