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May 1, 2009

THE LINKS THAT BIND US

“No man is the whole of himself. His friends are the rest of him.”
—Solway Community Press 76

It is with a great sense of pride that the Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI), owner of Forward magazine, provides this special issue in observance of a milestone that many organizations never reach—our 100th birthday. The significance of this says something about the value of the institute, yes, but it says far more about the nature of the industrial metals supply chain that our trade association serves.

Certainly, no business or association survives for 100 years unless it adapts to change, and often wrenching change. Our industry—redefined over the years as the nature of the supply chain evolved—certainly has demonstrated an ability to master the most difficult times. Our institute has done the same by adapting to member needs, changing the mix of programs, adding truly robust content to conferences, research and training, and taking on the toughest public policy issues that confront our member and customer base.

But our centennial isn’t simply about organizations, member companies and changing times. It’s about stewardship, on the one hand, and the importance of association on the other. Certainly, our industry, like any industry, includes individuals and companies that don’t understand the long-term value of cooperation in non-commercial ways. But the number of our peers who actively want to go it alone, come what may, is relatively small. Most of our members recognize that an active, alert trade association, dedicated to helping build better businesses, is an important adjunct to their own businesses. Without MSCI, for example, what organization would serve as the voice of the metals supply chain? Who would offer such a rich menu of finely tuned training and executive education programs for the metals world? Where would members go to mingle with others in the industry? What forum could they devise that would permit the kind of thought-provoking information flow that only a trade association such as MSCI can provide?

Because the value of association is so widely recognized, MSCI has been fortunate to have recruited a very diverse member base from which we have found member leaders and a true sense of stewardship. All of us recognize that our positions with MSCI are temporary. Someone will replace us some day, yet the valuable institution of MSCI will continue to serve metals people wherever they may be.

This issue of Forward magazine is dedicated to an examination of the past century of activity by the metals supply chain. We offer a comprehensive history of metals distribution in North America, an interesting and entertaining timeline of events and developments, and a profile of Norfolk Iron & Metal, now more than a century old, with a story that is quintessentially that of our innovative, tenacious, customer-oriented industry as a whole.

Like individuals, we at MSCI are not the whole; we are also our friends, members, volunteer leaders, conference attendees, students and passionate debaters of public policy. Author Peter Block, who has written on the topic of stewardship, says that “there is a longing in each of us to invest in things that matter …. Stewardship springs from a set of beliefs that affirms our choice for service over the pursuit of self-interest. Our task is to ensure that when we step aside … our organization still exists for the next generation.”

In that refined sense, we who are part of MSCI are privileged to be stewards. We are grateful to have our opportunity to serve, so that our community of interest, our industry, will prosper for another 100 years, with each generation of leaders stewards on behalf of all of those who are yet to come. Thank you to everyone who is part of this task with us.