The American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI) is to sharpen its focus on those high-priority textile issues that affect its members' survival and growth. The new structure is intended to make the organisation more effective in representing the industry's interests in the nation's capital and internationally.

"It is always incumbent upon a trade association to review its strategic focus from time-to-time," said ATMI president Roger W Chastain, Mount Vernon Mills Inc, in describing the results of the organization's top-to-bottom review. "ATMI's officers conducted this review and our board agreed because of the ongoing dramatic changes in the economic climate and changes in the marketplace that call for renewed efforts here in Washington," he said.

At meetings during the past year, ATMI's officers and board of directors decided to focus on three specific priority areas: legislative, regulatory and standards development.

"Among their endorsements, board members voted to personally increase their support of ATMI's political activities," Chastain said. "For example, ATMI's directors will also serve as the association's Government Relations Committee, and will get directly involved in Washington lobbying activities. In addition, in future years, 10 percent of member dues will be earmarked to support political activities for which corporate money can be used," Chastain explained. He added, "The board also agreed to significantly increase its support of ATMI's political action committee. At the same time, the board agreed to a 10 per cent reduction in member dues for the next fiscal year. This recognizes the business downturn that the industry is facing.

"The industry has changed and the business environment is difficult, but we believe the process we've completed will help us achieve our lobbying objectives. These commitments will help make ATMI a more significant force in Washington, DC," the ATMI president said.

An example of ATMI's new focus is its revamped committee structure. Four new product sector committees were formed to reflect the industry's broad and diverse product segments: Yarn and Thread; Apparel Fabrics; Home Furnishings and Upholstery Fabrics; and Industrial/Transportation Fabrics. "Each of these will play a key role in defining its own high-priority issues consistent with ATMI's mission and objectives," Chastain explained. "Each will be chaired by a CEO, who will be a member of the ATMI board,' he said.

A number of ATMI's already existing committees will be continued, while others will be discontinued. ATMI's fiber committees on cotton and wool will be maintained, as will its environmental and safety and health programs, among others. Committees not dealing in textile-specific issues will be replaced by "as needed" task forces, according to Chastain. Included in that group will be consumer affairs, human resources, tax and communications.

In addition, as a result of ATMI's narrowed focus, the 10 per cent dues cut and the business downturn the industry is facing, ATMI will be reducing its staff. A total of nine positions, out of its total staff of 28, will be eliminated effective March 30.

"It has not been painless, by any means, in that ATMI will be smaller, both in the scope of its duties and the staff size to carry out those responsibilities," Chastain said. "But we will be more focused to deal with the crucial issues at hand."