About the World Trade Centers Association

World Trade Centers Association History

The World Trade Center (WTC) is an apolitical organization that holds the World Trade Center license for a particular economic region in any country. World Trade Centers provide a network of reciprocal services and supply businesses with access to international trade services and facilities. They seek to simplify and stimulate trade by bringing together the offices of government and business that serve and carry on trade. Although WTCs vary from country to country, they are all connected as a part of the World Trade Centers Association (WTCA). The WTCA has 330 members, like the World Trade Center Denver, in nearly 100 countries representing more than 1 million businesses.

An icon is born

The 1939 World Fair in Queens, NY, named its grounds “world trade center” (Glanz& Lipton, 2003, p. 28)[1]. Under the Chairmanship of David Rockefeller, in 1959 the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association initiated a mission to construct a permanent building to serve as the gathering place for all agencies and players of what Mr. Rockefeller saw as a coming explosion in international trade. According to Glanz and Lipton (2003), this would be a place where:

The United States and foreign business and financial interests can meet to do business; where representatives of the United States and foreign governments are available for consultation and aid; and where facilities are available to expedite business transactions (p. 35).

To finance and build such a project, the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association turned to the state agency, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to review the feasibility of such a project. On March 10, 1961 the Port Authority issued a report that endorsed the feasibility of the David Rockefeller vision and justified it as a viable public project because it would serve as a catalyst for business growth, and increase employment and net revenue to the city from augmented economic activity. This conclusion did not pass without fierce opposition from other stakeholders. These were mostly the merchants in the proposed area who were to be displaced. It took a US Supreme Court decision in November 1963 to reaffirm the public purpose nature of the project before the construction of the World Trade Center could eventually begin in downtown New York City. A young man celebrating his 40th birthday on February 12, 1962 was told by his boss, Mr. Austin Tobin: “You are going to build the trade center”. That young man was Mr. Guy Tozzoli (Glanz& Lipton, 2003, p. 98).

The legal battles and public protests out of the way, Guy Tozzoli settled on Minoru Yamasaki, as the architect. After more than 100 designs, Guy and the Port Authority signed off on the Twin Towers design. In April 1973, the World Trade Center, the dream of David Rockefeller, became a reality and his brother, the then Governor of the state of New York, Nelson Rockefeller, dedicated the 120-storeys each of the iconic dual structures known as the Word Trade Centers.  They became an instant icon around the world. The World Trade Center would also represent something else. On the 77th floor of the North Tower, it would house the headquarters of the World Trade Centers Association.

For reasons that are beyond the scope of this document, on September 11, 2001, the twin towers and their related structures came tumbling down from two airplanes being flown into them by terrorists. Some 2,700 people perished and several were injured. One of those who died, Todd Ouida, was the son of the then executive vice president of WTCA, Mr. Herb Ouida. Some of the staff were injured. The twin towers, most associated with the World Trade Centers Association, were gone but the Association lives. In 2013, it plans to relocate to one of the complexes that would look like the following picture upon completion. The name World Trade Center has been maintained by the Port Authority.

(Attribution: Photo: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

An association is born

The Rockefeller vision was not just a building but a place where international business services would be provided; communication among related businesses would be facilitated; and a supportive network would be built, all as a means of bringing value to the city. It was equally important that structures would be set up to bring these services into reality just as the towers were taking shape. The essential relationship between a prominent building and support services to promote trade was conceived from the beginning and continues today in the 40-year life of the World Trade Centers Association. To make this happen, the Port Authority arranged a meeting in April 1968 in New Orleans. The purpose was to bring together like-minded cities in other parts of the USA and the world that saw the same benefits of the world trade center concept to consider ways to provide mutual assistance. The cities were: Amsterdam, Antwerp, New Orleans, New York, Paris, Rotterdam and Tokyo. The choice of New Orleans was in recognition of its status of operating the International House since 1945. The goals of the group were:

1.      To promote international business relationships

2.      To encourage mutual assistance and cooperation among its members

3.      To foster increased participation in world trade by developing nations

The result of this vision was the creation of the World Trade Centers Association that was incorporated in Delaware, USA on August 12, 1969 as a nonprofit organization. It was subsequently registered as a membership association under US Internal Revenue Service Code Section 501(c)6.  At its first formal meeting in Tokyo in 1970, Guy Tozzoli was elected as its volunteer leader. They agreed that the Secretariat should remain at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Guy continued in his role as the volunteer leader until his retirement from the Port Authority in 1987 when he became the Association’s first and current president[2]. The fifteen cities that were represented at the Tokyo meeting were: Amsterdam, Antwerp, New Orleans, New York, Paris, Rotterdam, Tokyo, Baltimore, Boston, Brussels, Houston, Le Havre, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Toronto. Membership to the WTCA was on a metropolitan basis. This was defined as an economic region.

The WTCA was born out of a studied need to create facilities that would serve as focal points for the convenience of the promotion of international commerce. The facilitation of commerce was recognized early; first as a form of physical interaction of various people in the chain: locally, then regionally, then internationally. Next to facility, the single most important activity was the network to deliver the enabling services.  From 1968 to 2010 and possibly many more years beyond, this vision has changed little. The challenge of WTCA continues to become the “go to” organization for international trade. At the end of October 2010, the 15 original members had grown to 320 World Trade Centers in 96 countries.

Tax status of the WTCA

501(c)6 Status under US Internal Revenue Service Code