In the first-ever industry Town Hall meeting—as well as through task-force meetings and networking—the WQA Mid-Year Conference in Lexington, KY in September focused on strategic planning, listening, building relationships with legislators, a vibrant new education program, eco-labeling and much more. “It is all about communication,” said David Haataja, WQA’s new Executive Director. “We listened to our membership’s concerns and we developed strategies to get our story out to policymakers and consumers.”
In a high-energy welcome, Haataja and WQA President Dar Watts, CWS-VI, highlighted the crucial work of task forces to develop new programs, increase membership and shape industry strategies. The association is pursuing multiple strategic imperatives, all driven by staff ownership that will lead to specific deliverables. While fielding questions during the WQA Town Hall meeting, they discussed the following topics:
- Sustainability and water scarcity
- Government and regulatory affairs
- Technology and market development
- Professional certification and product certification
Additionally, WQA unveiled enhancements to its education programs that are being developed with the guidance of highly respected outside consulting. “Too much information is now locked in books and papers,” Haataja said. “The new program will create contemporary delivery methods, such as the Internet and mobile devices, to bring specific informational elements to members. It will also incorporate actual work experiences to provide real-life practicality.”
Members also learned about critical political issues facing the industry, especially looking at California and Arizona:
California. WQA and local industry leaders helped form a coalition that is expected next year, to lead to legislation allowing third-party product certification. If passed, companies would no longer be required to wait for the state to certify their products.
Arizona. Industry leaders have put forward a salinity control plan for the Arizona committee that will be making recommendations to the governor and legislature. The plan includes new performance standards, public education and increased professionalism.
WQA also announced the creation of its Legislative Outreach Program. The association is working to help members develop and strengthen relationships with their local, state and federal elected officials. A new WQA guidebook with practical suggestions for legislative relationships was previewed. The goal of this increased visibility is to ensure that WQA has built-in connections now as legislative opportunities and threats are faced.
Those attending received an update and added their input to WQA’s new Eco-Labeling Program. This will allow companies to show consumers that their products are certified as sustainable. It will soon begin the pilot-testing phase. To further reach out to consumers, WQA is also reviewing the opportunity to offer a For Dummies series of how-to books. A Water Treatment For Dummies publication would help educate the public on quality products and professionals.
WQA offered statistics to show the strength of the industry and association. For next year’s WQA Aquatech USA (to be held in Indianapolis, IN, April 2-5, 2013) booth sales are already up eight percent over the previous year at this time. Overall association membership is increasing and retention remains strong at 91 percent.
Finally, there was plenty of networking along with pleasure. A thoroughbred horse-farm tour and luncheon brought out 36 members. At the annual Water Quality Research Foundation golf outing, $20,350 (USD) was raised—the most ever. Thirty-six golfers took part, and the following winners were honored:
- Winning team: Dar Watts and John Fauster, American Aqua Inc.; Mike Mormimo, ENPRESS LLC; Doug Horner, ENPRESS LLC
- Closest to pin: Steve Webb, Sharp Water Culligan
- Longest putt: Jamie Wakem, Atlantic Filter Corporation
- Longest drive: Mike Mormimo, ENPRESS LLC