By T. Peter Ruane
Nearly one year after ratifying the bylaws that led to its creation, the first convention of the American Road Makers—or A.R.M. as ARTBA was known back then—took place Feb. 13-14, 1903, at the Wayne Hotel in Detroit.
Attendance levels were reflective of a nascent organization.
It was a different story, however, by February 1904, when 1,129 registrants from 29 states attended the second A.R.M. convention in Hartford, Connecticut. The increased participation reflected the growing influence of the association and increased interest in building new roads to get America out of the mud.
Bringing key professionals from the public and private sectors of the transportation design and construction industry together under one roof for advocacy work, policy development, information sharing, and networking and business development are tangible benefits of ARTBA membership. We’ve heard many stories over the decades about how relationships developed by attending such events led to project partnerships, joint ventures or breakthrough public affairs strategies.
Today, ARTBA annually hosts between 16-20 national or regional events for thousands of industry professionals. The annual convention, now in its 115th year, is still going strong. The P3s in Transportation Conference turns 30 next year. Along the way, we’ve also introduced events such as the 7th Annual Dr. Don Brock TransOvation® Workshop scheduled this fall in Boston, and the 4th Annual National Workshop for State & Local Transportation Advocates, which occurred this summer.
Earlier this year, an ARTBA Meetings Task Force, established by Chairman David Zachry and chaired by HNTB’s Tom O’Grady, initiated a broad examination of the association’s overall meetings program and assessed the need for changes. Surveys of the Board of Directors and Industry Leader Development Council (comprised of the next generation of association leaders) revealed that members are overwhelmingly satisfied with the scope and content of the meetings program, and the amount of time devoted to connecting with their peers.
With the challenges of business travel today, and the need to limit expenses and time away from the office and family, the Meetings Task Force took to heart some of the survey respondent feedback. Among its recommendations:
- Build an annual convention program schedule that has flexibility for attendees to stay two nights or maximum three nights, depending on other commitments.
- Host events, when possible, near major city airports to limit multiple flight connections and thereby make it more time efficient for attendees.
- Continue to hold the four Regional Meetings in cities with strong ARTBA membership presence and keep the content format focused on market issues with the involvement of nearby public agency officials.
- Incorporate the Dr. J. Don Brock TransOvation® Workshop into the National Convention or one of the Regional Meetings to help maximize attendance and better reach the target audience in the Industry Leader Development Council.
All of these ideas and others were fully endorsed by the ARTBA Board in May, and are already working their way into the planning for the upcoming events, including the 115th Annual ARTBA Convention, Sept, 17-20, in Amelia Island, Florida, and extending to the regional meetings and TransOvation® Workshop.
These meetings will be a good investment of time for you and your firm’s colleagues to attend. After all, ARTBA’s meetings help drive your business!
Pete Ruane is ARTBA president and CEO.