Joe Camarota Leaves AAMA Presidency with New Mission
At the AAMA’s Annual Meeting held toward the end of last month, the association came away with a new president and a new mission statement – “To make the industry better through collaboration, education, advocacy and networking.” It’s what the association’s past president Joe Camarota, who’s led the coin-op group since 2019, has been doing during his tenure, and something AAMA’s been fostering for years.
“I went in with a lot of enthusiasm and a large agenda, and then a few months after that, Covid hit,” he said. Of course, as Camarota also noted, “Adaptability” is among AAMA’s core values, officially established at September’s Annual Meeting. (The others are Fun, Mentoring & Teaching, Inclusivity and Working Hard with Integrity.)
Camarota’s priorities as the association’s topper shifted and it became AAMA’s goal to “provide guidance through those Covid years and help everyone survive.” He began working closely with their lobbyist Dentons, which helped get members information regarding federal assistance.
“That took a lot of time – just trying to help businesses survive,” Camarota reflected. Though the pandemic overshadowed much of the association’s work in 2020 and 2021, he was proud that Amusement Expo hasn’t missed a beat.
“We’re one of the few industries in the country able to have our annual industry show each year despite Covid.”
Camarota was also glad that the association was able to hold its first-ever retreat in May at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Wingspread Retreat and Executive Conference Center in Racine, Wis. The three days of focused meetings allowed them to work closely together to formulate their new mission statements and get to know one another better.
Another highlight for the past president was continuing to foster a better relationship with AMOA. “We have a great relationship with them and that’s something I’m very proud of,” he said. “That’s paramount to the success of our industry. We’re working together as one. We’re different associations, but our goal is to make this industry better. You can’t have one without the other.”
Camarota cited AAMA’s FEC Connect events as a great tool to get people involved with the association regionally, and something he enjoyed during his tenure. (The next FEC Connect will be Oct. 25 at High Five Entertainment in Austin, Texas.)
Industry-wise, he said supply chain issues have improved somewhat over the last year, but “there are still some individual companies struggling more than others.”
Like inflation, he added: “It’s not an issue unique to our industry. It’s changed a lot of people’s business plans with it still taking sometimes months to order.”
This coincides with an overall culture shift that makes AAMA’s “Adaptability” tenet absolutely necessary.
“People’s definition of entertainment has changed,” Camarota deduced. First, there were the business closures of 2020 followed by reopenings where people had a lot of disposable income to spend at FECs.
“You had no business, then you had your best business – and now it’s leveled off,” he explained. “We’re trying to find that new level of business and what that is.” He mentioned that some facilities have altered business hours, closing earlier or closing more days during the week. This is a result of businesses trimming the fat, so to speak, especially as many still struggle to get and retain quality employees – yet another Covid-accelerated culture change.
“We have to figure out how to attract a new generation of the population to come to our facilities,” Camarota added. “That’s what an association is for – strategic planning.”
During his lengthy three-year tenure, Camarota was a part of introducing the Coin-Op Amusement Industry Hall of Fame, which will see up to 20 inductees in this inaugural year. He also said he’s proud to honor Bob Geschine with the Lifetime Achievement Award, raising more money than ever before for the charities the award supports.
Camarota will continue on with AAMA, officially as past president and still on the executive committee, noting not much will change beyond the title.
“We’re fortunate that we have some really great people – Pete and Tina,” he said, referring to executive vice president Pete Gustafson and business and finance manager Tina Schwartz. “They are so kind and caring. They love our industry. They work very hard.”
His best advice to the new president was “keep working closely with Pete and Tina and the board.”
“I love the industry. I’m amazed that I’m able to be in this position where I can give so much back. It’s a lot of time and a big commitment.” Camarota added that it’s a great feeling to be part of a team that keeps the industry going.
“It’s amazing how many people feel that same way.”
To get involved yourself, visit www.coin-op.org.