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Biz Talk: Celebrating American Associations Day

This article was written by Sindy Yeh, Senior Business Ambassador for Arlington Economic Development.

March 25 to 26 is American Associations Day. There are more than a hundred business, trade and professional associations based in Arlington. These associations vary widely in size of membership, industry, political inclination and influence. Their membership bases range from individuals and small businesses to large corporations and public agencies located throughout the country and even overseas.

Many of these associations may not be household names, but they play a crucial role in providing a unified lobbying and public relations platform to protect their members’ shared interests. Associations serve their members by providing education, professional development, research, networking and advocacy at the federal, state and local levels — often having national impacts.

It has been a year since COVID-19 changed how we live and work. Similar to all businesses, associations adapted to the new work realities by introducing COVID-specific resources, tools and best practices for their members.

Below we highlight several Arlington associations and describe how they are supporting their members during the pandemic.

Associations Focused on Public Health

No industry was more impacted by the pandemic over the past year than the health care industry. Arlington is unique in having several associations with members on the frontlines combating the virus. These associations represent physicians, nurses and practicing clinicians who provide direct patient care. Some also represent members working in academic and research settings, like scientists, epidemiologists, researchers and medical technologists. Their members are public health experts, and they provide input and policy guidance to government health officials who, in turn, develop recommended guidelines for the public. It’s routine to see these associations mentioned in national and international news media, and their members are interviewed for their expertise.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) and the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) are three Arlington associations with members leading the response against the pandemic. As their names suggest, their primary missions are the prevention of infectious diseases.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, these associations quickly developed dedicated COVID-19 webpages to disseminate timely information and resources, along with the latest healthcare guidelines and fact sheets to assist their members in navigating the health crisis. Given that their members are leaders in the field of epidemiology, the associations regularly hosted forums with subject matter experts to discuss the latest research results. The information is directed to their membership base and as resources to assist government officials and members of the public in making informed decisions. The associations also supported their members by advocating to Congress for COVID relief legislation, which includes new funding for vaccination, testing, treatments and medical supplies that have directly impacted patient care.

Associations Representing the Food Industry

Throughout the pandemic, food industry associations have worked tirelessly to keep the nation’s food supply chain intact and to ensure Americans continue to have access to safe food. Once again, Arlington is home to several organizations that play a leading role in aligning this complex industry’s interests and providing a common voice on behalf of its large group of members.

According to The Food Industry Association in Crystal City, the food industry is an $800 billion industry with nearly 6 million employees. It has multiple components ranging from production, processing, distribution, packaging, branding and marketing to final consumption. Several associations in Arlington represent specific sectors of the food industry, such as the American Frozen Food Institute, SNAC International (snack food), Consumer Brands Association (consumer packaged food industry) and the National Automatic Merchandising Association (the convenience service industry). Many of their member companies rank among the world’s most recognized brands.

These associations rapidly created COVID-19 resource pages on their websites to provide guidance and disseminate public health directives during the pandemic. Some included FAQs specific to food service companies to keep facilities operational and safe, and some issued guidance for farm owners and operators to prepare for seasonal operations, including onboarding and testing food service workers.

The associations also advocated on behalf of their member companies to Congress to address liability protection, provide tax relief for critical infrastructure workers and coordinate with their industry peers to ensure member status as “essential employer.”

Given Arlington’s proximity to the U.S. Capitol, it is not surprising that so many key associations reside in Arlington, and they were able to find common ground to collaborate and partner in their joint advocacy efforts for their members and the country.

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