Organized in 1907 as the National Association of Marble Dealers, and renamed the Marble Institute of America (MIA) in 1944, this industry trade association has grown from a charter base of 16 member companies to nearly 1,200 firms engaged in quarrying, distributing, fabricating, installing and maintaining natural stone. The MIA is heavily involved in providing technical updates and training to its members, while the association’s published standards manual is widely accepted as the definitive resource for natural stone fabrication and installation best practices throughout the world. We recently spoke with Gary Distelhorst, executive vice president of the MIA, regarding the association’s current mission and vision for the future.
What is the purpose of the association?
The mission of the MIA is to promote the use of natural stone and to be the authoritative source of information on standards of workmanship practiced in suitable application on stone products. At the core of what we do is providing technical information and standards for the fabrication and installation of stone products. We produce a standards manual, called the Dimensional Stone Design Manual, which is referred to by architects, designers and builders all over the world. It is the only document containing standards for fabrication and installation of natural stone.
We provide information regarding fabrication and installation standards to interested parties, such as local governments or state construction and certification boards. We also provide educational training to those in the industry at trade shows, and we are now taking it into the field.
The key emphasis is on the technical side. We have a full-time technical director that responds to our members’ inquiries and architects’ inquiries on a complimentary basis. Others are on a fee.
What are the requirements for membership?
To join, a company must be engaged in quarrying, distributing, fabricating, installing or maintaining natural stone. They have to fill out an application, they have to sign an agreement that they abide by a code of ethics, they have to provide two customer references, and they have to provide a check for $700.
Does the association sponsor any trade shows, seminars or job fairs?
We are a member of the Stone Expo Federation, which is a group of eight associations that own the Stone Expo show. Of those, MIA is the only association that is truly a partner in the show, in that we provide all the educational programming and host our annual convention in conjunction with the show. Most of the other associations are in the monument side of the business and do little in the way of hosting or education.
We are also a co-sponsor of Coverings. At that show we provide stone education seminars and we run its awards program for stone. At the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show (K/BIS), we will be doing a half-day seminar for the NKBA.
Our traveling seminar series, which I alluded to earlier, currently focuses on helping fabricators increase their share of the residential market, and will be augmented with other topics as we go forward. It is a concept that has been well received thus far.
We also create training videos and CD-ROMS. We have one on fabrication and one on installation, with videos on safety and quarrying currently in the works. The videos are available to both members and nonmembers. Many of our members use them in their own shops for training their employees.