Smaller companies vital to industry groups

by Josh Sosland
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A notable emphasis at 2009 annual meetings of the largest baking and milling associations has been on outreach to smaller companies within their ranks. While recruiting companies to membership has been fundamental to this movement, the major focus has been on emphasizing and beefing up valuable services as well as assuring representation on important committees for smaller companies.

For both the American Bakers Association and the North American Millers’ Association, this attention to smaller members is driven not so much by revenue considerations as by the critical importance of inclusiveness as a way of assuring associations are truly representative of their industries. This latter point is especially crucial when seeking credibility in Washington, where small business often is placed on a pedestal.

For the A.B.A., NAMA and any industry organization, balancing the needs of smaller and larger members is not easy and requires care. Leadership in these groups tends to alternate between the larger and the smaller member companies. Resources are focused principally on areas of common interest. When that is not possible, issues must be handled with sensitivity, goodwill and fairness.

To the degree these principles are vital for established industry associations like the A.B.A. and NAMA, they are even more applicable to groups like the Grain Foods Foundation and the Wheat Foods Council, organizations that are newer and more fragile.

Ensuring the proper "power" balance in groups such as these is never easy, but making the effort is crucial to maintaining the coalitions that created these organizations in the first place.

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