1963-1986 — The Mead Years

Despite the new technologies changing the industry, the association itself had changed very little from the days of Mac MacGregor. Mead set out to make the changes necessary to promote the growth of the organization.

Many new programs and activities were instituted during the early 1960s and 1970s. CPAI organized a vigorous program to attract businesses into the association. Additional staff was hired to call on prospective members, and membership grew rapidly. CPAI added more services, including the popular Information Central. The association also developed a new voluntary fire resistance performance standard, CPAI-84, which is still required for tents sold in the U.S. and Canada. A similar standard, CPAI-75, was developed for sleeping bags.

In 1960, a Tarpaulin Committee was formed after the formerly independent Tarpaulin Manufacturers Association merged with CPAI. In 1968, the association formally organized its first division, the Industrial Fabrics Research Division. It wasn’t long before additional divisions were formed for manufacturers of rental tents and awnings. By the end of Mead’s employment with the association, 18 other divisions were formed. Some would have short lives while others still thrive today.

In 1966, the magazine changed its name to Industrial Fabric Products Review. In 1981 the association became Industrial Fabrics Association International. Mead’s title was also changed from executive secretary to executive vice president.

The growth of the association made it necessary for it to move from its long-time home in the Endicott Building. In 1983, IFAI moved to 345 Cedar Street, still in St. Paul.

In 1980, the organization formed its Geotextile Division for manufacturers of an emerging new product for the construction industry. One of the principal reasons for forming the division was the 1979 decision to organize the Second International Conference on Geotextiles, which took place in Las Vegas in 1982. The 1982 international conference evolved into a biennial conference that has grown to more than 1,500 participants and 100 exhibits. The conferences helped launch Geotechnical Fabrics Reports magazine in 1985.

In 1982, IFAI also formed its Window Energy Systems (WES) division for manufacturers and distributors of energy-conserving window coverings. Magazine and trade shows were also developed in conjunction with the activities of this division. With the passing of the energy crisis in the U.S., the focus of the industry activities shifted from energy to fashion and the name of the division was changed to the National Window Fashions Association (NWFA). IFAI sold NWFA membership to the National Decorator Products Association in 1986.

The roots of a financial crisis began in October 1985 when a hurricane threatened New Orleans, the location of the IFAI convention that year. IFAI lost a considerable amount of registration revenue and made drastic spending cuts. By the summer of 1986, the association had already spent the majority of its financial reserves and cut more than half of its staff. Robert Mead resigned after 23 years with the organization.

Mead remained involved in the industry by purchasing Marine Textiles magazine helping organize the Marine Fabricators Association.