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A bridge to somewhere.

It's no secret that state governments across the country are feeling the pinch of the current economic downturn, with workers being laid off or furloughed, budgets being squeezed and, in some cases, essential services being negatively affected. The irony for the control states is that, generally speaking, their beverage alcohol business has continued to grow, contributing positively to their states' revenues. Still, as a part of their respective state governments, control state operations are feeling the pressure to cut back in a variety of ways. Indeed, with the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association's 72nd Annual Conference due to convene in Phoenix, May 13-17, we've learned that some long-time participants in the NABCA Conference will have to forgo attendance at this year's event because of travel restrictions put in place by their state governments. We hope these cases are few and far between, because this year's NABCA Conference promises to be right on target with its theme of "Building Bridges."

As NABCA Chairman Fox has noted in his Letter from the Chairman, "The Control States and the NABCA are committed to being agents for seeking common ground and understanding among the many interests concerned with the responsible sale and consumption of alcohol. Balancing the interests of Public Health, Enforcement, Research, Government and Industry is necessary to provide a responsible distribution and sales system for alcohol products and to protect the safety of all citizens. All of us need to work cooperatively and have open dialogue about the many modern challenges facing our organizations and constituencies in accomplishing our goals of safe communities and responsible alcohol consumption."

The theme of "Building Bridges" is particularly appropriate at this time, when cooperation among competing interests is most called for. A series of business sessions and seminars at the conference will address several compelling issues relevant to the beverage alcohol industry. For example, one seminar will explore the hot-button topic of excise taxes on beverage alcohol and the propensity for local and federal governments to increase those taxes in order to raise new revenues during particularly harsh economic times. Of course, we know that the last large FET increase on beverage alcohol during the recession of 1991 resulted in lower sales and decreased tax revenues for some time. Shauna Helfert, the incoming NABCA Chairperson and Administrator of Montana's Liquor Control Division (and the subject of this issue's cover story), will lead the discussion.

Another session addresses the critical role that beverage alcohol distributors play, in the aptly titled meeting, "The Middle Tier: Bridging Promotion and Control." And still another seminar explores the opportunities among various stakeholders to come together and focus on programs to help prevent underage consumption, drunk driving and other abuses of beverage alcohol in "Alcohol Education ABCs," moderated by Esther Vassar, Chair of the Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.

The NABCA Conference has always been a great venue for bringing together representatives of industry and the control states to find common ground. And the NABCA Industry Steering Committee (ISC) is a prime example of that effort. Indeed, our annual NABCA Industry Steering Committee Roundtable (see page 24) features comments from many supplier members of the ISC, who offer their own perspectives on the "Building Bridges" theme.

Bringing people together to create solutions to problems is one of the challenges constantly facing different elements of the beverage alcohol industry. The NABCA Conference stands as a bridge to those solutions.

Richard Brandes, Editor-in-Chief
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Title Annotation:EDITOR'S NOTE
Author:Brandes, Richard
Date:May 1, 2009
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