CUSTOMS' "GO-TO' PERSON

CUSTOMS' "GO-TO' PERSON

Since the mid-1980s, one of Sam Banks' key jobs has been to deliver tough messages from the U.S. Customs commissioner - several commissioners, in fact - to the trade community. Messages like ''automate or perish.'' Messages about modernization and reorganization and new enforcement pushes.

It would only be human nature for the trade community to resent the messenger. But it doesn't. Trade people hold Sam Banks - a top customs official who just announced he'll retire early next year - in respect that borders on the reverential.The reason is that Banks doesn't just carry messages to them. He also listens to what they have to say. And he scrupulously relays their messages to the head person at Customs and makes sure their concerns are taken into account. Banks has been ''the 'go-to' person,'' Arthur Litman of Tower Group International told JOC West Coast Editor Bill Mongelluzzo. He has credibility with trade and government people alike.

Sam Banks has provided a critical communications channel - a channel Customs must be sure to keep open when he leaves his job in February.