My first-ever American Lighting Assn.  (ALA) Convention was in Scottsdale, AZ. It was 1996, just a few years into the “new ALA” era of dedicated management, and right on the verge of Beth Bentley’s leadership in planning outstanding conference venues and agendas. (She was responsible for the then-record event in Toronto the following year.) But even B.B.B. (before Beth Bentley), the Scottsdale Princess site was spectacular. And this cub reporter took copious notes throughout the event, earnestly eager to do a good job for Residential Lighting and be assigned to cover future conferences.
There was certainly plenty to report: With Eric Jacobson’s successful campaigns, membership had just exceeded the 1,000 mark (1,076, to be exact). Building membership immediately had been a critical part of ALA’s strategy, since other initiatives would require dues support and volunteer committee manpower to be realized. These initiatives included the Bi-National Advertising and Public Relations Campaign, also presented by Larry Lauck at this watershed conference after executive planning sessions earlier that year. When it debuted, the campaign aimed to reach 94 million households. ALA’s 2012 Action Agenda is targeting 250 million consumer impressions for the latest campaign.
In another prescient move, the organization also founded its Government Affairs Committee in 1996. With Dick Upton as its political sherpa, ALA was able to navigate this landscape effectively, later establishing its own PAC and industry champions so that, when the need arose in recent years for a voice of reason to prevail against harmful legislation, ALA could be proactive on our behalf.
Thinking back to how important all of this has proven to be for ALA and the lighting industry, I’m proud that I was there to witness these advances firsthand. And coming “full circle,” this year’s Conference returns to Scottsdale at the Hyatt Regency Gainey Ranch, Sept. 9-11. Beth has been batting 1.000 with her conference locations, so I am predicting another top-notch experience in that regard. And with such a rapid evolution of technology right now touching every aspect of our industry — from our interface with customers to the products we specify and sell them — the need for up-to-date education has never been so great. The next big breakthrough for the organization that we will still be praising some 15 years later could very well originate at this upcoming Conference. But it’s really just “business as usual” for ALA always to provide the latest information, tools and services for your company to keep ahead of the curve. Visit www.alaconference.com  for more information or to register today. I hope to see you there.