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.”
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.
“We also launched 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.”
Characteristically, Tony is gives 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).
As CNS Partnership celebrates 28 gatherings
next 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.