For the past year, as the nation's recession has affected the business of architecture with increasing frequency and force, the American Institute of Architects has remained strong, doing everything in its power to help its members weather the storm. Yesterday, however, the AIA admitted that it, too, is not immune to economic realities.
In an e-mail message sent to members late on Thursday, April 23, and acquired by ARCHITECT, AIA president Marvin Malecha explained that the institute is "feeling the impact of the recession" because of "shortfalls" in membership dues as well as convention and Career Center revenues. As a result, the institute has had to make additional cuts in operating expenses and has planned two weeklong furloughs—in June and August—for all national component staff. Malecha closed his message by noting that the institute's finances are in "good condition" and expressing confidence that the AIA will exit the recession "a stronger Institute and profession."
In an official statement e-mailed to ARCHITECT Friday morning, AIA executive vice president and CEO Christine McEntee said, "Due to the prolonged recession, we are forecasting a budget shortfall for 2009 and decided to take preemptive measures" to control expenses. The furloughs, McEntee noted, were instituted to stave off staff reductions. "It is an unfortunate necessity," McEntee said, "in order to retain all of our staff while continuing to provide service to our members."
This is the full text of Malecha's message that was sent to AIA members:
Credit markets are slowly thawing, stimulus funds just beginning to flow, but our economy is still in crisis. The Institute is feeling the impact of the recession just as we are in our firms and practices.
The Board of Directors is undertaking a proactive assessment of all operations and services with an eye on the evolution of an Institute that is more agile and better able to meet the challenges of a rapidly transforming profession. We are closely monitoring the AIA's financial performance this year and an analysis of the first quarter revealed shortfalls in membership dues and Convention and Career Center revenues that requires us to make additional reductions in operating expenses in order to operate within our 2009 budget.
The reductions include face-to-face meetings of the Committees of the Board of Directors, staff travel, and efficiencies gained through greater reliance on technology. But the plan also reflected a desire to retain members of our national staff.
To ensure that our expense reductions result in a balanced budget, there will be a two-week furlough of all national component staff. The furloughs, from the CEO on down, are planned for the first week of June and the first week of August. As required by federal employment laws, the staff is prohibited from doing any Institute-related work, including answering phone calls and email messages during the furlough period.
While our goal is to minimize the impact on our members and customers, we also know that closing the Institute will have implications. We will structure implementation of the furloughs to ensure the least disruption of member services. We will keep you apprised as we work through the details.
The Institute's finances are good condition despite the recession, in part because of the proactive efforts such as those I just described. I am confident we will maintain our focus on providing service to our members during the economic downturn and, working together, emerge a stronger Institute and profession.