November 1, 2009


Let’s start by defining terms via Dictionary.com:

An organization of people with a common purpose and having a formal structure.

Knowledge gained through study, communication, research, instruction, etc.; factual data.

An assemblage or combination of things or parts forming a complex or unitary whole: a mountain system; a railroad system.

As 2009 winds up, and with it the Metals Service Center Institute’s centennial activities, it’s time to reflect on where we’ve been as a trade association, where we are today and what we exist to do.

The founders of our trade association, in 1909, and those of the former National Association of Aluminum Distributors, sought to provide their members valuable business information, ideas and a forum for discussion of a wide range of industry questions. It made a great deal of sense to create a trade association that could aggregate industry data, provide useful information and help business executives gain a fresh perspective. This was all the more true at a time when communication was slower, writing was done by hand and horses pulled wagons to deliver the goods.

We must have done something right, because now, 100 years later and counting, at a time when communications and commerce can be instantaneous, we’re still doing what we set out to do all those decades ago. Only now, the information we offer is more sophisticated and broader gauged. We offer it in more and more useful ways. Our data has never been more accurate or useful. Our education programs run the gamut from sales training to advanced executive education. MSCI conferences feature rich business agendas. MSCI’s magazine, the one you are reading now, provides insights that no other publication that serves our industry even attempts.

We are not simply an association. We have become an information system—an information system that, in my humble opinion, is no longer discretionary, but is essential for our industry.

Consider this comment from the sales director for one of our producer members: “The wonderful thing about these … conferences is that you can see 20 to 30 customers all at one event. You can get a big bang for your buck and talk to all of them.”

Regardless of how discretionary you view your travel budget to be, that kind of return is not to be missed. But conferences are just one example of information forums that help you run your businesses better. Every year, CEOs tell us that our Metals Activity Report, all by itself, provides data and insights worth the price of MSCI membership. MSCI training programs have become a cornerstone of workforce development at some member companies. Our public policy advocacy programs, built around a determined and focused program of information flow on critical issues, are some of the most cost-effective and useful tools for any member company.

Certainly, MSCI’s events, products and services can be improved, delivered in new, cost-effective ways, or expanded. My message isn’t that we’re perfect.

Rather, my message is this: For the last 100 years, our institute and its predecessors have provided to our members timely business information not readily available elsewhere, insights not easily reached at your desk and pathways to innovation that might be missed by those who think, short-term, only of ways to cut spending. As your trade association, and your essential business information system, we encourage you to think longterm with positive expectations and an eagerness to improve and prosper.

Thank you for the last century, and here’s to great things in the next one.