When it comes to representing its interests, the window and door industry...

August 15, 2007
THE TALK...

The Talk, Page 2...

 

Survey Results for 08/15/2007:

When it comes to representing its interests, the window and door industry...

...hurts itself occassionally by not speaking up.

 

 

33%

 

...could be a little more proactive.

 

 

30%

 

...consistently shortchanges itself.

 

 

20%

 

...represents itself well.

 

 

17%

 

 

Photo of John Swanson

John Swanson,
editor/associate publisher of Window & Door

At its summer meeting earlier this month, the Window & Door Manufacturers Association discussed options to step up advocacy efforts. With the rise of more regulation in the energy efficiency, safety and security arenas, and the emergence of the green building movement, some say it’s time to become more proactive. WDMA has not outlined plans fully yet, but the idea of hiring a Washington lobbyist was mentioned.

Well, we decided we’d use last week’s poll to get a sense of what the industry thinks. Have we been trampled on? Have we done okay? Is it time to get our own team in Washington? Well, it seems most of you think we could do better. About a third of the respondents to last week’s poll said the industry hurts itself on occasion by not speaking up, while one in five say we consistently shortchange ourselves.

About 17 percent say the industry does okay for itself, and another 30 percent suggest we could be a little more proactive. In retrospect, I wish we would have offered the option of responding, “This industry desperately needs to step up to the plate and start swinging,” although I doubt many people would have chosen that.

The window and door industry is made up entrepreneurs, and even some of our largest players are still family-run companies. There’s a common “the less government involvement in our business, the better” attitude shared by many manufacturers, distributors and dealers that I think historically has kept us out of the policy arena.

I don’t think that attitude has changed, but I do think more people see “industry lobbyists” as a necessary evil. “Lobbyists are like lawyers and politicians; we hate them except the one that represents our interests,” writes Ron Fragapane of RepMark Sales. “I can’t offer an alternative solution to replacing lobbying. We live in a regulated business environment. It is important that the industry’s interests and issues are made known to those that we, the people, give the power to enact regulation.”

We all know that legislators and regulators are hearing from plenty of other groups. Some environmentalists would like nothing better than to see PVC banned, or see more limits on where we get our wood. “Activists do not concern themselves with the consequences of their actions against industry,” Fragapane continues. “We have to stand up and be self promoters of the products we market.”

I think that his final point is also important in light of the fact that other industries are working constantly to get their message out. They may not have windows and doors—or certain materials—in their sights, but their own interests might step on our toes. Manufacturers of insulation may look for regulations to boost their sales that, in turn, hurt ours. As the lobbyist I quoted last week said, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the plate.”

It will be interesting to see if WDMA decides it’s worthwhile to put someone “at the table.” My gut tells me a lot more window and door people think it’s time to do it, but I would add one caveat. We know from past experience in the code writing process that consensus is often difficult to achieve. Before we can communicate our message and look out for our interests, we also have to decide on what our message is and where our interests lie.

John Swanson, editor/associate publisher of Window & Door magazine