Getting to know the Institute of Makers of Explosives

By |  August 2, 2023


The Institute of Makers of Explosives (IME), a trade association promoting safety and security for the commercial explosives industry, welcomed Clark Mica as its new president in 2022. Mica, who previously served as vice president of government affairs at The Fertilizer Institute for 12 years, is tasked with elevating the commercial explosives industry’s presence in Washington while advocating for public policy outcomes that provide a strong business environment for IME members. P&Q recently visited with Mica to learn more about IME, its priorities and synergies with the aggregate industry.

P&Q: What do you aim to bring to your position, to IME and to your members?

Mica: We’re celebrating our 110th anniversary in July. With an organization that is well established, there’s a lot of good work that’s been done over time.

The past three presidents have all come from the FBI (the Federal Bureau of Investigation) or ATF (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives). While certainly not a bad thing, my background is different. Having worked in both the public and private sector, and as a member of the leadership team at a major trade association, I’m bringing all of that experience together to elevate our voice in Washington and beyond in an effort to provide the best ROI possible to our membership.

P&Q: IME is currently modernizing educational offerings such as Safety Library Publications (SLPs). What modernization activity is ongoing at IME?

Mica: The key buzzword around here is ‘modernize.’ That’s my mission: to modernize how we operate and position IME for the future. Whether external or internal, we need to also ensure our communications strategy is an effective one. It’s focusing on the things we need to do as a trade association to get word out to everybody about the essential nature of our industry. But how do we do that?

We just launched a completely redesigned website ( in May. We have Safety Library Publications that date back more than 100 years – three of which have been adopted into federal regulations. The first one was SLP 2: The American Table of Distances (ATD), published in 1910. Over time, ATF has used the ATD to determine offsite consequences for commercial explosives magazine storage locations. The other two SLPs, “SLP 22: Recommendations for the Safe Transportation of Detonators in a Vehicle with Certain Other Explosive Materials,” and “SLP 23: Recommendations for the Transportation of Explosives, Division 1.5, Ammonium Nitrate Emulsions, Division 5.1, Combustible Liquids, Class 3, and Corrosives, Class 8 in Bulk Packaging,” were developed for transporting bulk materials. Those SLPs were adopted as regulation by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s PHMSA (Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration).

The typical IME member is an explosives manufacturer, but the organization also has members who specialize in drilling and blasting. Photo: Ghulam Hussain/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

The typical IME member is an explosives manufacturer, but the organization also has members who specialize in drilling and blasting. Photo: Ghulam Hussain/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

All of that goes to show the value of our vision, but one thing we didn’t have when I came on board was a strategic plan. Before we could do anything, we worked with our membership to develop a strategic plan that sets goals for the next three years and a long-term vision for IME.

The main goal for IME is, first and foremost, a safe and secure industry. That is why we have worked to develop tools like SLPs and additional materials focused on the safety and security of our products, our employees and the communities in which we operate. It is also why we are advocating for positive public policy leading to a positive business environment. That means working with policymakers and members of Congress to make sure the right regulations are in place. We are a heavily regulated industry, but we want to make sure those regulations contribute to safety.

We also want to provide our membership value and be good stewards of our members’ resources. We have 27 members. Our regular members are the actual manufacturers of explosives. We have some others who are drillers and blasters. We also have our liaison membership that is other associations like IME.
That’s all part of how we’re looking to modernize.

Related: Explosives companies recognized for safety excellence

P&Q: You mentioned communications and how that is fundamental to getting IME messages out. What messages is IME aiming to impart these days?

Mica: In terms of our overall communications plan, that’s something we’re looking at now while also defining who our core audience is going to be.

If you go back to COVID, we were deemed essential. That, in and of itself, shows the importance of our industry and is a strong basis for our messaging.

One of the biggest challenges we have is educating people about who we are. When I hand someone a business card, they either say this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, or you guys do defense or fireworks and I tell them we are neither. Part of my goal is to have that not be a first response – at least not the defense or fireworks part. We want people to say: ‘You guys are the ones who provide the products for the materials that are essential for our everyday lives.’ Because you need commercial explosives to be able to make everyday things.

I believe we’re in the same place agriculture was 15 to 20 years ago. Everyone loves farmers but few understand what it takes to grow the food, fuel and fiber we often take for granted. Half the country thinks food comes from the grocery store. Like agriculture, the commercial explosives industry has an opportunity to talk about our importance to modern society because, as we know, things don’t just appear out of nowhere.

While we don’t have the resources to run a nationwide educational campaign, we are working to position our industry as the first step in the supply chain for many of the goods and products that we use every day. Whether you drive a car, ride a bus, talk on a mobile phone or work on a laptop, you need explosives to extract the materials used to make all these things possible.

I know NMA (the National Mining Association) just went through a refresh to better tell the story about the mining industry’s importance to the economy. That’s something we’re in the process of doing right now for the commercial explosives industry – and one of the reasons why I’m so excited about this job. We have a great story to tell.

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