Celebrating Milestone Chapter Anniversaries
From Five to Seventy Years Old, TEI Chapters Hit the Mark

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Individual TEI chapters are the lifeblood of the Tax Executives Institute. The chapters host educational meetings, including all-day CPE events and annual tax conferences; award graduate assistantships and scholarships; perform valuable community services; honor members with meritorious service awards; host luncheons; support TEI’s institute-level programs; host Congressional representatives; and provide seemingly endless networking opportunities for its members.

In 2016, thirteen TEI chapters celebrated milestone anniversaries, ranging from fifth anniversaries for the Alaska and Oklahoma City Chapters to the seventieth anniversary celebrated by the Detroit Chapter. The Baltimore-Washington Chapter is located fairly close to TEI’s downtown Washington, D.C., headquarters, whereas the Alaska Chapter is, shall we say, more than a stone’s throw away.

“We are so proud of the work of our chapters and everything they do for TEI. They’re simply invaluable to the success of our organization,” says TEI Executive Director Eli Dicker.

TEI chapters were created for a variety of reasons, most often because they enabled members to network with local colleagues. Typically one or two dedicated TEI members helped to form each chapter, supported by their companies and organizations.

But each chapter’s challenges, opportunities, and successes are unique. We surveyed these thirteen chapters to find out more about their histories and to present some of what they reported.

The Alaska Chapter, celebrating its fifth anniversary, works with Alaska Native Corporations, which have their own set of unique issues. The greatest challenge for the Chapter: members sometimes have long distances to travel for meetings. Most interesting event: this year’s fifth-anniversary dinner, hosted by Grant Thornton and KPMG, which included two dozen “golfers and duffers.”

The Arizona Chapter, celebrating its fortieth anniversary, spends a lot of time recruiting tax professionals to join TEI and attend meetings. The key to success: choosing meeting topics “that are interesting and appeal to a broad group.”

The Baltimore-Washington Chapter, celebrating its fifty-fifth anniversary, hosted a CPE event in 2013 at Nationals Park, the home field stadium of the Washington Nationals, which easily became the most popular CPE event the Chapter has hosted.

The Calgary Chapter, celebrating its forty-fifth anniversary, notes that many of its members hold positions on standing committees, such as the Canadian Commodity Tax Committee and the Canadian Income Tax Committee. It is the second-largest chapter in Canada and is particularly proud of the appointment of Lynn Moen, a longtime Chapter member, as Region I Vice President.

The Detroit Chapter, celebrating its seventieth anniversary, isn’t positive who its founding companies were, but “strongly believes” that General Motors and Ford were among them. In 2013, the Chapter held a Tax Reform Town Hall, featuring former U.S. Rep. Dave Camp (R-4th), current Michigan governor Rick Snyder, and former governor John Engler.

The Florida Chapter, celebrating its forty-fifth anniversary, notes that the impetus for its formation was the “dynamic growth in the South Florida area.” Geography is also one of the Chapter’s greatest challenges: “With such a large geographical area, it is difficult to schedule monthly meetings like many of the other chapters do.”

The Iowa Chapter, celebrating its twentieth anniversary, hosts a half-day training seminar each spring and uses the fees raised from the seminar to fund scholarships for accounting students interested in taxation at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa.

The Montreal Chapter, celebrating its sixtieth anniversary, has grown from ten members in 1956 to more than 200 members in 2016. The Chapter is unique in that most of its members are bilingual French and English speakers. The Chapter hosted an annual tax conference in Québec City in February, at which cocktails are served in an “ice glass” at the Ice Hotel (Hotel de glace). Sounds interesting, oui?

The Oklahoma City Chapter, celebrating its fifth anniversary, was chartered “in record time”— three and a half months from discussion to charter. The Chapter has developed a popular full-day tax boot camp.

The Salt Lake City Chapter, celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary, notes that it has received support from the IRS as well as Utah state officials, including the current chair of the Utah State Tax Commission, John Valentine. It also notes that while many organizations struggle with diversity, “the Chapter has been diverse from the beginning.”

The Toronto Chapter, celebrating its sixtieth anniversary, notes that its members include some of the largest corporations in Canada, including the Toronto Blue Jays, the Toronto Raptors, the Toronto International Film Festival, and the CN Tower. In 1970, Alexander McKie became the first Canadian to serve as TEI’s international president. He was followed by several more presidents from the Chapter, including David Burn, Reginald Kowalchuk, Vince Alicandri, and David Penney.

The Western Michigan Chapter, celebrating its sixty-fifth anniversary, notes that it was created because there were many large corporations in the area, including Upjohn, Amway, Kellogg Company, Gerber Products Company, American Seating, Meijer Inc., Steelcase, Herman Miller Inc., Stryker, Whirlpool Corporation, and Old Kent Bank. It notes that it is “a relatively small chapter with a diverse group of taxpayers with interesting needs and tax issues.”

The Wisconsin Chapter, celebrating its sixtieth anniversary, proudly points out that “in the early years, we hosted a karaoke singalong at every national meeting and even created a TEI songbook.” (This was probably before the ascendancy of social media.)

On behalf of TEI, let’s congratulate these TEI chapters with anniversaries and wish them many more successful milestone anniversaries in the future.

Leaps in Growth

In some ways, these chapters are like TEI’s children, so we asked them, “What was your biggest growth spurt, and what was the catalyst for the jump in chapter membership?”

Here are the chapters’ responses.

Alaska

The biggest growth spurt for the Alaska Chapter came at its formation. This allowed people living in remote areas the opportunity to interact with other tax professionals.

Arizona

Our biggest growth years so far have been 2014, 2015, and 2016. The catalyst would be inviting nonmembers to meetings, offering reduced meeting fees to new members, and the Access Granted membership drive.

Baltimore-Washington

The most significant growth occurred during the 1980s due to the expansion of the national defense industry. Nearly all of the major defense contractors are now located in the Washington area. We also witnessed a significant increase in Chapter membership during the telecommunications boom of the late 1990s. The state of Virginia provided significant economic incentives for telecommunications companies to locate in Northern Virginia.

Calgary

The biggest growth period was 1995–2005, in line with fast growth for the city itself. The population of the city grew to a million people during this time. More companies moved their head offices to Calgary, and not just in the oil and gas industries. For example, in 1996, Canadian Pacific Railway (then CP Rail) moved its head office from Montreal to Calgary and contributed to the growth of the transportation industry in Alberta.

Detroit

Our membership records don’t go back far enough to identify a significant growth period in membership. Since 2001, the greater Detroit community has suffered from weak economic conditions, hitting the manufacturing and automotive sectors first and hardest. These organizations stopped reimbursing employees for their membership dues, and we have lost many members since this time. We are pleased when we can simply add new members to cover those lost each year to retirement and job changes.

Florida

The Florida Chapter’s biggest growth has historically been when large multinational enterprises relocated to Florida. Many of these companies already had a TEI presence or a chief tax officer with a TEI background.

Iowa

Our Chapter’s biggest growth period was in the early 2000s. We seemed stalled at a membership level in the mid-twenties and had some concern relative to our long-term viability. We held a strategic planning session of the officers and the board that included a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and very deliberately set out to increase membership. We compiled a list of targeted companies whose tax professionals were not attending Chapter meetings or had no members. It took the collective efforts of the board and officers to explain the background and benefits of TEI and our Chapter mission and vision and to work hard to bring the prospective members into the fold. We offered to reimburse new members for the initial membership dues as an incentive. We were successful in growing the membership over the next few years and increased membership up to the forties and, as a result, felt much better about our stability as a Chapter. We have recently increased our membership by twenty percent in 2016, due in part to the waiver of the initiation fee by TEI International.

Montreal

The growth has occurred over time and results from our members speaking with their networks and friends.

Oklahoma City

During the formation/charter process, the organizers contacted senior tax management at all of the local large companies as well as the Big Four accounting firms for clients who would qualify as members. These efforts allowed the Chapter to form with a solid and strong charter member base. As a result, the Chapter has not had any particular big jump in membership, but rather slow but steady growth. From twenty-nine charter members, the Chapter has grown to forty-four with this gradual annual growth.

Salt Lake City

The biggest growth period for the Salt Lake City Chapter was the decade after its charter. The reason for this was that it was the first organization in Utah to focus on corporate tax personnel. Opportunities were provided to meet people in similar circumstances, discuss common problems, and participate in monthly educational programs focused on their needs. These programs were affordable because no travel was involved.

Toronto

The Toronto Chapter has grown steadily since 1956 at a rate of 100 new members every fifteen years, with a current membership of over 420. Growth has since slowed as almost all of the largest corporations in the metro Toronto area are represented in our membership. This slower growth is also due to globalization and an increase in corporate mergers.

Western Michigan

The Chapter has remained approximately the same.

Wisconsin

We’ve seen our Chapter membership stay around the same level for years. We are hopeful this year’s waiver of the initiation fee and our focus on personal outreach will increase our membership levels.

Networking

There’s probably no function or benefit of TEI chapter membership more important than networking. So, in our survey, we asked these questions: How does your chapter do its best networking? What brings your chapter together in the most engaged manner?

Here are the responses from the chapters.

Alaska

Our Chapter enjoys getting together at our meetings. Our first social event—our fifth-year anniversary golf and dinner—was well received and gave us the chance to meet in a less formal atmosphere.

Arizona

We host after-meeting social hours, but most networking is done at the meetings.

Baltimore-Washington

Our Chapter holds the majority of our meetings in the morning. We have found that breakfast meetings consistently yield the greatest attendance. Our Chapter also hosts a full-day Tax Education Day in November, and a full-day CPE event in May combined with a Washington Nationals baseball game. We have found that both full-day events provide excellent networking opportunities for our membership.

Calgary

A combination of technical content and entertainment works best for Calgary Chapter members. That way, they can get value for attending seminars and luncheons and still meet up with old and new colleagues. The monthly luncheons have better attendance than seminars, because the time commitment is minimal and not disruptive to the workday. The technical content is relevant to the members, and the venue is convenient. The events always start with a period for networking and connecting with colleagues, so members don’t just rush in before the speaker commences the presentation. Lunch is served, with the presentation usually starting midway through lunch. In the current economic downturn, many companies have cut back on their employee training budgets. The Calgary Chapter luncheon speaker program provides an opportunity for members to continue their technical development and build their network. We are seeing the benefits to members transferring into interest in TEI as an organization.

Detroit

Our best networking comes from receptions following our meetings, frequent breaks during our all-day meetings, and maintaining a good monthly flow of meetings and all-day seminars to keep members regularly engaged with each other.

Florida

The best networking for us is done at our annual Chapter meeting in May. This is historically the best turnout from around the state, and it allows many of our members to get to know each other in a two-day meeting format. Most of the other networking meetings are on a regional basis, since Florida is such a large Chapter in terms of square mileage.

Iowa

Networking occurs both before and after our Chapter meetings. Attendance is higher with technical meetings featuring well-known speakers presenting on relevant topics. Our Chapter holds a social hour after each monthly meeting, whereby members and guests have a longer period of time to interact. Our Chapter invites members of local legal and accounting firms to our meetings, which aids in networking. We also hold an annual half-day training session each May, which is a big draw. We recently have been holding technology and international committee meetings each year, which provide a forum for members to interact relative to key issues. We also schedule one or two social-only gatherings (e.g., a holiday social, spring baseball) to help with more relaxed networking.

Montreal

The Montreal Chapter’s best networking occurs during our monthly events and in the most engaged manner during our Québec Annual Conference at the beautiful Château Frontenac in February (when it can be -30° C in Québec City)!

Oklahoma City

By far, the Chapter’s one-day federal and state tax conference brings the Chapter together and provides the best networking opportunities. The holiday meeting/social also provides a good time to network. The regular monthly luncheon meetings are always networking opportunities as well.

Salt Lake City

Networking is possible through two efforts. First, monthly technical programs are preceded by a buffet breakfast. With ten persons at each round table, there are many opportunities each month to meet new people. Second, as was discussed in our original submission, the Salt Lake City Chapter holds an annual social gathering including spouses. These activities (attendance at sporting and theater events, etc.) provide an unparalleled opportunity to get to know peers as individuals and as colleagues.

Toronto

Our monthly meetings and seminars provide the best networking opportunities. Getting to know members at the pre-dinner reception and sharing common experiences over dinner allows members to connect with one another to discuss tax issues and audit experiences. And a good glass of wine never hurts!

Western Michigan

An annual roundtable discussion facilitated by a member in a format similar to the industry roundtables at the TEI Midyear Conference. This is generally the meeting with the highest attendance. We also have a golf outing at the beginning of each year. Attendance at the golf event has declined over the years, as our demographics have changed. Most of our meetings are hosted by a member, and the member generally provides breakfast or lunch. This provides great opportunities to network and socialize before or after meetings. Our meetings were moved from evening to morning several years ago in an effort to adapt to our changing demographics.

Wisconsin

We’ve seen our Chapter membership stay around the same level for years. We are hopeful this year’s waiver of the initiation fee and our focus on personal outreach will increase our membership levels.


Michael Levin-Epstein is senior editor of Tax Executive.

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