NTA Proves Effectiveness Of Regional Association

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | September 2009 Vol. 64 No. 9
Danielle Martin, winner of the 2008 Founders Award with 2009 president Ralph Edwards (left) and previous president Bruce Hubbard

A trade association is an organization of people who share a common purpose and which has a formal structure. Many associations use multiple methods to support their members, including education, training and public relations programs to create a favorable image of the trade or profession.

Many trade associations are household names that wield great power and attempt to influence legislation through well financed lobbies – think National Rifle Association (NRA) and AARP, an acronym so well known the organization's full name – American Association of Retired Persons – seldom is used.

The Encyclopedia of Associations identifies more than 135,000 nonprofit membership organizations worldwide, over 22,000 of them national organizations in the United States. In addition, there are another 115,000 local, state, interstate and regional organizations.

When it comes to associations, bigger isn't necessarily better – small local and regional organizations can be very effective in serving their members, especially for those serving specialized, niche markets.

A good example is the Northeast Trenchless Association (NTA). Formed in 2004 by a small group of New England horizontal directional drilling contractors, membership has grown with the support of a diverse group of associate member suppliers and service providers.

Initial goals
The organization's goals at the time was to advance the professionalism of its members and to increase awareness of the benefits of trenchless construction among owners and operators of utilities, general contractors and the public.

Those basic goals haven't changed, but the ways to implement them have become more effective, believes current president Ralph Edwards, underground sales specialist, Vermeer Northeast. Membership and focus have expanded from HDD to include other trenchless technologies.

One of the keys to the organization's success, Edwards says, has been the ability of members – both contractors and suppliers – to not allow competitive issues to intrude in association business.

"We just put them aside for the good of the industry," he says. "And we believe communication among members keeps us active in the association and allows members to have an integral part in its success."