Resource Exchange Matches Industry 'Waste' With Schools' Needs
The dean of instruction at Kaskaskia College in Illinois said his electronics teachers are in "hog heaven" over a recent shipment from the National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources.
A high-school administrator in Tiskilwa, Ill., said he was "amazed" at the supplies officials in his school district received after they became naeir members.
"I cannot arrive at a true estimate of its worth," the business manager at Ferrum College in Virginia said of the goods his school received from the association.
Such comments come as no surprise to Norbert C. Smith, founder of the National Association for the Ex-change of Industrial Resources. They are typical of feedback from naeir members, he said.
naeir, a nonprofit organization in Northfield, Ill., that collects industrial surplus and distributes it to nonprofit institutions (primarily schools and colleges), has been in existence since 1976, when Mr. Smith began to think about what he regarded as a phenomenally "wasteful" situation in American industry.
"Literally billions of dollars worth of merchandise are thrown away or sold to speculators," said Mr. Smith, a former manufacturing executive. Industries frequently end up with large quantities of excess materials and equipment, he said, for a variety of reasons, including model changes, order cancellations, the need to upgrade existing equipment, and "plain old mistakes."
naeir was born, Mr. Smith said, when he realized that much of what businesses throw away could be used by schools, colleges, and other service institutions.
The exchange started out "small," Mr. Smith said. One of the early successes was finding an expensive gas chromatograph for Loyola University's Stritch School of Medicine. After Mr. Smith put out a call for the machine, the Monsanto Company came up with one it wasn't using and gave it to the university. "Monsanto even paid the shipping cost," said Dr. C.F. Lange, professor of immunology at the Stritch School.
Since then, naeir's membership has grown to about 2,500 institutions.
For an annual fee of $350, which pays the administrative costs of collecting the surplus goods and providing members with an update on what is available in the naeir warehouse, member institutions gain access to about $40-million worth of equipment and supplies.
The supplies, which are tax-deductible contributions from individuals as well as corporations, include such diverse items as laboratory equipment, computers, plain-paper copiers, tools, electronics equipment, and even parachutes.
Periodically, members receive a complete list of supplies organized by academic fields, such as science, art, and athletics. naeir members also receive regular communica-tions highlighting new materials received, or special items that may be of interest to educators in specific academic departments. Members make their requests based on those lists, although Mr. Smith encourages institutions to submit "want lists," because donors are often able to come up with supplies in response to specific requests.
Invariably, Mr. Smith said, members are in competition for the supplies offered. Recently, a company gave naeir 550 copying machines; about 1,200 naeir members said they needed one. In that case, a lottery was instituted to distribute the copiers, Mr. Smith said.
More often, however, he just checks the naeir computer to see how much naeir has given to each of the competing institutions. The one that has received the least will get the supplies.
The association does not pay to ship the supplies, but some companies agree to deliver their gifts directly to the receiving institution.
Many supplies also may be picked up at naeir's warehouse in Northfield, Ill.
"Believability" is naeir's biggest problem, Mr. Smith said. "There's so much skepticism in the country," he explained, that educators who may have been "skunked" before sometimes find naeir difficult to believe.
For the nonbelievers, Mr. Smith recommends "checking with other schools to see what we are."
naeir has no salesmen or adver-tising, Mr. Smith said; he depends on "word-of-mouth" for increased membership. The association offers a complete list of its membership.
And at naeir, satisfaction is guaranteed. The association's money-back promise: "If, after one year, the value of the material received as a naeir member was not worth at least twice the cost of the annual dues, or was not useful to your organization, your dues will be cheerfully refunded!"
For further information, write naeir, 540 Frontage Rd., Northfield, Ill. 60093.