Eighteen local CPA firms have joined in the launch of a new firm association, the Leading Edge Alliance. The effort is intended to supply member firms with the resources necessary to compete with consolidators while allowing the firms to remain independent. The member firms have combined annual revenues of more than $225 million.

"There is a whole group of top-quality firms that are too independent, too secure, and too dominant in their markets to consider consolidating at this point," said Gary Shamis, managing partner of Saltz Shamis & Goldfarb in Cleveland, Ohio, and chair of the Leading Edge. "For those of us that plan to remain independent, we need an association that allows us to work together, leverage our strengths, and exchange successful strategies."

Information about the Leading Edge Alliance states that it will provide member firms with an interactive network for sharing practice management knowledge, extensive best practices research and information, and strategies for the development of market-driven services. Also offered is a conduit for building alliances and referrals, the opportunity for cooperative ventures, and an international network for multinational engagements.

The group, which will be headquartered in Chicago, is in the process of searching for an international partner firm and developing an Internet site. It recently announced the appointment of Karen Kehl-Rose, formerly with the Illinois CPA Society, as executive director. Member firms are located in a variety of large markets, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Boston, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Denver, and Seattle. The names if sixteen of the founding firms were recently announced. The names of two firms, one in Seattle and one in New York, have not been released.

"We want to create an organization that recognizes each firm's strength and effectively facilitates collaboration," said Richard Kretz, managing partner of Kostin, Ruffkess & Company in Hartford, Conn. "Through this alliance, we can enjoy some of the same benefits that the consolidators offer while maintaining our independence and entrepreneurial culture."

For additional information about the Leading Edge, contact Anita Meola at
(908) 879-9795. *

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