In The News: January 2006

Pentair Purchases Acu-Trol

Pentair Water Pool and Spa announced in September that it has purchased Acu-Trol. "Acu-Trol's integrated control systems leverage the latest technological developments, incorporating wireless communication, advanced chemical monitoring systems, and extensive programmability," says Scott Levin, president of Pentair Water Pool and Spa. "The addition of this technology will give us a better opportunity to meet the growing needs of our customers," he added.

"We are very pleased with this agreement," says Jeff Sanchez, CEO, AcuTrol. "We believe that Acu-Trol has a strong brand in the commercial pools industry. The collective resources of Pentair and Acu-Trol will enhance our commitment to our customers, shareholders and employees as well as position us for growth while strengthening our ability to provide technologically advanced products to our customers." Sanchez will remain with the company as general manager for Acu-Trol.

Inter-Fab Expands To Memphis

Inter-Fab, manufacturer of diving boards, pool slides, rails and artificial rock products is expanding its manufacturing and warehousing facilities to Memphis, Tenn. Inter-Fab completed the purchase of a factory facility of over 91,000 square feet and hired a general manager to meet the growth and expansion needs of the company. "It is an existing building, and outfitting it for our specific needs will be minimal," says Michael Hagerty, president of Inter-Fab. "This is a critical addition for us and our growth plans."

The company says that having locations in both the southwest and southeast will put it in close proximity to all of its customers. "We will see the benefits across the board ranging from faster order fulfillment for our customers east of the Mississippi, to the addition of key management personnel to facilitate our expansion efforts," says Hagerty. "The additional real estate also comfortably allows us to execute our growth plans for existing products as well as new products currently under development."

One On One With The APSP’s Bill Weber

Recently, associate editor Becky Strauss had the opportunity to sit down with APSP CEO Bill Weber and talk about what's going on with the Regional Service Centers, formed in the wake of the association's bankruptcy, and to get the group's take on the recently introduced House and Senate safety bills.

AQUA: What is the APSP's stance on the safety bill in its current form?

Weber: Well, there are two pieces of legislation. We are in support of the legislative efforts to do most of what is in that bill. We are very much in favor of appropriate barriers, or what they call layers of protection. The difference is that we have standards as an industry through the ANSI process, promulgated over a long period of time, which reflect a couple of basic philosophies. One is that "one size does not fit all." To mandate one particular barrier or device is at the expense of all others, and there are a variety of things, depending on the circumstances of the individual pool, which make the most sense.

Secondly, there are lots of technologies changing things over a period of time, and consumers really have the right to benefit from changes in technology, whether it's covers, alarms, whether it's design, whatever the case may be. So the only issue we would have with any of the provisions in the bill, and particularly in the barrier side, is that we believe there are a variety of options that, alone or in combination, should be employed. We don't believe it's appropriate, or even in the interest of safety, to mandate one over another.

AQUA: What's the particular issue with the barriers?

Weber: Basically what has been the approach throughout this process is that you have to have an enclosure around the pool — there's no argument with that — and if it is a house or a building, that can form one of those four walls of the barrier. This one provision says that's not enough, even if you have a house forming a part of a four-sided enclosure, you have to have something between the house and the pool itself, which would prevent, presumably, somebody from escaping the house and into the pool. But alarms can address that problem; pool covers can address that problem. If people want to have a fence between the house and the pool, they are certainly free to do that, but it shouldn't be mandated, because there are a variety of things that address that problem. There's no overriding reason to insist on one versus another. It's not that the issue is not legitimate, it's that the response has got to be legitimate as well.

The Virginia Senator George Allen version of the bill is agreeable. And 99.75 percent of the Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz bill is agreeable. I'd like to think we can reach an accord. This is an issue that obviously is of importance to the industry; I think it's an important one to consumers, so it's just a matter of how we work that issue to try and get it resolved.

AQUA: What's the next step?

Weber: The position that we're strongly supporting is four-square consistent with what Sen. Allen is espousing. I think the most important thing for us is to emphasize our support for that and why, and try to get that communicated to Wasserman Schultz, in the interest of having a consensus approach going forward. I certainly intend to communicate that to her as well, but not just exclusively that. I think it's a matter of articulating why we believe that her bill is totally appropriate, with a slight modification.

AQUA: Why is this so important to the APSP?

Weber: I want us to be on the moral high ground in terms of this. Safety is a core belief of this industry; it's critical to our success. We do a great deal to support it, and as an association, our members do a lot of things that are designed to promote — obviously the safe use of our products is good for everybody — it's good for business; it's good for consumers. There have been some misperceptions about the industry and its attitude toward safety, and we want to clarify those. There should be no ambiguity about that.

AQUA: What about the Regional Service Centers — why were they formed and how are they doing?

Weber: The Regional Service Centers came into existence primarily to implement the strategic plan, because when the association went through bankruptcy and lost the Meneely lawsuit, it took the time to step back and say, 'Ok, going forward now, we'd better articulate the priorities of this organization. Let's canvas our members, find out what their priorities are.' And all of that resulted in the four pillars of education, promotion, advocacy and research.

But over and above that, it's just a 50-year-old organization. A lot things have been in place that needed to be revisited. One of them was that we had a system of funding the regions and the chapters that was purely based on head count. You counted heads and you took a certain amount of the dues that came in, and you put them back out without any direct tie to whether or not those monies were going to be in support of the strategic plan. There was the need for the organization to establish more accountability, so everyone's working in concert with each other; they're not working randomly. So the basic concept of the RSC structure is that you create a regional office where we are now directly employing the management to partner with the volunteer advisory councils to make judgments about the activities that should take place in that region. It gives us a mechanism for funneling funds where the need is demonstrated, and secondly gives us an opportunity to review the progress going forward so there's accountability, and the results are consistent with the strategic plan.

AQUA: It's a top-down structure?

It's perceived that way by some, but in point of fact, this is a grass-roots organization; that's part of the strength of it. The only thing that's really changing is that the people that are working to support what's going on in the regions are now in the direct employ of national, but the decisions are being made in the field. National becomes the keepers, if you will, of the strategic direction, and we assist with the funding mechanisms, and we assist with providing personnel and support, but fundamentally, it's up to the local regions and chapters to decide what activities make the most sense and have the most opportunity, again, of serving the four pillars. It's a reconfigured regional structure; it isn't a top-down structure.

AQUA: In order to be funded, do the RSCs submit a plan?

Weber: Once we get [the request] from the RSC, the presumption has been made that this is an appropriate thing to do. And the money that we then provide in support of that is money that we're going to get back. We seed some of these things. It provides them the opportunity to go forward, and in many cases generate revenue of their own, which they then get to keep to support additional programs. So there's a real seed capital element to this, which is going to build over time. But most of that decision-making, as long as it's fiscally responsible, and there's no reason to suggest it won't be, still resides at the regional level.

We do not collect dues from each chapter, we collect dues directly from membership. And that's one of the differences, because, while we never really put money back out directly to chapters, we would put it back out to regions. Many of the regions would, in turn, retransmit that money to the chapters. But there was no accountability. The chapters would then be free to do whatever they wanted to do with the money. And that's not to say that they abused it, but some of it was used more productively than others. And, again, with the strategic plan in place, the whole idea is that the entire resources of the organization would be deployed in a way where you could monitor the uses to which this would be put, and you could basically use it to promote the accomplishment of your goals.

AQUA: Some chapters are more active than others?

Weber: In any organization, chapters are to a large extent a function of volunteer effort and initiative. And it depends; if you've got strong leadership and strong membership you have a strong chapter. Sometimes that leadership has to pass on, and it's a matter of finding new leadership; it's a cyclical thing.

That's truly one of the intended advantages of the RSC concept. We're now going to have people in our employ in the regions who can try to address the needs of these places that probably would support chapters, but need that administrative oomph, if you will, to bring them into existence. Not just serving existing chapters, but growing chapters. Because otherwise, we're just totally at the mercy of volunteers, and even well-meaning volunteers have the demands of business or family. And it cycles; sometimes strong chapters go dormant for a while and revive.

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