By WC&P International Staff
Another annual show has come and gone; another success story to be told. It was, all the way around, a much more upbeat, yet relaxed atmosphere from beginning to end. With a full slate of technical seminars, training classes, certification opportunities, meetings and the exhibition, one would have thought the pace would have been frenzied or hurried. And while there were those who walked briskly from meeting room to meeting room and booth to booth, overall, it was with a sense of purpose and determination. WQA is to be congratulated on the well-rounded program they presented, covering the breadth of water treatment applications in a way that gave everyone a chance to capitalize on their attendance.
Keynote session and awards
During the Keynote Address, WQA President Dar Watts outlined the progress the organization has made on the Final Barrier Initiative, the industrial education program and provided updates on the goals that were outlined last year. Membership has increased, as has retention. WQA has opened new doors to relationship-building with other agencies, including IAPMO, to further strengthen the core mission and provide members with the best quality for their buck. The educational program expansion has seen the development of materials for the industrial section come to fruition and the creation of additional training materials for the broader industry. Research has been at the forefront of many efforts to guide the industry into a more dynamic mode and the recipients of these benefits are the members.
Annual awards were presented to significant contributors to the industry. A most welcome surprise was the appearance of industry veteran and innovater Knox Williams and his beautiful wife, June, to receive the 2013 Hall of Fame Award. His moving acceptance speech detailed his early successes with novel billing and scheduling and how it led to continued success in his life. Dr. ‘Ragu’ Regunathan, an integral part of the international and scientific aspects of WQA’s programs, was presented Lifetime Membership. D.J. Shannahan, CWS-VI, of Sharp Water Culligan, accepted the Key Award while Sprite Industries, Inc.’s David K. Farley, Sr. was honored with the Ray Cross Award. ResinTech’s Frank DeSilva took home the Regents Award; Daina Grace of TWQA and Edward ‘Ted’ Jones, IV, CWS-VI received the Award of Merit. Jonathan Ben-David and Colonel Kim of WLI (UK) Ltd. were recognized with the International Award of Merit and Pete Conaty was presented with an Honorary Membership Award for his many years of service to the industry as a lobbyist. Rounding out the awards were the Quality Circle Award to Alfred Lipshultz of Aquathin Corporation for recruiting 30 members during his recruitment lifetime. WC&P International’s own Kurt C. Peterson was honored with the Century Award for recruiting 100 new members. Congratulations to each and every one for their continued dedication to the water treatment industry!
As part of the keynote session, Roger Seip, author of Train Your Brain for Success, gave an interesting presentation on how members can immediately refocus their time-management efforts to maximize business. The well-done motivational talk highlighted the choices people make in determining how to spend time that could be easily modified in a more positive fashion, leading to success in every endeavor. There were many aspects of Seip’s presentation that were immediate takeaways for the audience, all proven ideas to gain potential new business and enhance their lives, both personally and professionally.
Meetings, seminars and training
One of the defining discussions throughout WQA Aquatech centered around WQRF’s Environmental Impact Study–Water Softener Effects on Septic System Performance, an in-depth report on how the study was conducted, quantitative and qualitative results, the necessity of continuing that research, how it was funded and where the industry must go from here. The study provided definitive results on the positive rather than negative impact of softeners on septic systems. Through comprehensive lab and field testing, it was found that water softeners provided a beneficial effect for septic-system performance; minimal sodium produced by high-efficiency DIR water softeners aided in settling solids. A special fill-in-the-blank calculator sheet was provided to help determine the proper settings to facilitate the beneficial aspects and was made available to everyone. The study has given the industry details needed to map out a plan of action to present to dealers, manufacturers, distributors and legislators on how detrimental softener bans can be, rather than the purported (and erroneous, non-scientific) belief that they will help reduce or resolve salinity issues. WQA noted that continued research must be engaged and that costs money. WQRF, the organization’s research arm, requested members contribute to ensure the momentum of research can be continued. John Packard detailed WQRF’s bequest program to help the organization gain the necessary funding for vital research. Through that funding, the industry will gain the information it needs to further promote itself to a broader audience. As noted in the EIS seminar, many decisions on water treatment by legislative officials, especially softener bans, are not made based on scientific evidence. The industry will have to continue the educational process at all levels and to do that, water treatment professionals need hard facts to overcome irrational resistance.
During the Dealer Section Meeting, several issues in specific regions (notably in Texas, Delaware and Michigan) were discussed in great detail. D.J. Shannahan has been at the forefront of the battle with Delaware regulators on requirements for diversion of softener effluent and will be using the septic study to facilitate changes. Bob Boerner noted that Dallas and Houston’s backflow preventer regulation may require legislation By WC&P International Staff Fast Track at Indy: WQA Aquatech 2013 in Review Water Conditioning & Purification May 2013 to overcome. Dennis Rupert asked the attendees to recognize the tireless efforts of Shannahan, Boerner, Steve Richards and many others as exemplary members whose activities benefit the entire industry. WQA’s Eric Yeggy detailed the organization’s partnership with IAMPO to develop the Z601 protocol for saltless devices, indicating that stipulations for 80-percent reduction of scale has been included. The standard must first be proved to work and validation will cost about $200,000. NSF will assist in building the testing and validation rig and the protocol will become an ANSI standard after validation is completed. It was also mentioned that these saltless devices will not be called water softeners in the standard.
WQA Executive Director Dave Haataja gave an update on issues facing the industry and how the organization is proceeding to overcome them. WQA has created a variety of new ‘toolkits’ that will help members further educate consumers, regulators and other industry players on several subjects. They included Softeners and Septic System Performance, Final Barrier, Product Certification and Specialty License, as well as WQA Relationship Building–Legislative. All of the toolkits and several currently being developed will be available on the website. Water Treatment for Dummies, a collaborative effort with Healthy Homes, should be available in June. The first 10,000-copy run has been designated for dealers and additional distribution will be offered through the WQA and Dummies websites. The salinity issues plaguing Arizona have been, and continue to be, addressed by a positive effort between the state and WQA. Dealers have been working on educational efforts and utility funding of $40,00 to focus on DIR, conservation and high-efficiency systems has been secured. Overall, water softeners have been proven to be controllable contributors in a situation where natural elements can’t be controlled. The efforts of the Arizona Water Quality Association are to be commended for their dedication to finding the right solution for the industry and the state. Specialty licensing was a hot topic for the Eastern Water Quality Association. Several states require work to be performed by licensed plumbers but as noted by several industry professionals, plumbers generally don’t know about water treatment and water treatment equipment. They noted that these rules are detrimental to the industry, consumer confidence and customer satisfaction.
Although the trade show and exhibition ended on Thursday, more business was at hand on Friday in the form of training, certification and the annual Board Meeting. Richard Mest of Master Water Conditioning accepted the gavel of governance from outgoing President Dar Watts. His first order of business was to congratulate Watts on the exceptional job he had done on meeting the needs of the membership, furthering the goals of WQA and positively impacting the entire industry. Thank you, Dar Watts! Membership goals were missed by a very slight number but retention stood at 87 percent. There are 2,519 member companies and by percentages, breakdown as dealers (68), manufacturers (23) and allied (9) with 82 percent from the US and the remainder from the international community. WQRF reported the re-launch of its bequest program and will kick off another effort at Midyear. The California state certification requirement may be all but undone; AB 119 passed out of committee before Aquatech. If there is unanimous acceptance, it could be made effective with an emergency resolution before October. As soon as any activity on that measure has taken place, WQA will issue notification.
Highlights on the trade show floor
The increased number of international vendors gave visitors a broader view of the marketplace outside the US. For manufacturers and distributors, entry into foreign markets can be an extremely challenging process. That more internationals took part in WQA Aquatech was a good sign of development in the regional markets on both sides of the pond. Several European companies have sought to gain traction in the US market and being visible to Aquatech attendees was beneficial for everyone. The range of products for commercial and industrial water treatment was impressive.
As reported in our April issue, 3M’s new dealer network expansion has met with much success. According to 3M Purification, Inc.’s Marketing Development Manager Mark Howlett, the company engaged in a two-and-a-half year process to bring the dealer network to the industry. “We were looking to become our own water treatment channel and created our own line. We did an exhaustive nationwide study to determine brand recognition by consumers and found 3M to be among the top three in multiple categories, including water treatment. We offer a dealer network channel that rises above the fray. When dealers need help, we’re there, offering assistance, product, technical know-how, without the baggage. We were able to sign up several new dealers and we expect to bring many other dealers into our network in the short term. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.” To further engage dealers, NASCAR drive Greg Biffle was on hand to take pictures and sign autographs. It was a very successful time at the 3M booth, as noted by the continued flow of traffic.
According to RainSoft Senior Vice President Andy Palframan, their partnership with Home Depot has had notable success over the past year. “The in-store lead generation program throughout the US has yielded retail sales in excess of $250 million,” said Palframan.“We’ve seen 25-percent growth in the Home Depot program. And, there’s a great deal of early success with our private-label credit card, which offers a low 9.9-percent rate and the new iPad App puts the latest technology in the hands of dealers for quick, in-home, touch-screen presentations. Also, dealers can access important water quality information, Water Conditioning & Purification May 2013 videos, savings and ROI calculations and more. We had a high rate of response to our satisfaction survey (98 percent) and that was enlightening.” The company’s new salt-free hybrid DI residential water conditioning system featuring Pentair® CrossCharge technology on display in the booth gave everyone a chance to see the new system.
Around the corner at ClearWater Tech’s booth, Account Executive Tim Chew noted the high volume of traffic he was seeing. Dealers from all over the country were visiting and asking ‘good-quality’ questions. “Trade-show exposure is extremely important to our relationship-building process. We’ve had more visibility and exposure and that is translating to increased interest in our products. Not just window-shopping, but actual sales. We are meeting the expectations of dealers and consumers with our products and seeing the results of our efforts on several fronts. With solid engineering, service as our priority and better marketing, much more growth is expected.”
There were many interesting new products and presentations that afforded everyone the opportunity to find what they were looking for and help companies network with others. And while traffic across the trade show lessened the second day, the many training seminars and presentations at the Aqua Stages were well-attended. WQA offered multiple opportunities for certification exams and many companies sponsored training sessions for their products. There truly was something for everyone.
The many new tools and reports that are now available to the industry will help dealers expand their client base with solid, technical data to meet the modern consumer’s need for information rather than sales pitches. Manufacturers are already gearing up to use these new data to produce better, more efficient and environmentally friendly products. There is reason to have a positive outlook as the efforts of industry captains seek to move things forward and grow the industry. We hope to see many of you at the WQA Midyear Leadership Conference, September 4-6 at Incline Village, NV, as well as at next year’s annual convention in Orlando, FL, March 18-21, 2014.