Joining Forces

Sept. 8, 2001

Joining Forces

In New York, airport, tenant groups team up to affect policy, business

By David Newman, Ascent Aviation Products

September 2001

Twelve years ago, New York’s airport managers and fixed based operators (FBOs) worked within their own respective circles to influence state policy. Today, the groups have taken bold steps to merge their respective organizations, and address the needs of the state’s entire aviation industry.

In 1989, New York’s FBOs banded together to form the New York State Aviation Association (NYSAA). The primary role of NYSAA was to lobby for tax relief on aviation fuels sold within the state.
Due to high state taxes, FBOs were faced with charging substantially higher prices for retail purchases of aviation fuel — higher than FBOs in surrounding states. After five years of lobbying the state legislature, the association was successful in establishing a tax classification enabling FBOs to purchase and resell aviation fuel at a substantially reduced tax rate.
During this period, NYSAA and the New York Airport Managers Association began a dialogue about joining forces. We had similar missions, but significantly different membership bases. It was clear that joining forces would broaden our sphere of influence; it was a question of how we could best work together and still meet the needs of our members.

NYAMA Reorganizes
About the time that NYSAA had achieved its legislative victory, the New York Aviation Management Association (NYAMA) was working to reorganize and refocus its statewide organization.
Formed in 1976, NYAMA began as a non-profit group representing the needs of the state’s airport managers. (Its original name was the New York Airport Managers Association).
In 1995, NYAMA hired a lobbyist to help represent its interests in Albany. "From the beginning, the competition for state funding was fierce. We also had our work cut out for us in educating lawmakers and other decisionmakers about the importance of investing in the aviation community," relates Terrence Slaybaugh, director, Greater Rochester International Airport and current NYAMA president.
In 1998, the association decided to hire a communications director and establish a headquarters in Albany, a block from the state capitol. The board of directors then turned its attention to enhancing it member benefits and communications.
"As we began to make inroads at the state capital, we needed to do a better job harnessing our members’ support, and communicating our successes to the membership. The board made a firm commitment to enhance our training programs, newsletters, and web page, and look at our overall membership structure," Slaybaugh explains.
Consistent with the board’s objectives, in the fall of 2000 membership committee chair Robert Nicholas, manager, Ithaca/Tompkins Regional Airport, proposed major changes to the association bylaws, paving the way for a more inclusive organization and expanded membership.

Revised Bylaws Open Doors
According to Nicholas, the bylaws finalized initiatives that began years ago "in early discussions with our fellow FBOs." Along with restructuring its dues, NYAMA’s new bylaws accomplished the following:
Name Change. Changed the association’s name from the New York Airport Managers Association to the New York Aviation Management Association.
Membership Status. Eliminated the different classes of membership, giving the same rights and voting privileges to all members. Under this proposal there is no difference in status between any member, regardless of aviation affiliation and size.
Membership by Organization. Membership is by organization rather than individual. Organizations or entities are required to pay one membership fee. Payment of the fee confers member benefits to all employees. This is an important distinction when NYAMA represents its members in Albany.
Voting and Member Privileges. Membership gives one vote to each organization. Each vote has equal weight, regardless of size or identity. Every member is eligible to become a director or officer of NYAMA. Every member is eligible to move through all officer positions.
"Revising the bylaws was just the beginning," Nicholas says. "Now that they have been adopted, we have turned our attention to membership recruitment."
Weeks after the bylaws were adopted, NYAMA established a Membership Development Commit-tee, co-chaired by Nicholas, an airport manager, and myself, representing a supplier.
"The bylaw revisions have opened doors," Nicholas explains. "We are now well positioned to meet the needs of the state’s entire aviation industry. Our membership recruitment efforts are focused on our FBOs. We look forward to their membership and hope for a strong and productive partnership."

Strength in Numbers
Today NYAMA represents thousands across a wide spectrum of professions in the aviation industry. Airports range from small, privately owned grass strips to the state’s largest facilities serving millions of scheduled air carrier passengers annually. Members also include private sector manufacturers, suppliers, and consultants, serving the aviation industry in New York State and around the globe.
"We are all about the same thing: promoting a strong aviation industry in New York. Working together is the only way we will continue to make inroads in our communities, at our state capitol, and in Washington," Slaybaugh says.

About the Author
David Newman, 47, is vice president for Ascent Aviation Products, based in Parish, NY. He has some 20 years in aviation and is an ATP-rated pilot. He can be reached at [email protected]