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   Vol. 14  No. 34
Tuesday April 21, 2015

The Man Who Invented CNS Partnership

CNS Photos

Tony Calabrese     People have called CNS Partnership a lot of things over its first quarter century, but the gathering has never been slow or late in providing a first-class venue for conducting business.
     Credit the individual who dreamed up the Partnership Conference in the first place—former CNS President Tony Calabrese (1986/2006)—for ensuring there was plenty of time (and space) for cargo executives to feel they had discovered the perfect spot to cut a deal all by themselves.
     “When I started at CNS, the airlines and the forwarders, even the airlines and airlines, barely spoke to each other,” Tony recalled.
     “What happened right from the very first Partnership Conference in 1986 is that everybody discovered, through understanding, that our supposed differences were more myth than fact.”

CNS Gathering
Guenter Rohrmann and Pat Phelan
Guenter Rohrmann with Pat Phelan
Cotton Daly and Tony Calabrese
Cotton Daly with Tony Calabrese

Tom Murphy, Tony Calabrese and Pierre Jeanniot
Tom Murphy, Tony Calabrese and Pierre Jeanniot

Isaac Nijankin
Isaac Nijankin
Jo Frigger
Jo Frigger
The Ditkowskys and The Trimbolis
Mr. & Mrs. Joel Ditkowsky with Mr. & Mrs. Jerry Trimboli

     Tony Calabrese shepherded this North American gathering (which began in 1991) for 15 years until his retirement in 2006. He recalls those years as quite positive for air cargo as well as for himself.
     “I never went to work one day at CNS that I was not glad to be there.
     “I was part of the original board that put CNS together and into business.” For the record, CNS was born from IATA losing its anti-trust immunity, a consequence of the Competitive Marketing investigation and subsequent deregulation, which is the reason that the American-based organization had to keep an arm’s length relationship with IATA for many years.
     “For years we struggled for recognition and many people thought CNS was no more than the CASS settlement system.
     “To change that perception, we started CNS Focus as a four-page newsletter and sent it around to our members.
     “While attending a luncheon at the Wings Club I had mentioned to an IATA official that I was with CNS and the reply was an enthusiastic: ‘Oh yes, that is my favorite news network.’”
     “We had a good laugh at that one, but the comment told us we needed to do some work at defining CNS to people in the world at large.
     “CNS Focus as a publication certainly helped raise awareness, but I felt that there was still more work to do.
     “So we began The CNS Partnership Conference. But I wanted our conference to be different. To us ‘Partnership’ was never about CNS, it was more about industry stakeholders’ objectives and needs. We never looked at the event as a big money-maker either, but rather our approach was to do what was good for air cargo.
     “The purpose was to bring airlines and forwarders together. From that simple premise we held our first conference in Tarpon Springs (near Tampa), Florida. We set up meeting tables of ten places each in the hall and assigned luck of the draw seating to everyone.
     “The idea right out of the gate was to keep people from congregating with co-workers or best friends. We wanted to stimulate the conversation, the floor discussion, even debate.”
     “I recall 97 people showed up for that first Partnership Conference and half again as many for our second gathering a year later in Dallas.”
     As CNS Partnership celebrates 25 gatherings this week, it’s good to remember the dedication and hard work from the man who transmuted good ideas into a great transportation organization—Tony Calabrese made CNS great by carrying the organization around on his shoulders from day one.
     Tony Calabrese began his career in transportation as a bicycle messenger in Manhattan.      “Our offices were on East 36 Street, just down the block from Emery Airfreight. Often my assignment was to pedal my bike over to the big daily newspapers of the day to deliver celebrity photographs that were shot out at Idlewild Airport (JFK).”
     When he retired, Anthony Calabrese handed over a first-class industry force to the future of air cargo. Tony was a master at making CNS unique and vital while keeping IATA at arms’ length, paying tribute to be sure, but guarding its independence, special character, and industry role. Once upon a time, CNS had an abundance of that New York ingredient, steeped in JFK cargo history and legendary characters. It was a time, Tony recalled, when every airline had a major headquarters in North America and an executive presence that made transportation superstars out of air cargo people. At CNS during the 1980s, and in truth right up to his retirement, there was always a lot happening, but Tony never coveted the limelight; quite the opposite, he preferred to stay in the background, making things work. Characteristically, Tony is still giving much of the credit for CNS to others.
     “Guenter Rohrmann was a very dynamic board member and Chairman of CNS.
     “During those years, the CNS Board—both airlines and forwarder members—really gave the organization purpose.”
     “It was the CNS members who carried the ball and helped make things work.” People like Cotton Daly (TWA), Buz Whalen (JAL), Pat Phelan (Aer Lingus), Ed Mortiz (British), Isaac Nijankin (Varig), Jerry Trimboli (SAS), Bill Boesch (AA), Dave Brooks (AA), Jim Friedel (NWA), and of course others, including brokers and forwarders like Joel Ditkowsky and Jo Frigger (EMO Trans).
     “From the media, Dick Malkin, carried his more than 50 years of experience in air cargo forward, and was available to shape and guide the early development of our magazine, CNS Focus.
     "Although Dick cautioned us early on about the idea of an Airline/Agent Forum, The CNS Partnership Conference, he stood up to every task and made things much better by his kind advice and constant presence as a major contributor to the CNS Partnership Conference.
     "His surveys and analysis gave CNS new insights about the world of air cargo, which enhanced our programs.
     “I am reluctant to name names because leaving someone out can cause an unnecessary slight. Safe to say, all the people who we worked with who helped lift our CNS idea are in a special place and we still think about them.
     “Often someone we have not thought about for years will be recalled because of an incident or a project we once shared. The memories are mostly positive and I am very grateful to have shared them. Our best work has been bringing the industry together.”

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