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Milestones are chances to celebrate history, focus on future

Many groups are using anniversary celebrations strategically to highlight industry impact, reposition and reach new audiences

Building 100 yearsA photo showing the Golden Gate Bridge under construction, from the AGC centennial book.

Sept. 28, 2018
By William Ehart

People of a certain age may not relish birthdays, but major milestones are strategic opportunities not to be missed for associations. Groups use anniversaries not to obsess about the past but to reposition for the future and reach new audiences. It’s an endeavor on which some begin planning years in advance and spend millions of dollars.

“We view this as a transformative process as much as it is a celebratory process,” said Brian Turmail, vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives at the Associated General Contractors of America, which turns 100 this year.

Many associations, in fact, have reached centennials recently, or are about to.

The Progressive Era and World War I saw a wave of industry and professional group formation, according to Ken Durr, vice president of history services at Rockville, Md.-based History Associates, which produces historical books and exhibits for corporate and association clients.

Aircraft manufacturers, toymakers, oral surgeons, welders, amusement park owners, association professionals themselves and representatives of a host of other sectors came together about 100 years ago.