I moved to the Denver, Colorado area about a year and a half ago, and I have a confession to make. I joined the Colorado Aviation Business Association (CABA) pretty early on in my stint in Colorado and even sit on the legislative committee, but I only just recently attended my first big CABA meeting. Why did I pass on the last two holiday parties and several other events? It snowed – a lot. The roads were bad. I traveled for work that week and my flight was late the night before. I was sick. I broke my foot and spent six months on crutches. Basically, I had one excuse after another (although that crutch thing seemed kind of legit), because the truth was rather embarrassing for a full-grown adult to admit. Joining a new group like that – even a group of like-minded aviation professionals – felt a bit like going to a new junior high school. What if I don’t know anyone in this new community? It might be awkward. I might be bored. It might be a waste of my time.
When I worked for NATA and lived in the Washington, DC area, my sense of “community” was never in question. From the outside looking in, one might think the aviation community in DC is forced. We were “required” to spend quite a bit of time together at seemingly endless receptions, dinners, meetings, and other functions, but the people who make up that community – my trade association friends and colleagues, our wonderful association members, and even to a varying degree the regulators with whom I worked – are such incredible people that I felt blessed to be part of such a great community. Since I left DC, life has taken me to Kentucky, Kansas, and now Colorado and my incredible Beltway community seemed irreplaceable. I never even tried to be part of the aviation communities of those other states. They were just bases from which I parked my car at the airport and flew to visit a client somewhere else.
I attend most of the “big” national aviation trade conferences with a soft spot in my heart for NATA events. For me, NATA functions are like class reunions, and I am always excited to visit with other attendees and hear what’s new in our industry. In fact, I’m currently getting revved up to attend NATA’s Aviation Business and Legislative Conference next week in DC. But I always assumed the local events were unnecessary – a drain on my already limited time at home with my family.
Let me share with you what I learned at that CABA meeting last week: Our local aviation community is essential to our professional development and even sense of well-being. I cheated a bit at this event and found a client of mine to visit with at the beginning of the evening, but soon found my way to colleagues who overlap with my DC community and yes – met new people. I came away from the event energized for the future of my own business, excited about the opportunities to participate more fully with CABA, and amazed at the power of shared passion.
Are you active with your state or regional aviation business organization? The national trade associations increasingly rely on these state and regional groups as essential pipelines of state and regional issues and concerns. Aside from the obvious networking opportunities these local groups provide, I learned they can bridge the gap between the national events most of us attend and give us that injection of energy only found in large groups of people that have a zealous devotion to the same industry.
NATA’s new Aviation Business and Legislative Conference is being held next week in conjunction with the association’s committee meetings. I am looking forward to seeing my DC community, catching up on important issues, and experiencing the enthusiasm of my colleagues. Are you in need of a little community? It’s not too late to register for the Aviation Business and Legislative Conference and committee meetings!
Submitted by Guest Blogger Lindsey C. McFarren
President of McFarren Aviation Consulting