April 2001: Volume 43, Number 4
Supporting Your State or Regional Association
by Carlos David Mogollon, WC&P Executive Editor
Water treatment professionals these days would be wise to: "Think Global, Act Local." Not to reduce the issue to bumper sticker rhetoric, but the simple act of participation in area industry groups would do much to strengthen the entire market.
Both past and current Water Quality Association presidents identified more support of state and regional associations as a priority (see C.R. Hall's "New WQA President's Report," this issue). WQA also hosted a meeting with chapter representatives at its convention last month specifically to generate suggestions on how to do this better.
WC&P checked in with several chapters and found they had good ideas on how to combat a growing problem of apathy toward local industry affiliations -- for instance, using the Internet more effectively to communicate with and promote membership.
Acting Texas WQA coordinator Jo Grace said Lone Star State members decided last year a management company wasn't effective because it lacked the personal touch required. Grace was enlisted to put things back in order and paid membership, which dropped to 75, is back up to 150 -- two-thirds dealers. Still, she added, restoring TWQA to its full glory requires more involvement. "Certainly, consolidations are a major factor...because the larger groups probably don't support the association as completely, both in person and in dollars, than locally owned companies...I'm attempting to use my personal contacts to convince them it's wrong to sit on the back burner while smaller dealers fight all their legislative battles for them. Or, eventually, plumbers will have to be hired to do the work. They can't afford it. Neither can we."
Recently, Pacific and Eastern WQAs have depended more on board members to coordinate activities because dealership and supplier mergers mean less participation, fewer dollars and tighter association staffing. PWQA president Tracy Strahl said he's concerned because, if anything, legislative demands are increasing as well. EWQA's Carol Russell said her group's membership dropped from 143 to 120 dealers and 66 to 54 suppliers. A year earlier, EWQA had more than 100 supplier members. Its attempt to decentralize administration among a working board has foundered and Russell -- who's coordinated EWQA since 1980 -- is worried it will go the way of the Mid-Atlantic WQA after she steps down next year to manage her growing water treatment firm: "I'm very frightened for Eastern's future. We're going to hold on, but it's going to be hard."
At 100-125, Florida WQA's membership has been "stagnant" for a few years, said vice president Mark Kuyawa: "Given the huge Florida water treatment market, there are hundreds of water treatment people in the industry that aren't members. That's one of the things we're working on now." He's happy with WQA's legislative support, which was successful in getting alternative acceptance for standards S-200 and S-300 in the state building code effective July 1. But he said local education and communication need improvement to add value to membership, suggesting a newsletter and email updates.
Lori Jansen, who coordinates the Minnesota and more recently Wisconsin chapter too, said they'll host a joint convention Sept. 21-22 in LaCrosse, Wis., that also will draw dealers from the Dakotas. "We have a lot of suppliers that service both states... Companies are having an issue justifying going to...two different shows within a few hundred miles of each other." MWQA has a stable 125 members and WWQA has 70.
A year ago, WC&P suggested a state and regional pavilion at the WQA trade show floor manned by the chapters or state regents in the same sense the World Assembly Division is afforded a table at the exhibition entrance. It's still a good idea. We also recommend WQA add a website section next to its "Member Finder" page to list state and regional associations, contact information, emails and hyperlinks. Ideally, this could be expanded to host home pages for each chapter linked to the Member Finder.
In the end, these and other measures would benefit WQA as much as the chapters, and promoting industry identification, growing membership and professional development on a state and regional level can only enhance the same on a national level.