NEW YORK — Citing decreased membership as a result of the shrinking textile industry, the Textile Distributors Association said Tuesday it will significantly downsize its operations to a near-volunteer-only basis.

Bruce Roberts, the association’s executive director, will stay on as the sole employee of the company. The other two staff members, which held administrative positions, have been let go. Further, the group will move to a smaller office on the third floor of 980 Sixth Avenue in Manhattan on Aug. 27.

The 65-year-old, New York-based TDA said it was forced to reconsider its structure since many of its members had gone bankrupt in recent years and couldn’t afford fees, which ran up to $3,000 a year, depending on a company’s volume. The TDA also said the significant decrease in membership over the past several years was another reason behind the decision — the group today has roughly two-thirds less members than in the mid-Nineties.

Now, a TDA membership will cost $500 per year for anyone who wants to join, which will cover operating costs. Previously, there were associate memberships for companies that serviced the industry, such as law and real estate firms. Besides the annual fee, members will pay on a case-by-case basis, either sending in money before a meeting or by paying at the door. All meetings will now be open to all members, whereas some were reserved for only board members before.

There will be continued vocal support of trade shows where many TDA members display their products — such as the International Fashion Fabric Exhibition, the Los Angeles Textile Show and Material World — as well as the backing of certain trade lobbying groups if members agree.

A reduced schedule of meetings will be implemented — it expects to have between five and seven per year — as well as seminars on issues affecting the industry when possible. Also, the group will continue its annual meeting, which is usually an outing of some kind.

Members are now urged to take an active role in the day-to-day functions of running the TDA, which will be largely reliant on e-mail communication to organize meetings and share information.

Roberts said the decision to downsize was a necessity, but emphasized that the new format for the TDA is not the first step of a phaseout."If we were going to close up shop, we would have," Roberts said. "There’s nothing compelling about doing this unless people want it. We have a fairly large board, and they unanimously decided to keep it going."

The six officers and 20 members of the TDA board will serve their full term, which expires in June 2003. Saxon Textiles’ Gail Strickler will remain as president.

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