In The News: November 2005

APSP Names New CEO

The Board of Directors of the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) has appointed William R. Weber, JD, CAE, as its new president and CEO. Weber's title of CEO marks a change from outgoing chief staff executive Jack Cergol's, who he is replacing. "I think it reflects the changes that are taking place here, in terms of restructuring within the association, with the new Regional Service Centers," says Weber. "I think there's going to be some more responsibility residing here for oversight, and we'll be partnering with the different regional service centers as they serve the chapters within the membership." Guy Larsen, APSP chairman of the board, says, "The combination of business and association experience and legal expertise is exactly what the APSP needs at this time. We are thrilled that Bill will be leading our organization into the future. We have built a great association and strongly believe that Bill can take us to the next level. Bill will greatly enhance the professionalism of our association and our industry." Weber has prior experience as an association chief executive, management consultant and practicing attorney. Weber's current and past association positions include vice chairman and acting executive director of Leadership Forum International, an international leadership development organization; executive director of the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals; and president and CEO of the Farm Credit Council, the national trade organization of the U.S. Farm Credit System. Weber has also served as counsel to the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee and began his career at the U.S. Treasury Department. He is a Certified Association Executive . "After an extensive search process, we were privileged to have several impressive candidates for this important position for our industry. I am very pleased that the APSP Board of Directors appointed the Search Committee's top candidate," says Charlie Schobel, chairman of the APSP search committee. Weber says he enthusiastically looks forward to his tenure at the APSP. "I think this industry has great potential, with the whole backyard living explosion that's occurring," he says. "Economically there's a lot of opportunity, and this organization has been through a lot, in terms of bankruptcies and setbacks, but I think they've weathered them beautifully and now the challenge is to tap into what I perceive to be a lot of opportunity, and that's my primary objective, to help the membership of this organization do just that." Jack Cergol has announced his intention to retire in 2006. In the interim, he will continue to serve in the role of senior advisor.

First APSP Service Center To Open

The APSP has established a new Regional Service Center (RSC) for Region 5, based in Wheaton, Ill. One of the main components of the APSP Strategic Business Plan developed last year was the establishment of such service centers to better communicate with members and to ensure delivery of services and programs to chapters and members. The Region 5 RSC will serve members in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Ralph Bloch was introduced as the Region 5 RSC manager in August when he addressed a group of APSP volunteer leaders about the goals and responsibilities of the RSC. "In general, the RSC will support the APSP strategic business plan at the regional level and provide a high level of communication with members," says Bloch. "Our responsibilities include supporting chapters in the region, organizing professional-development programs, recruiting new members, effectively promoting and delivering APSP member services and products and providing grassroots advocacy monitoring." One of the RSC's first-year goals is to develop and deliver a new business education program for the industry to augment the APSP's existing technical training courses. "This is already in the works," says Bloch. "We've dubbed the program Mid-America Pool & Spa University, or MAPS-U, and it will be first implemented Jan. 16-19, 2006, at the Mid-America Pool & Spa Show." Another first-year goal is to increase membership by 20 percent. "This will be accomplished through an aggressive telephone-marketing campaign with both members and non-members. RSC staff also will attend chapter meetings and events," says Bloch. The two other first-year goals of the RSC are to identify the needs of members and develop, or repackage, and promote programs and services to meet those needs and to "provide an exceptional level of customer service," says Bloch. Bloch says he looks forward to leading the organization as it gets its feet off the ground. "The establishment of RSCs is a significant step in the implementation of APSP's strategic business plan. The APSP Board of Directors has provided general guidelines. However, each RSC will have its own characteristics. Right now, I consider it a work in progress, and I am excited about being involved in bringing the APSP Region 5 Service Center from concept to fruition."

IAPMO, ICC Work For One Code

Officials of the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) and the International Code Council (ICC) met to discuss creating a single model plumbing code and a single model mechanical code for the United States. "The talks began on a very informal basis," says IAPMO president Chris Salazar. "I was aware that there have been many attempts over the years to bring the codes together and it is a complicated and difficult endeavor." The IAPMO Board of Directors hosted the president and vice president of the ICC at its meeting in July. Specific discussions revolved around the procedural differences between the organizations in terms of code creation, and how these differences can be overcome. "Although we still have a way to go, I believe our meeting has resulted in a much greater understanding of each other than we have ever had in the past," says Salazar. "I am looking forward to future meetings to try and create a fusion of the plumbing and mechanical codes between the two organizations." Both the IAPMO and the ICC have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, to describe the parties' intentions regarding development of future plumbing and mechanical codes. The document does not create any legal obligation on behalf of either party, but is rather a good faith measure between the two organizations.

NPC Meeting Rescheduled

The National Plasterers Council has relocated its annual conference to the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island, just north of Jacksonville, Fla., Feb. 13–15, 2006. Originally scheduled for Feb 14–16 at the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans, the meeting — like countless others — was forced to relocate and reschedule due to the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. NPC Director Mitch Brooks says the New Orleans property, which has long hosted the annual NPC conference, was not flooded but sustained storm damage such as broken windows. Additionally, weeks without power for air conditioning left the hotel with mold and mildew damage. As is the case with most New Orleans businesses, many employees have not returned to the city, and staffing uncertainties remain. Brooks expects the annual meeting to return to New Orleans for the 2007 meeting.

Latham Acquires Viking Pools

Latham International, a manufacturer of packaged in-ground swimming pools, has acquired Viking Pools, one of the nations' largest manufacturers of one-piece fiberglass pools. Viking, headquartered in Jane Lew, W.Va., currently has four geographically diverse manufacturing facilities to serve the North American market, while Latham maintains a strong presence in the traditionally gunite markets of California, Texas, Arizona and Nevada. "We are excited about the Viking Pools transaction because of Viking's strong management team, its industry leadership in the one-piece fiberglass pool segment, and the fact that it is a perfect geographic complement to our existing customer base," says Mark P. Laven, president and CEO of Latham. "Viking, which has a great reputation for innovation and high-quality products, offers one of the largest selections of fiberglass pool models in the industry." Viking will continue to run as an autonomous unit under Todd Stahl, the company's president, and Alan Stahl, Viking's founder. "We are very excited about our partnership with Latham International," says Todd Stahl. "Latham, with its outstanding reputation in the packaged-pool market and Viking, with its leading position in the fiberglass pools segment, are a very compelling combination." Latham currently employs approximately 1,200 in the United States and Canada, and with the addition of Viking, the company will grow by about 200 employees. What will the acquisition mean for dealers and the lines offered by each company. "As we can bring services to Viking dealers, including research and development, and improve an already high level of professionalism, we'll assist Viking dealers and provide them with a financially strong partner over the long-term," says Laven. "The easier manufacturers can make it for dealers to avail themselves of professionally developed services, the better. Those are the kinds of services Latham can provide."

Hoffinger Out Of Bankruptcy

Hoffinger Industries, a manufacturer of above-ground pools based in West Helena, Ark., announced it has been dismissed from Chapter 11 bankruptcy after reaching a settlement with a plaintiff in a product-liability case. A California jury returned a multi-million-dollar judgment against Hoffinger Industries, prompting a bankruptcy filing in 2001. In a press release, Hoffinger president Doug Hollowell said, "Our company is pleased to be out of Chapter 11 and have this judgment behind us," and that the company continues to vigorously defend claims against its products.

Health Conference Draws Diverse Crowd

The second 2005 World Aquatic Health Conference, held Sept. 19-21, drew 231 attendees from eight countries and 33 states to City of Industry, Calif., for a series of 40 seminars dealing with a range of aquatic health topics, according to Thomas M. Lachocki, CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation, which sponsored the event. According to Lachocki, the conference attendees were a mix of public health officials, aquatic directors, researchers and university educators. "About 24 percent of the attendees were high-level decision makers — owners, presidents, vice presidents or directors — of their respective organizations," he said. "The conference achieved its goal to bring people with diverse aquatic interest and experience together to understand issues and begin formulating solutions." Among the conference's speakers was Dr. Bruce Becker, a clinical professor at the University of Washington who has received a $247,000 grant from the NSPF to study the cardiological and respiratory effects of exercising in deep water. Dr. Becker outlined the previous work that had been done in the field and outlined the scope of the research he plans to begin in the spring of 2006. "Previous research shows that immersion in deep water places pressure on the body and forces the respiratory system to work harder," Becker said. "Our theory is that exercising in deep water will have positive effects on people's health." After Dr. Becker's first study is completed, he hopes to conduct research into the health benefits of hot tub use. That research could be done in the facility that will be set up for the deep-water study, but further funding will be needed. "Many of us in the hot tub industry have been searching for a way to link the well-known theories of aquatic therapy to hard science," said James Hedgecock, manager of business development for Dimension One Spas. "With the combination of Dr. Becker's efforts and a generous grant from NSPF, we may finally see the scientific evidence to support the theories that have existed for hundreds of years. Dimension One is looking forward to helping encourage the objective research within our industry." Other sessions focused on recreational waterborne illness, injury prevention and strategic planning for university aquatic educators. "It was wonderful to have so many aspects of the aquatic world represented, with so much potential for cross-fertilization and collaboration," Becker said. "As a physician with long experience in aquatics and aquatic therapy, I had not ever had the opportunity to speak directly with the folks who were responsible for the creation, maintenance and operation of the pools that I have sent patients to or used personally, and this is such a great benefit of the event." Next year's conference will be held in Austin, Texas, with dates to be determined

Tubs To Stay Hot

The APSP Hot Tub Council Advocacy Committee announced in late September that the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) standard for maximum water temperature for hot tub water will remain unchanged at 109 degrees Fahrenheit. Underwriters Laboratory wanted to lower the maximum water temperature allowed for hot tubs under its UL 1563 standard from 109 degrees to 104 degrees, which would have taken effect Jan. 1, 2006. Following review of the facts presented by the APSP Hot Tub Council Advocacy Committee, APSP staff and the International Aquatic Foundation (IAF), UL standards officials agreed that lowering the maximum water temperature for spas to 104 degrees would not be in the best interest of hot tub users. The proposed change would have removed the plus/minus 5-degree tolerance for maximum water temperature in the current UL 1563 standard, and would have resulted in water temperatures as low as 99 degrees. At that temperature, industry members argued, the therapeutic effects of soaking in a hot tub or spa would be negated. After review, the UL standards officials agreed that a temperature as low as 99 would not be in the best interest of the public. "The members of the APSP Hot Tub Council Advocacy Committee have effectively come together on this issue to achieve a significant victory for the hot water segment of our industry," says Jack Cergol, chief staff executive of APSP.

Coleman Set To Offer Credit Card

GE Consumer Finance, the consumerlending arm of GE, has signed a multiyear deal with MAAX Spas, the Chandler, Ariz., maker of Coleman Spas, to offer a branded credit card. The MAAX Spas Credit Card will allow customers to make purchases on credit at more than 200 MAAX dealers in the United States and Canada. "We were able to offer MAAX Spas flexible financing solutions, which allows their spa dealers to offer consumers easier access to lifestyle products," said Dave Fasoli, senior vice president for GE Consumer Finance's Retail Sales Finance unit. Emil Nygard, vice president of marketing for MAAX, said GE's marketing capabilities were a big factor in the company's decision. "By partnering with GE, we can expand our credit card program and help dealers close more sales," he said.

BCA To Launch New East Coast Trade Show

The Billiard Congress of America announced that it will organize and host a second trade show, "Back to Billiards," beginning in August 2006. The show, which will lead into the final retail quarter of the year, is meant to be a preseason kickoff for the industry and will be held at the Baltimore Convention Center from Aug. 10-12. "We're thrilled at the prospect of building another dynamic and exciting trade show for BCA members," says executive director Stephen D. Ducoff. "The timing is perfect for a second show and the billiards targeting will clearly complement the spring Expo in a way that will make both events successful. The two opportunities promise to work hand-inhand to benefit our exhibitors and buyers, year-round." The new trade show will feature a business-to-business wholesale event, open to authorized dealers only, followed by a walk-through exhibit that will be open to the public. Exhibit space at the Back to Billiards show will be available exclusively to BCA business members.

Manufacturers Form Alliance For Choice

Five industry manufacturers have announced the formation of the Manufacturers Alliance for Choice. The group, which includes Cardinal Systems, Schuylkill Haven, Pa.; Penn Fabricators, Emigsville, Pa.; Quaker Plastic Corporation, Mountville, Pa.; Fabcote, York, Pa.; and Novelle Pool International, Wyoming, Mich., was established to provide pool products to distributors. "The new group is an organization of veteran independent manufacturers with reputations for high-quality products, great service, technological ingenuity, strong financial strength and the ability to listen and understand the needs of distributors," said Donald Dahowski, a spokesman for the group. "They recognize the critical role that distributors perform for the health and vitality of the pool industry. "By joining together, Alliance members can provide increased financial resources to each other for product development." Among the products the group will offer are pool steps, rail goods, pool coping, safety fencing and pool wall panels. Distributors can continue to order products directly from each manufacturer's sales force, Dahowski added.

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