by Leo Jakobson | April 09, 2013
The 43rd Annual Incentive Manufacturers and Representatives Alliance (IMRA) Marketing Conference wrapped up on Tuesday, April 9, with the incoming president announcing plans to invest its surplus on members, as well as a tribute to retiring Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) Executive Director Karen Renk.

The conference took place at the Marina Inn at Grand Dunes in Myrtle Beach, SC, from April 7 to 9. The 140 attendees comrpised 78 percent of the IMRA's membership, which consists of manufacturers, national marketing companies, and independent representatives that sell merchandise into the incentive and special markets channel. 

As the IMRA, a strategic industry group of the IMA, has been profitable for the last three years, new IMRA President Kevin Dougherty said it is time to start investing more aggressively on its members.Dougherty, the director of special markets for Seiko Corporation of America noted this during the IMRA's closing State of the Association meeting on Tuesday. 

"It is time to start spending that money on the members, particularly the reps," said Dougherty, who will be  serve as president of the IMRA for the next 18 months. The 18-month-long term was impacted by the decision to move next year's Marketing Conference, when the new president is traditionally installed, from the spring of 2014 to the fall. Next year's marketing conference will take place at the Minneapolis Marriott City Center in Minnesota from Sept. 14 to 16 and will also coincide with the IMRA's 50th anniversary.

The End of an Era
This year also marked the last year that Karen Renk is attending the IMRA Marketing Conference as the executive director of the IMA. After 26 years in the incentive industry, Renk is retiring this year. She began her incentive industry career while working for the management company of IMRA (when it was an association, not an alliance), before starting her own firm, Association Enterprise, in 1990. She brought IMRA into the IMA as a stragtegic industry group a few years after her firm took over management of the main incentive industry association.

The usually unflappable Renk found her voice cracking as she bid the association's members farewell after a series of reminisences by former IMRA presidents. One particualar sendoff of note was one from Mike Landry, director of special markets for Tumi, who serendaded Renk by singing "The Lady Is a Champ" to the tune of "The Lady Is a Tramp."

Renk recently sold her Chicago-based Association Enterprise company to association management firm Ewald Consulting, which also runs Recognition Professionals International.