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|The Early Years: 1920s-1950sIn August of 1926, independent typewriter dealers, entrepreneurs each and every one, gathered in Chicago, Ill., to form an association that would one day become the Business Technology Association. Behind it all there was a conviction that there had to be unity among the dealers across the country; unity to share ideas, knowledge, success and even failure.
The first officers of the newly formed NATD (National Association of Typewriter Dealers) were elected in 1926. It was agreed that dues for members of NATD would be $10 per year.
Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal came along in 1933. By this time, the Association had grown so much that it was decided that a name change was in order. NATD became the National Typewriter and Office Machine Dealers Association (NTOMDA).
A decade later, shortly after the June 1943 meeting of the NTOMDA, held at the Muehlebach Hotel in Kansas City, Mo., the name was changed once again to what it would be for the next 50 years: the National Office Machine Dealers Association (NOMDA).
New products introduced in 1948 included such items as these, announced in the September issue of the NOMDA NEWS:
In 1955, the NOMDA Board of Directors was approached by a committee representing the manufacturers of office machines and equipment. It was one of the most far-reaching moves within the industry when the manufacturers held an organizational breakfast and appointed a liaison committee to work with NOMDA. The suggestion of having a Manufacturer's Committee to work with NOMDA on an ongoing basis met with instant approval.
- TAPE RECORDER — a compact, magnetic tape recording and playback machine designed for non-professional use.
- WIRE RECORDER — a new, portable, low-priced model. The combination phonograph/wire recorder reproducer claimed to have 12 essential features of sound reproduction.
- PHOTO COPY DUPLICATOR — designed to produce letter- and legal-sized exact facsimiles of anything written, typed, printed, drawn or photographed in a matter of minutes. Claimed to produce more than 30 finished copies an hour at about five cents per copy. Portable. Had a self-contained darkroom.
The 1957 convention in Pittsburgh, Pa., was highlighted by a panel on automation and electronics. It was noted then that "the advent of electronic data processing systems did not come about for the purpose of replacing adding machines or any type of office equipment. On the contrary, there will always be a place for the machine-based on mechanical and electro-mechanical principles."
During the 1960s, the office machine industry found innovations in the use of transistors and other miniature devices that allowed office equipment to become more portable, versatile and inexpensive. A dictation machine became super portable and could be carried in the shirt pocket. Calculators also evolved to take up another shirt pocket rather than desktop space.
Convention topics and presentations continued to change through the 1960s to become more technical, more professional and to give greater insight into the problems and concerns of the industry — and to NOMDA's reactions and solutions to them.
Price Waterhouse was commissioned to do a management study of NOMDA. The company issued its August 1965 report that held some important recommendations: The board of directors could function more effectively if it reduced substantially in size. Strong interest was expressed in developing new information programs such as financial and statistical surveys of members' business operations.
In the 1970s, the office machine dealer could see great things ahead. The Japanese had developed a new and dynamic office appliance called the electronic calculator and they turned to the independent American dealer to sell their products. Within a few years, dealers were selling in excess of 75 percent of the commercial calculator market. Names like Sharp, Canon, Toshiba and Sony became household words.
New products and services entered the office equipment market at a staggering pace during the 1970s. Dealers were so numbed by events that they had difficulty exploring and expanding their markets. A slogan for the decade might have been "Opportunity is always knocking — hurry to the door!" Those who answered the call continued to move ahead.
Ever-increasing competition from direct sales forces of large manufacturers and from the increasing number of manufacturer stores faced the NOMDA dealer in the 1980s. From this arena stepped the 'citizen dealer.' Regarding the 'citizen dealer:' "Their roots are in the community. They are here today and will not be replaced by another temporary salesperson tomorrow. It is NOMDA's obligation to its membership to institute a program to project this image of stability and professionalism."
At the February 1985 board of directors meeting in Florida, NOMDA directors approved the purchase of Loretto Academy in Kansas City, Mo., to serve as NOMDA's National Education Center. Approval came after the presentation of a 105-page report, the results of a nine-month study conducted by an Ad Hoc Education Development Committee.
On April 30, 1993, it was announced that officials of NOMDA and LANDA (Local Area Network Dealers Assocation) had signed a letter of intent to merge the two associations. LANDA represented the "high-tech" segment of office systems, complementing NOMDA's membership with strong knowledge of technologies. The merger was approved unanimously by the NOMDA Board of Regents on May 21, 1993. The result was a single organization representing an experienced, knowledge-based channel of dealers and resellers who possessed the highest levels of business savvy and technical expertise in the industry. Initially, the new organization was called NOMDA/LANDA. But eventually, the name changed to more closely reflect the new makeup of the organization.
At a meeting held in Kansas City, Mo., in the winter of 1993, the board of directors had, as an agenda item, a "name change" presentation. "Business Technology Association" was presented for the first time to the directors at this meeting. The proposed name change was then put before the general membership by ballot in April 1994. In May 1994, the ballots were tallied and the final results showed overwhelming support for the new name.
With the new name came a second merger, this time with AIMED (Association of Independent Mailing Equipment Dealers) in 1994. Begun in 1976, this association, comprised of leading mailing equipment dealers throughout the United States, closely mirrored the mission of BTA: to help members maintain high professional standards and to keep them abreast of the latest developments within the industry. Merger discussions were culminated when, by ballot, AIMED members voiced their decision to merge with BTA in order to better pursue the interests of their members.
Most recently, the changes in office technologies have blurred the lines of what used to be segregated industry segments. Digital knowledge, network knowledge, the necessity of placing equipment, both standalone and connected, has been a challenge well-met by the synergy within BTA's membership — a clear example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
BTA's history of serving its members since 1926 has shown a remarkable consistency throughout the decades that has been impacted by ever-increasing technology changes. The independents — the dealers comprising the lion's share of BTA's membership — have been trained, with the help of their Association, to continue to compete effectively in the marketplace — and they have adapted while maintaining those original, vital qualities of citizenship and community.
Today, the Business Technology Association is still headquartered in Kansas City, operating from the facility it purchased in the mid-1980s. Although the building no longer serves as BTA's Education and Conference Center, the facility still hosts board of directors meetings and BTA's national headquarters staff.
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