History of WAEL
by Art Schwartz, CAE
WAEL Associate Director
June 1985 WAEL Newsline Edition
Once upon a time in a land not so far away, there was the beginning of an organization of the people in the equipment leasing business. They had an occasional luncheon meeting in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the early 1970's, but without strong continuing leadership the group soon began to fade and, finally lay dormant for about two years.
In the fall of 1974, luncheon meetings were set up in Los Angeles and San Francisco to see if enough people would come forward to rejuvenate what was called the Western Association of Equipment Lessors. There was some interest generated from among the 45 people who attended those two meetings, but mostly there was a lot of, "Let's wait and see."
One of the underlying principles that emerged from those first meetings was the necessity of making the organization truly western, not just focused on Los Angeles and San Francisco. The second determination was to orient the organization from the standpoint of the independent lessors. The third determinant was to hire professional management . These fundamental precepts have guided the growth and vitality of WAEL ever since.
In the first part of 1975 dues invoices were sent out, and 15 members paid. A format of two conferences per year was begun. Harold McAfee was the founding President in 1975. The first two meetings at the Palm Springs Riviera and the Santa Barbara Miramar were a far cry from the kind of hotels and conferences we see today. Steve Head was Vice President and Jack Kilbourne and Manufactures Bank was Treasurer.
In 1976, regional luncheons were held in February and July in both Northern and Southern California to supplement the semi-annual conferences. 27 people attended these first two regional meetings. Seattle was added to this list of sites in 1977, and Denver in 1979. Last January we had over 400 people attend our Winter Workshops conducted in eight cities. Harold McAfee continued to serve throughout 1976 and was followed in 1977 by Steve Head. The conferences really started to take off in 1977 with people who were willing to share and participate. Hyjacking the bus in San Diego set a standard of performance that was hard to match. Conference attendance in San Diego was 125.
In 1978 Armon Kamesar became President with 58 member firms. Under Armon's enthusiastic style at the podium, conferences took off with a more expansive flair. We started the golf tournament and had a lot of extra trimmings like ice carvings of the organization. The educational side of the conference grew, too.
Fred Shieman was President in 1979, membership jumped to 145 firms and we created our first five year plan, "Forward By Plan." Attendance to our Reno Conference was up to 275 people.
Bob Skinner held the reins in 1980 and brought a sophisticated, mature hand to the helm, having been in leasing over 25 years. We held our first suppliers show about that time. Membership crossed the 200 mark.
Bob Putman became President in 1981. During his year we adopted the Standards of Professional Practice which have become a milestone of progress for the leasing industry.
In 1982 Craig Knudson became President. During his tenure membership climbed to 250. And who can forget some of the memorable parties we've enjoyed: the rodeo during our first trip to Scottsdale...the attempt to drown the boat in Seattle with wine ... the horror story brunch at our first conference in Hawaii.
Ray Corob became President in 1983, and before the gavel was passed to Bob Jacobson in 1984 membership climbed to 300. Twice-a-year regional luncheons were added to the Winter/Summer Workshops, and a month ago over 500 people attended one of these programs in nine cities. Our Fall 1983 Conference was a return to Hawaii, and the Hula will never be the same.
In the 1984 under Bob Jacobson's stewardship we produced our Rock and Roll Revival Sock Hop. Membership passed 400 and we adopted a new five year plan, "Strategy for Success," that should insure a continuing bright future for WAEL.
John Torbenson, of course, is now serving as our President. This year we have seen the start of our long-awaited Certification Program.
It has been a vital, growing and productive ten years and as we enter WAEL's Second Decade we know the best is yet to come.
Companies who were charter members of a rejuvenated WAEL and are still members today:
AMERICAN STATES LEASING, now