TechAmerica Mergers May Not Be Over

Posted July 22, 2009 at 6:29pm

Six months after the American Electronics Association and the Information Technology Association of America merged to become TechAmerica, consolidation among technology associations may not be over.

TechAmerica is in talks to merge with the Electronic Components Association, talks that had been going on with the AeA before its merger with the ITAA took place, TechAmerica spokesman Charlie Greenwald said.

President Phil Bond and TechAmerica CEO Chris Hansen declined to give any more details, but a subsequent merger could further shake up the many trade groups that represent small segments of the industry.

The ITAA itself merged with the Government Electronics and Information Technology Association in 2008.

TechAmerica, which officially formed in January, has been undergoing a massive reorganization — weeding out redundancies, overhauling departments and adding to its grass-roots capabilities.

Since January, TechAmerica has decreased its size from 100 to about 85. The cuts include one federal policy employee, an international employee, six regional office employees and three positions in which employees at the two merged associations overlapped, according to Bond.

Most recently, Cindy Jimenez left to become a director of government relations at United Technologies. Roxanne Gould, who led the AeA’s state lobbying operation, exited in May, and the group is actively looking to replace her, Bond said.

John Palafoutas, the longtime AeA head of government relations, has been transferred to a part-time employee status. Palafoutas was running TechAmerica’s commercial group following the merger, but David Thomas, a new hire, has taken over those responsibilities in Santa Clara, Calif.

Palafoutas, a Republican, remains at the association as a senior adviser, Bond said.

Rob Mulligan, who headed the AeA’s international division, has been moved into a part-time status.

TechAmerica executives declined to rule out further cuts.

But Bond said that with the addition of the group’s first ever grass-roots network and its procurement work and federal lobbying, he hopes TechAmerica will be adding staff.

TechAmerica has also been looking to shrink its office space. Currently, the trade group has two offices, the ITAA’s in Arlington, Va., and the AeA’s in downtown Washington.

“We would like to consolidate them, but we have leases to deal with,— Hansen said.

The Space Enterprise Council has been co-locating with TechAmerica in its D.C. office since June.

Through that agreement, the council, which is a leading authority on the domestic space industry, has also affiliated with TechAmerica.

One key area of expansion for the association has been in the grass-roots arena. The trade group signed an exclusive agreement at the end of June with the Technology Councils of North America to coordinate the membership, programs and services produced by TechAmerica’s network of 16 regional councils and TECNA’s 40 independent regional trade groups.

“The industry has never had a real grass-roots operation, and we wanted to put that together,— Bond said.

As part of the restructuring, the roles of Bond and Hansen have also changed.

Hansen will now focus on running the association’s international operations. Additionally, he’ll be responsible for revenue sources and also lead the group’s effort to complete mergers with groups at the grass-roots level.

Hansen says the new focus is a natural fit, given his background leading Boeing’s international division.

Bond will focus on running the day-to-day operations, public policy and communications for the trade group.

Rumors have been swirling on K Street about Hansen’s expected departure from the group by the end of 2009, according to several tech lobbyists.

But Bond and Hansen say there are no plans for him to leave. “Chris has a two-year agreement under— the merger, Bond said.

The merger has not been without growing pains, and member company lobbyists say they are still waiting to see the fruits of the combined organization on the federal lobbying front.

“Member companies are less than enthused about where [TechAmerica] is in its effectiveness,— said one lobbyist.

The ITAA, which was well-known for its deep bench in federal technology procurement, and the AeA, which was focused on state-based government relations, have been reorganizing the association’s international and federal operations.

Josh Lamel, former head of the ITAA’s lobbying operation, stepped in to run the merged group’s lobbying team.

The association has combined its policy operation for commercial business and government affairs.

Lamel sent an e-mail July 10 to member companies’ top lobbyists asking them to join him Friday for lunch in TechAmerica’s Washington, D.C., office to discuss which policy committees are needed and how the association would be communicating with companies about its federal activities going forward.

“The purpose of this meeting is to organize and get moving on a regular set of meetings and communications to Member companies and to improve communications to and from the policy and lobbying professionals at the companies that make up TechAmerica,— Lamel wrote. “This will help me get to know all of you and what you care about most.—

Bond said most of the companies already know Lamel from his time on the Hill as Rep. Kendrick Meek’s (D-Fla.) chief of staff and that this is part of the federal reorganization effort.