Underfunded SPEC Makes Plea For Survival

SPEC logoJohn Norwood, president of the California Spa and Pool Industry Education Council (SPEC), says the organization’s fundraising goals have fallen short in recent years and threaten the survival of the industry watchdog.

“SPEC is running on fumes from both a financial and grassroots politics standpoint,” he says.  “Political organizations are successful when they have a strong financial foundation and have a large membership base that can help defend the industry through grassroots politics.  Unfortunately, SPEC has neither.”

In many ways SPEC is the victim of its own successful record defending the swimming pool and spa industry from bad laws, regulations and local ordinances for over 30 years, Norwood says, adding that SPEC is supported by only about 200 members and contributors. 

“It is the classic case of 90 percent of the work being done by 10 percent of the industry, except in SPEC’s case it is 99 percent of the work being supported by 1 percent of the industry,” says Vance Gillette, SPEC treasurer and vice president of business development for Zodiac Pool Systems.  “In order to be a politically viable and effective organization SPEC needs 2,000 members, not 200.  Politicians understand numbers of voters represented.  They expect special interest groups to be prepared to defend their industry.  If you wait to organize until an issue threatens the industry, it is generally too little and too late to be effective.”

SPEC’s 2009/10 projected budget was $350,000, but only $191,000 was collected.  The 2010-11 budget cycle was even worse with only $169,000 collected.  SPEC’s 2011-12 budget cycle began on July 1.  Thus far, only $68,000 has been collected and 75 of SPEC’s 179 member/contributors have yet to pay their dues for the year.

“We certainly understand that the economy has wreaked havoc on the swimming pool and spa industry,” said Mike Geremia, SPEC board chairman and president of Geremia Pools in Sacramento, Calif.  “But we are talking about the very real possibility that SPEC will not be here in the future to defend the industry and no other association is doing the lobbying work SPEC does in California.  This would not only be a huge loss for California, but losing SPEC would affect the industry nationwide as most of all the bad laws and regulations start in California.  If they are not killed here, they spread to other states.”

Mitch Brooks, executive director of SPEC, says the association has reduced the cost of membership in order to encourage broader participation. “For just $100 annually, or $9 per month, a service company or retail business can be a SPEC member,” Brooks says.  “SPEC certainly appreciates the support it receives from the service sector of the industry through contributions from ISSPA and its chapters and as a result of the SPEC surcharge on products through the distributor channel, but we are not raising enough and it does not provide the association with a list of voters and grassroots contacts so critical to having an effective lobbying organization.”

Just in the last two legislative sessions, SPEC says it has helped save a minimum of $1,000 per month for every service company by successfully fighting against the expansion of the state’s sales tax to the service industry, which would have added approximately $10 per month to every service bill.  In most circumstances, the service professional would have been forced to eat this added cost, Norwood says. Moreover, SPEC says it is working on new legislation and enforcement efforts to attack the underground economy and non-compliant contractors; has been successful in preventing increased taxes on chemicals and unreasonable restrictions on the ability of service professionals to transport chemicals; and has fought against over burdensome laws restricting the use or taxation of independent contractors.

For a SPEC membership application visit the SPEC website at www.calspec.org or call (888) 747-1917.

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