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November 14, 2008

Members' Needs


Christine McEntee, CEO of the American Institute of Architects, which has 84,000 individual members, says that serving your members means helping them to be prepared. That's why AIA tracks the monthly business conditions of architecture firms across the country, and had webinars and podcasts for members on issues like the credit crunch, staff lay-offs and staying employable before the financial crisis. An upcoming Web site re-design will also incorporate features like LinkedIn, GoogleEarth and YouTube to help members network, work, and learn.


Christine says AIA is promoting a Green initiative called "Walk the Walk" (hence the huge green footprint on the ground beside her). To promote sustainability, Christine says AIA advocates for new energy efficiency guidelines in Congress, will require all members to do 4 of 18 continuing education credits in sustainability in 2009, and will require a sustainability component to qualify for any of the awards given out by AIA. She says AIA's goal is to cut carbon emissions in buildings 60% by 2010, and make them carbon neutral by 2030. AIA also plans to refurbish its 30-year-old 1735 New York Ave. building using "integrated project delivery," a new method of allowing all design and construction professionals to be able to communicate on a single platform from the very beginning of the project. AIA is hiring STUDIOS Architecture and DPR Construction for the job and will be documenting progress on its Web site.


Asked if AIA required her to read up on architecture before she started in Feb. '06, she said the Board told her knowing architecture was up to AIA's members and she was hired for her association management skills. Before AIA, she was in senior positions at the American College of Cardiology, the American Hospital Association and AARP, and she's made similar gains at AIA, such as raising membership from 73,000 to 84,000. Though she expects revenue to dip next year due to the economy, she will be reaching out to her most consistent firms to stress the benefits of keeping their membership so those numbers don't slip.


Next to the fireplace in Christine's office, she keeps her Shona sculpture from Zimbabwe on a shelf built by her son. Christine looks forward to some family time this winter, when she plans to ski in Snowmass, Colo. You might also catch her at a G-town basketball game; the '77 alum just got her season tickets.


Yesterday, we were on hand as the National Association of Manufacturers released an optimistically titled report, "The Tide is Turning." But CEO John Engler cautioned his 1331 Penn Ave HQ: "Getting better is not the same as good." He says structural costs for manufacturers (eg,  paying taxes, employee benefits, pollution abatement) have gone down to 17%, ie, that's how much more it costs US firms to make a product than it does our top nine trading partners. But John says they can go down much further and help businesses to grow again; the secret: the next Administration needs to lower corporate taxes.


Economic consultant Jeremy Leonard added that even though U.S. industries are becoming more efficient and productive, wage costs are growing faster than productivity. John says the U.S.'s corporate tax rate trails only Japan and Chad, and that others  like Canada, Hong Kong, South Africa and Taiwan have all pledged to cut corporate rates. John says the U.S.'s structural cost disadvantage declined from 36% to 17.4% between a study two years ago and today's study, thanks to cost-saving measures like employee health savings accounts and high-deductible health plans.


John says with the new document he's going to approach the Obama Administration and Congress to ask that they simply "do no harm." When we asked John how he would convince Obama to reverse his position on corporate taxes, he said many members of Congress have reversed their positions faced with the economic crisis.

Association Editor Abraham Mahshie loves press conferences with speakers who use lots of hand gestures. If you know of any coming up, please e-mail him at: Abraham@bisnow.com, and please make sure you have decent coffee.

Arent Fox
Cardinal Bank
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