Recently, talks have begun between the Marble Institute (MIA) and the Building Stone Institute (BSI) to explore the idea of merging their associations. The end goal would be to create a stronger advocate and more powerful resource for the stone industry. In my 26-plus years at Stone World, I have heard discussions like these before, but different attempts to bring the industry together have always stalled or halted altogether. The goal of specifically combining the MIA and BSI has not been achieved, mainly, because most associations or groups don’t want to lose their identity nor the passion for a cause that they suspect won’t be addressed without theirassociation’s vigilant effort. I can understand that.Alex Bachrach

Up until now, we have mostly maintained the status quo, with each group and association setting their own goals and missions. They have each achieved important results for their memberships. But then they must also each ask their members for dues, contributions, sponsorships and support for unexpected issues that need to be addressed. While this is only one area of concern for the various stone industry members who have historically supported all of these associations, it is a constant comment I hear from members of all types and sizes. Since I started at Stone World, I have heard rumblings from stone industry leaders who are members of several organizations, saying that it can be burdensome to give to, and support, so many different associations and industry efforts.

The financial requests are not the real issue here, though. The real issue is fairly simple: How will our growing industry be served best and be able to most effectively tackle the important issues we face today and will be facing tomorrow? For Stone World’s position is that it is time for the industry’s leading associations to join forces and work together to promote stone, advocate for best practices, help set standards and certifications, and swiftly act when any segment of our industry is attacked or needs support. The MIA’s quick and effective response to “The Radon Issue” is a great example of this need for high-level and fast action.

The BSI is a wonderful organization that accomplishes much for its members and has a well-known and highly respected architectural awards program, The Tucker Awards. I should issue the disclaimer here that we, BNP Media and our Stone Worldstaff, publish Building Stone Magazine, a highly informative and visually inspiring publication for the architect and design community. This is a publication we are all quite proud of. They also advocate for their group on many issues and have held designer education seminars and quarry tours.

The MIA also does similar things: an architectural awards program, The Pinnacle Awards, quarry tours, education workshops (disclaimer again: we’ve partnered with the MIA on these events since 2008), extremely important and ongoing safety initiatives including continued outreach to OSHA, technical consulting services and so much more.

The question really is: How much morecould we accomplish by combining our efforts and resources, both financial and human? I believe the answer is a whole lot more. This isn’t a discussion of weaknesses or problems or inabilities to succeed, nor am I addressing details that would obviously have to be worked out. This discussion is about moving forward towards a group that can have real power, strength and resources. A group that can tackle issues that are becoming critical to our businesses and continue the successful projects and publications they have always created, with even more resources available.

We see wonderful upsides here but not much down-side at all. Some people may feel like they won’t have the connection to the group any more, but the truth is, everyone should get involved – especially in a larger, more inclusive group. One industry leader who has been active in both the MIA and the BSI said to me, “There is a myth that the BSI is a bunch of quarriers and fieldstone and rubble stone suppliers, and the MIA is a bunch of countertop fabricators and distributors, but really, neither portrayal is accurate.” Both groups have members from all segments of our industry, and we would all benefit greatly from coming together, addressing the most pressing issues for our entire industry, and working as one bigger, more powerful group.

As Stone World celebrates our 30th anniversary with this issue, I would love to see our industry get together to create a large, inclusive and powerful trade association. We can accomplish so much if we do it together.