There are so many trade organizations out there that do good work for industry.  Many associations are known for the lobbying work they do in Washington, D.C. Others don’t lobby but they keep track of legislation affecting their members and diligently report back on the latest laws and pending bills. Still others are somewhat more social organizations; most often, these are the local or regional groups.These closer-to-home associations can do things for you that the larger ones may not be as adept at accomplishing. Networking is one aspect that makes these smaller groups so important.

Perhaps the most familiar reason to network is to find a job. The flip side of that is to find capable people to fill a job slot at your company. But today I came across another good reason to be part of a trade group. I read the editor’s page in one of my company’s other publications and discovered another networking angle.

This editor wrote that an Illinois association in the plumbing and mechanical industry frequently arranged facility tours in conjunction with meetings. One member on a recent tour noticed the plant’s smaller condensing boilers. He learned that these replacement units were saving the company $30,000 on utility costs. That’s big.

Back at his corporate headquarters, he took a hard look at the size of his firm’s circa 1940 equipment, calling them “giant locomotives.” Knowing that his company had renewable energy initiatives in place, he pushed forward. In the end, he got the go-ahead for his capital plan, and new smaller and more efficient boilers were installed. The return on investment was going to be sooner rather than later.

Wouldn’t you like to be the person at your company who introduces a grand idea to streamline operations or dramatically improve a process? Wouldn’t you like to cement your position in the company? Wouldn’t you prefer to use your networking connections to find jobs for other people rather than for yourself?

Ideas are out there. Get involved with your association. Or if you already are, make sure that plant tours, at least occasionally, are on the agenda. The next idea is waiting for you.