On Dec. 1, 2013, I’ll be retiring as CEO of AAAE, exactly 30 years after I joined the association as CEO on Dec. 1, 1983. The time seems to have gone by in a blink.
I could not possibly be more grateful to the
many AAAE members, leaders and staff who have
shared this remarkable journey with me, and I
certainly hope they also share my pride in how
we have helped to strengthen one of aviation’s
AAAE’s history goes back to 1928 when it was
started by a few airport managers at a Chamber of
Commerce conference. My tenure started with the
retirement of Russ Hoyt, AAAE’s first full-time
CEO and a wonderful leader, mentor and friend.
Russ and the rest of the “greatest generation”
worked very hard to have AAAE simply survive at
a time when World War was recent history.
In 1983, AAAE had six staff members, a budget
of $600,000 and few hard assets. When I was
interviewed for the job, the leaders in charge
said they wanted AAAE to carve a larger path in
Washington for the members’ positions and to
grow the resources for members’ services…but not
by raising dues.
With the backing and commitment of the
volunteer leaders then, and ever since, we
adopted an entrepreneurial, business-services
model to develop the resources needed to
compete in Washington and create member value.
It hasn’t happened without a little controversy.
AAAE has been criticized by some for being “too
business-like and too bottom-line oriented” for a
non-profit organization. Frankly, if one has to live
with some criticism, and most of us do, I’m kind
of fond of that one. There is no such thing as a
perfect business model, as they all have trade-offs,
advantages and disadvantages. But whether one
agrees with the AAAE model or not, few would
argue that it is easy for a non-profit to operate
like a business; incentivize growth; find services
that add value; and make “profit,” not dues, the
reliable source of revenue for non-profit goals
like Washington representation, member services,
student scholarships and more.
AAAE has been exceptionally successful in
executing its business model over the past three
decades. We’ve grown from one of the smallest
associations in Washington to one of the largest;
staff of AAAE and related organizations has
approached 100; organization revenues for
the past 10 years are more than $350 million;
AAAE has the aviation industry’s largest higher
education scholarship program with more than
$3 million awarded to more than 2,000 students;
AAAE owns, debt-free, a 35,000-square-foot
office building worth more than $11 million just
six miles from Capitol Hill; and total net assets
Wishing the Best
By Chip Barclay