I am writing in response to SSM's interview with Gary Distelhorst of the Marble Institute of America [that appeared in the November/December 2004 issue].
I want you to know that Mr. Distelhorst and MIA do not speak for the stone industry.
The MIA has a small membership that has grown slowly. Since 1962, the MIA has only been able to attract about 1,000 members. There are over 50,000 stone-related businesses in the United States alone, and in excess of 200,000 internationally.
I believe its policies are behind the times and out of touch with reality. MIA politics and official positions try to limit the industry from increasing business into new areas such as engineered stone, which Mr. Distelhorst refers to as "fake stone."
This industry must keep up with technology and the new products being introduced but MIA's exclusionary policies, as seen in your interview, clearly demonstrate their anti-engineered position. That is a minority position in the stone industry that is not shared by ITSS.
Every ITSS show is open to manufacturers of engineered material, and companies like Caesar Stone, Cambria, Santa Margarita and others that have exhibited in the ITSS shows in New York, Miami and Las Vegas are welcomed. Our attendees and exhibitors want them in the show-its just smart business.
Open competition is the only thing that the market will respect?not artificial exclusionary MIA policies. The head-in-the-sand MIA position will not make solid and engineered material go away.
MIA has a history of being exclusionary even within the stone industry. ITSS Expos are the top tradeshows for the natural stone, tools, machinery and associated products in the United States, but when last I looked the MIA still does not even have its three show dates on its Web site. That is simply politics, not smart business. MIA has contracted away its ability to be an independent voice for the industry. Under the terms of the sale of StonExpo, which MIA owned, MIA can ONLY support StonExpo. How does it serve the industry if their voice has been bought and paid for by a tradeshow that is owned by a venture capital firm in New York City? The stone industry does not need exclusionary politics from its association, it needs unbiased service.
Other associations have risen to take the stone industry in to the future and they are far more realistic in their attitudes to the demands of the market. I want to make sure you are aware that there is finally a better option as an association than MIA. A new, totally independent association has formed called the International Stone Institute (ISI), which was founded by Mr. Fred Hueston. Mr. Hueston has answered the calls of the industry and created what has been desperately needed and wanted.