With election season kicking into high gear, Atlanta Women in International Trade will reorganize to create a forum in which Atlantans can discuss controversial trade issues.

The organization, which was founded in 1989 with eight members and boasted a membership roster of more than 200 in 1995, ceased formal operations in 2002.

“The election had a lot to do with our coming together again,” said Lynne Wendt, an attorney with Wendt & Temples LLC and a founding member of AWIT. “When Clinton and Bush were in the election, they sent us their trade reps to debate trade-policy issues. We want to see if we can organize another presidential debate on trade policy again.”

Even though there are more niche organizations for people involved in the trade industry today than there were when AWIT was founded, the organization still meets a need in the community, said Lori Clos Fisher, senior vice president of Bank of America and a founding member of AWIT.

“There are a lot of organizations that include trade in their activities, but trade is not their focus,” she said. “We focus deeply on trade and can bring trade issues to life.”

AWIT is geared toward a broad membership base, from manufacturers to academics to–yes–men, Ms. Clos Fisher said.
“AWIT is for anyone who wants to further explore the importance of trade in our economy, whether they’re from the logistics side, the sales side, the governmental or regulatory side or the technical side of things,” she said. “Really, it’s for anyone who has trade as a focus.”

Ms. Clos Fisher said AWIT plans to hold seminars related to “hot topics” in trade and to help trade professionals network with one another at events.

AWIT stopped operations when its leadership became overwhelmed with the responsibilities of running such a large and diverse organization, Ms. Wendt said.

“It’s hard to get people to commit as much time as it was taking,” she said. “We had a very dedicated group of board members, but it was just a lot to ask and it seemed it was always the same people who volunteered, and we just wore those people out.”

Recently, World Trade Center Atlanta officials offered to help AWIT restructure, saying AWIT members could automatically become WTCA members, Ms. Wendt said. “Historically, we held most of our programs at the World Trade Center,” Ms. Wendt said. “They were really kind to try to help us put it back together.”

The national Organization of Women in International Trade also encouraged AWIT to reorganize, and AWIT’s founding members wanted to repave the way for Atlantans to benefit from OWIT’s vast network of contacts, Ms. Wendt said.

“OWIT does not have individual members–you have to be a member of a local chapter,” she said. “OWIT has grown tremendously and is a very active and stable organization, and we want people to be able to take advantage of what they have to offer.”

Ms. Clos Fisher said she and the handful of other women who plan to restart AWIT have no membership goals for the organization. “We’ve never had a goal to be this big or that big, it was never about finances or dominating the community,” Ms. Clos Fisher said. “It was more about filling a need that existed. If we do that with 20 members, great. If we do it with 200, that’s OK, too.”

Marie Tenaglia, a founding member of AWIT, said she is looking forward to the organization’s upcoming programs.

“AWIT is interested in providing information to our members on issues such as the UCP 600, maximizing the global supply chain, updates on pending trade legislation, the pros and cons of devaluing China’s currency and other topics of interest to our members that are not being addressed by other organizations,” she said.

“What AWIT has always excelled at was keeping the membership informed on the changes, controversies and content of the leading trade issues. With that role still to fill, we plan on stepping up.”

Story Contacts, Links and Related Stories
Atlanta Women in International Trade – Lori Clos-Fisher or Lynne Wendt