1926-2016: NEMA at 90

1926-2016: NEMA at 90

By Kevin J. Cosgriff, President and CEO, NEMA

Kevin Cosgriff Photo_6743-Edit
NEMA President & CEO Kevin J. Cosgriff

In 1926, when the Electric Power Club and the Associated Manufacturers of Electrical Supplies merged to form the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, then–Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover wrote the following to NEMA President Gerard Swope:

“…such an association under proper guidance can perform a very useful service not only to the industry but to the public…we have need of a great deal of standardizing of supplies and apparatus; we have need of simplification in many directions. We have need of more economic study and industrial statistics in the industry—all of which contribute to the more enlightened conduct of business and ultimately results in greater stability to industry and in favorable returns to the consumer and public.”

NEMA at 90 would make Mr. Swope and President Hoover proud. Historical documents related to the founding of NEMA indicate that its members were big-picture thinkers. “To the extent that the quality and amount of electrical service of the Nation is increased,” the founders wrote, “we shall all benefit. The more push-buttons, the more invisible hands, the greater the electrification of farms, homes, railroad, and factories, the more our own business will prosper and the further society will advance.”

"Gerard Swope" by George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress
First NEMA President, Gerard Swope. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Not only has the electroindustry accomplished these goals and evolved with the advancement of society, but we have also proven our value to the nation’s commerce and the public. Our product sections have grown—and at times been recast—to mirror technological advances.  For example, across many different parts of NEMA, we are witnessing a shift toward systems development and sales.

It is important to consider not only how we got here but also how historical events will shape our future. For example, the “war of currents” waged between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla was a precursor to exciting changes occurring in direct and alternating current applications today. Narratives from veteran employees testify to changes that have transformed NEMA into a modern workplace. Who could have imagined that NEMA would be a co-owner of a digital data company (IDEA) active in the ecommerce space?

NEMA at 90 is certainly a milestone but by no means is it an endpoint. And as we take stock and look ahead, I posit three questions:

  • Who are we now?
  • What do we believe?
  • Where should our industry be in 10 years?

Throughout the year, I invite you to read about the history of the electroindustry. More than that, I challenge you to ask and answer these questions, too. I dare you to dream about our industry and NEMA at 100 so we can all work together to get there.

Originally published in the January 2016 issue of ei, the magazine of the electroindustry.

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