In The News: April 2008

$1 Million For Aquatics Research Institute

Washington State University researchers plan to create the National Aquatics and Sports Medicine Institute, thanks to a $1 million grant from the National Swimming Pool Foundation.

"This will be the world's premiere center for aquatic health research," said the institute director, Bruce Becker, a physician and research professor in WSU's College of Education. "There is no other lab with this mission and focus. The foundation's grant gives us tremendous movement forward. We intend to build on our initial research and fill the knowledge gaps of how water benefits our hearts, lungs and endocrine systems."

Judy Mitchell, dean of the College of Education, said, "This research is driven by the need to know more about the effects of aquatic exercise, not only on general health and well-being, but on specific medical conditions such as asthma, hypertension, osteoporosis and obesity."

In the last four years, the NSPF has given more than $1.5 million in grants focused on understanding the health benefits of aquatic exercise and on prevention of drowning, illness and injury.

"We are committed to creating centers of excellence that will influence society," said Thomas M. Lachocki, CEO of NSPF. "Research in aquatics has been a dry basin. WSU is the key to open the floodgate."

Pool Corp. To Acquire NPT

Pool Corporation announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire National Pool Tile Group, Inc., from Pentair Water Pool and Spa. Pool Corporation did not disclose terms of the cash transaction and Pentair said it expects to use the proceeds to pay down debt.

"This sale enables us to more fully focus on our growing, core global pool equipment business," said Pentair Chairman and CEO Randall J. Hogan. "National Pool Tile's business model is inconsistent with that of our core pool-equipment business, and as the leading wholesale distributor in the pool industry, Pool Corporation is a logical buyer of the business."

Pool Corporation president and CEO Manuel Perez de la Mesa said, "This transaction is an attractive complementary-products opportunity that further enhances Pool Corporation's ability to serve swimming pool refurbish and construction customers. "As swimming pools have become more of a mainstream product in many markets, particularly southern markets, the demand for the types of products distributed by NPT should grow at a faster rate long term than the overall pool market. Increasingly, homeowners who refurbish their existing pools or have new pools constructed are choosing to install the higher-end materials supplied by NPT to enhance the value of their backyard entertainment environments. This acquisition positions Pool Corporation well to capitalize on that demand."

National Pool Tile is a wholesale distributor of pool tile and composite pool finishes with 15 distribution sales centers. NPT has annual net sales of over $60 million, with the majority of sales in the renovation market.

Pool Corporation is the world's largest wholesale distributor of swimming pool and related backyard products. Currently, Pool Corporation operates 281 sales centers in North America and Europe, through which it distributes more than 100,000 products to roughly 70,000 wholesale customers.

GE Money Affirms Commitment To Industry

Despite the rumors that have recently circulated, GE Money is emphatically not leaving the pool and spa industry. AQUA talked to GE's Christy F. Williams, vice president for communications in the company's sales-finance division, to get the straight story. "The changes you may have heard about are designed to help us operate more efficiently in the current environment, as well as to position the business for continued growth," says Williams. That meant exiting the mortgage and home-equity products business within the United States in alignment with GE Money America's corporate decisions. The Home Improvement division (which supplies services to the pool and spa industry) discontinued only its PROJECTLOAN Secured programs, effective Feb. 15, Williams says.

"First and foremost, Home Improvement and Pool and Spa remain key growth areas for GE Money," Williams says. "With nearly 20 years invested in these industries and over $14 billion in loans originated, we offer deep market expertise and a strong track record in home improvement and pool and spa lending. We will continue on that foundation well into the future with our unsecured products." 

GE Money continues to offer PROJECTLINE Plus, an unsecured, revolving line of credit of up to $30,000; PROJECTLOAN Unsecured, an unsecured installment loan with fixed terms and payments; as well as the AquaVantage credit card program.

"We're deeply committed to the pool and spa industry," says Williams. "Our priority is to be a responsible and competitive lender and operate with speed and flexibility to provide service that dealers and their customers expect."

ICC, APSP To Work Together On Standards

At the International Code Council's code development hearings in February, the ICC and the APSP signed a memorandum of understanding to work together on areas of joint benefit and interest.

The memorandum recognizes the shared technical interests of the ICC and the APSP and will impact research, technical and standards development. It will also include cross marketing and sharing of products and services; enhanced communications and dialogue between the two parties; and new cooperative ventures including education, conferences and publications.

The agreement places special emphasis on the standards programs of both organizations, supporting cooperative standards development to benefit the global plumbing and sanitation industry and advancement of science and technology through research programs.

"ICC's membership believes that industry involvement is a valuable source of information as we develop and refine our codes and standards," said Jay Peters, ICC's executive director of Plumbing, Mechanical and Fuel Gas. "This agreement solidifies our relationship and has great potential benefits for both organizations and for the safety of the public."

Also at the February meeting, SPEC joined with APSP, the National Swimming Pool Foundation and others in testifying at committee hearings urging the ICC to adopt a change in the ANSI/APSP-7 standard for national uniformity.

At present, the ICC model code, which is the recommended uniform building code used throughout the nation, conflicts with the ANSI/APSP consensus standards by requiring use of a "vacuum relief system." The ICC code also does not comply with the newly adopted federal barrier law's anti-entrapment provisions.

Dons Burns, CEO of SPEC, says the ICC committee rejected the industry's recommendation on a close vote and the matter will now be debated again before the ICC's national meeting in Minneapolis later this year.

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