In 1979, a small group of individuals felt that the needs of small fabricators were not being met by the industry’s primary trade association of the time, the Composites Institute (CI) of the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI). The group created what was then called, the Fiberglass Fabrication Association (FFA). For many years, FFA was a “labor of love” for many of its founding members, some of whom even provided personal funds to allow the group to grow.
The FFA grew to offer more and more services needed by small fabricators. The organization focused its efforts on providing much needed educational programming. After a few years of active involvement by members, the organization hired its first management company and then, in the mid 1980’s, the Association Management Group was hired to offer full service management to the group. In 1991, the FFA changed its name to the Composites Fabricators Association (CFA) to more accurately represent the scope of its members’ businesses.
In 1997, CFA’s Board voted to leave the management company and pursue self-management. In September 1997, CFA opened the doors of its own Headquarters office. At the time, the organization’s budget was $1.5M and there were nine individuals on staff.
Shortly after that time, many in the industry stated the need for a unified, more consolidated voice for the industry. Many who had been active within the CI, stopped their participation with that organization and pledged their support to the activities of the CFA. Two years later, in 1999, the CI closed its doors and CFA inherited many of the responsibilities and activities formerly operated by CI.
Over the next few years, CFA enjoyed many partnerships, affiliations, and relationships with other industry groups. For instance, CFA partnered with SAMPE for several trade shows, inherited the materials and potential for services from SACMA, partnered with NMMA for trade show activities, and more.
Over the years of its extreme growth, CFA created a structure for composites groups with common interests to unite. These groups, Divisions, Alliances, and Councils (now Committees of the Composites Growth Initiative), have allowed CFA to represent the needs of the whole composites industry, while allowing those most similar, and with shared goals, to address those items of importance to them.
In 2002 CFA announced that it would become the American Composites Manufacturers Association in 2003. The Board voted to change the organization’s name for two primary reasons: 1) the word “fabricator” was considered confusing and not well received by outside communities such as end users and those on Capitol Hill; and 2) a “fabricator” in the cast polymer community is not a manufacturer but rather an installer, and therefore not appropriate with the affiliation of ICPA.
Today, ACMA is the largest trade association for the composites industry in the world representing more than 600 members. The members of ACMA’s Board continue to set the strategic direction of the organization. Their directives and vision are exercised by the professional staff headquartered in Arlington, Virginia.