The Archery Trade Association was conceived during the 1947 National Archery Tournament in Salt Lake City as an organization to harness the energies of the archery industry to ensure its long-term survival.
The actual organization didn’t launch, however, until the 1953 NFAA National Tournament at Two Rivers, Wisconsin, when 45 archery manufacturers and dealers took the first step in the ATA’s development.
The trade group was originally called AMADA, for Archery Manufacturers and Dealers Association. Its goals were to establish product standards for the industry, and to promote the bowhunting and target-archery markets. Larry Whiffen Sr. of Milwaukee, a member of the Archery Hall of Fame, was elected the organization’s first president when AMADA was incorporated in Iowa on April 22, 1954. Whiffen was a contemporary of legendary bowhunters like Fred Bear, Howard Hill and Ben Pearson. Before dying in 1960 at age 59, Whiffen’s passion for archery helped make AMADA a success.
When the organization changed its name to the Archery Manufacturers Organization in 1965, its leaders introduced the AMO logo. During these early years, AMO’s duties were performed by volunteer executive directors and board members. Its promotional arm was the American Archery Council, a committee of associations and groups formed by AMO to promote archery and bowhunting.
In the 1970s, the AMO office affiliated with the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) in West Palm Beach, Fla. SGMA provided a staff member to be the AMO’s part-time office manager.
In 1990, the industry was coming off more than a decade of tremendous growth, especially in bowhunting. The AMO’s Board of Directors realized it had to focus the collective force of manufacturers, distributors and dealers to continue the momentum. Thus, the Board hired its first paid staff. Dick Lattimer, a former advertising director at Bear Archery, was hired as the organization’s first full-time president. The AMO opened its office in Gainesville, Fla., and Lattimer hired Pat Wiseman to help.
One of Lattimer’s first initiatives was to raise a “war chest” to protect and promote bowhunting and archery sports. The Save Our Heritage program launched in 1992 when more than 70 manufacturers and distributors committed a percentage of their sales to the fund. A grant committee reviewed funding requests, which were then voted on by the AMO Board. Some of this money developed promotional programs and informational pamphlets for dealers, manufacturers and the public, while other funds were used to protect bowhunting.
In 1994 the AMO nominated and included archery dealers as voting members on its Board of Directors. The AMO logo remained the same, but the group’s name was changed to Archery Manufacturers and Merchants Organization. At the same time, the organization created its Dealers Council. The Council’s chair has a permanent seat on the Board of Directors to ensure archery dealers have a voice in the organization. At the same time, a Sales Representative Committee was formed, and its chair also has a seat on the Board of Directors.
To increase funding to promote archery and bowhunting, the AMO sponsored its first Archery Trade Show in 1997, with 100 percent of show profits going to the Save Our Heritage fund. That first trade show, in Louisville, Ky., attracted 6,000 attendees and netted $548,000 for Save Our Heritage. At this point, individual company contributions into the SOH fund ceased.
The 1998 trade show netted $610,000 to promote and protect the sports. The 1999 trade show, in spite of a snowstorm that limited attendance, netted more than $600,000 for the SOH fund. The show’s foundation was thus established.
When Lattimer retired in 2000, the board named Jay McAninch to replace him as president and CEO. McAninch took over Aug. 1, 2000, and soon closed the AMO’s Gainesville office. He began running the organization from his home office near Washington, D.C. This allows him to work closely with the lawmakers and national organizations to promote and protect archery and bowhunting. Over the next few years, McAninch hired staff and built an organization with offices around the country, including a main business and trade-show office in Salt Lake City.
McAninch was the first “outsider” to run the organization. Pete Shepley, founder and president of Precision Shooting Equipment, was one of several Board members who thought the sport’s greatest innovations often came from outsiders, and that it was time to take that approach with the organization’s top officer. With McAninch’s hiring, the AMO become a service-oriented trade association whose primary mission was to support the archery and bowhunting industry and ensure its future.
In December 2001, the Board put the Save Our Heritage grant program on hold to evaluate its effectiveness. McAninch also convened an industry-wide Summit meeting in Minneapolis to develop a long-term strategic plan to grow archery and bowhunting. Every major company in the industry attended this historic meeting. Soon after, the Board adopted the plan and McAninch began hiring staff and implementing the strategy, which is widely viewed as the foundation for the archery industry’s future. A key part of the plan is the annual ATA Archery and Bowhunting Summit meeting, which chronicles the progress of the archery industry, state wildlife agencies, and archery and bowhunting organizations in growing archery and bowhunting.
As part of its new mission and vision, the AMO became the Archery Trade Association in late 2002. The ATA also incorporated two nonprofit foundations, ArrowSport and the Bowhunting Preservation Alliance, to create independent links to those interested in growing archery while protecting and promoting bowhunting. In 2007, the ATA merged the two foundations into one entity, which operates as a nonprofit effort to grow archery and bowhunting.
In July 2002, the ATA assumed control and operation of the Trade Show. For the first time, the industry’s trade show was managed by ATA staff. This generated greater profits for promotional efforts and improved the show’s value to the industry. Since this change, the show’s net proceeds have averaged nearly $2 million, has and have become the funding base for ATA, its two foundations, and ATA grants and support to grow archery and bowhunting.
In 2004 the ATA launched initiatives to work with state wildlife agencies as an investment partner. In addition to support the archery industry provides states through Federal Excise Taxes on archery equipment, the ATA also facilitates partnerships with states to recruit and retain archers and bowhunters. These efforts include building archery shooting facilities, especially in urban and suburban areas.
Also in 2004, the ATA began providing implementation grants to state wildlife agencies for the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP). To date, nearly every state has an active program that originated from individual ATA donations of $15,000. The total support provided for NASP exceeded $800,000 as of mid-2009.
As part of its cooperative work with state agencies, ATA launched the Community Archery Programs (CAP) in 2006. This strategy promotes archery in urban areas as a recreational activity equal to other sports enjoyed by most Americans. ATA’s CAP grants have helped develop shooting facilities, including archery parks and indoor/outdoor shooting centers. These facilities help promote introductory archery programs, primarily NASP, although the ATA also works to establish After School Archery Programs, Explore Bowhunting, the Junior Olysmpic Archery Development Program, and other archery programs nationwide.
In fact, from 2004 through mid-2009 alone, the ATA provided about $884,000 in funding. This included grants provided through CAP to initiate NASP in the United States, Canada and Australia. At the same time, ATA contributed nearly $960,000 in CAP grants, equipment and direct aid to state wildlife agencies to grow archery and expand bowhunting opportunities.