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A computer programmer, a purchaser, a quality expert and production manager all go into a conference . . .

It's no joke -- it's happening in Buffalo. Four local professional groups with a combined 4,500 members are forming an alliance, hoping to boost networking opportunities while sharing some event costs.

"It opens up whole new areas of interest," said Brian Griffin, executive director of Infotech Niagara, a regional computer industry group.

The resulting cross-pollination of ideas may spark new life into business organizations that face stagnant membership.

"Pretty soon, meetings aren't networking anymore because there's nobody new," Griffin said.

The computer group is one of the four organizations forming the Buffalo Niagara Professional Alliance. The others are the local chapters of the American Production & Inventory Control Society, the American Society for Quality, and the National Association of Purchasing Management.

Members of the groups will be able to attend each other's meetings, and four joint meetings will be held this year and next.

"The networking is probably going to be the most significant thing," said Gary Leskiw, chairman of the quality society. More elbow-rubbing should make for better job hunting, as well as opportunities for sales or joint ventures.

The evolving nature of business is bringing the groups' interests closer together, leaders said. For example, information technology is critical to the supply chain, while quality control is an interest shared by factories, law firms, health care and other industries, Leskiw said.

The non-profit groups also see a chance to share the costs of major events. Larger crowds for professional talks should attract more corporate sponsors and high-profile speakers.

In addition to 4,500 individual members, the four groups have more than 600 corporate members. The first joint event is a talk in September by a Verizon supply chain executive about technology and purchasing.


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