By Elizabeth Hans McCrone
So proclaims George Christie, President of the Wine Industry Network (WIN) and primary organizer of the Wine Association Leadership Conference (WALC) that’s taking place in conjunction with USBevX 2017, this coming February 22-24 in Washington, D.C.
In addition to a full conference and trade show, USBevX 2017, the second annual Wine and Beverage Expo, will host a concurrent set of six sessions within the larger conference geared specifically for winery association leaders, executive directors, board members and key staff.
“Our goal is to launch an innovative summit this year that winery association leaders can attend annually with their peers to share information and best practices,” Christie explains. “The point is to give participants tools, ideas and contacts they can take back home to further their own association initiatives.”
Christie explains that the WALC program will address such topics as recruitment, retention, member communications, destination marketing, alternative funding, strategic planning along with including peer networking receptions and a luncheon. In addition, a special session led by the WineAmerica will focus on the most pressing legislative issues facing the industry at the federal and state level. A recent addition, led by TTB staff, will review the AVA application process and provide information geared to making that procedure an easier one.
Featured WALC speakers
“Winery association staff often work in a vacuum without much opportunity to interface with their peers,” Christie observes. “There’s never before been a program designed specifically to expand their network and further their leadership skills, but there should be. ”
Jim Trezise is an Executive Committee Board Member with WineAmerica – but that’s just one of his roles. He’s also been the President of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation for the past three decades.
For Trezise, the WALC is an affirmation of what he has learned about strength in numbers throughout his wine industry career.
“A good association is a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts,” Trezise describes. “Because of collaboration, the end result will be better that what one could do on their own. One winery is a curiosity; 20 is a wine region. You have much more power, cohesion and influence together than going it on your own.”
Kevin Atticks, the Director of the Maryland Wineries Association, and one of the WALC presenters, sees the conference as a golden opportunity for winery associations nationwide to strengthen their regional memberships.
“Our goal at any one time is to make sure we’re providing value to all of our members,” Atticks notes. “Everyone needs to see value in the organization or the intrinsic value isn’t enough … A program (like WALC) that focuses on quality, innovation and techniques – to put all that in one place and to have your peers there, it’s an incredible opportunity.”
Chris Goblet, the Executive Director of the New Mexico Wine and Grape Growers Association, says he is “extremely excited about the peer to peer information sharing” that will characterize this conference.
“I’m coming in as a new person,” admits Goblet, who has a longer history with craft brewing than wine. “The nuances of the wine industry are so much broader and more decentralized, with such a history … I’m eager to find out if other state associations are in my same position and looking for (successful) ideas that can be replicated at home.”
Ali Tuthill became the new Executive Director of the Long Island Wine Council in September. She points out that this is the first change in the Council’s leadership in the last 12 years and describes her mission as “helping the Long Island wine region to gain the recognition as a top U.S. producer of quality wines.”
Tuthill will be looking to WALC for ideas and inspiration.
“I’m so excited to attend this conference. I’ve not come across another forum like this,” Tuthill declares. “I’m looking forward to talking through problems to get some creative thinking going. It’s easy to get bogged down with the day-to-day tasks in your own region. It leaves little time for collaboration with other regions. Our board of directors is happy to support it, happy to see it. I think it will be great.”
A scholarship program has been established to assist association representatives who may not have a budget in place to attend the inaugural WALC. Under the Association Reimbursement Program, qualifying participants will be able to waive conference fees for the first association registrant (a $495 value) as well as some travel costs.
For more information on the Association Reimbursement Program and for WALC registration, go to http://www.usbevexpo.com/walc.php.