WDMA to Step Up Advocacy and Education

February 17, 2009

Tucson, Ariz.–"We are at a moment where political decisions are going to have more repercussions for this industry and for all industries than any of us have seen before,” said Andrei Cherni of Democracy Magazine. Moderating a discussion of the political climate at the Window & Door Manufacturers Association Leadership Summit that concluded yesterday, he added, “No one doubts the decisions that are being made now are going to be with us for years and years to come.”

WDMA members appeared to have reached that conclusion already, deciding earlier in the meeting to step up the group’s advocacy efforts as it moves forward. That decision is part of an overall plan to “fundamentally change the organization to make sure everything we do has a business purpose,” explained John Stoiber, WDMA CEO.

“We are facing new challenges," said Steven Tourek of Marvin Windows & Doors, current WDMA chairman, reflecting the same sentiment. "We know there is more than cyclical change taking place. We are also looking at structural changes as an industry that call for new leadership.”

Marvin's Steve Tourek, current WDMA chair,
outlined a number of major changes
the organization plans to embark on,
including legislative advocacy and new
industry education programs.

“We have re-articulated WDMA’s goal to serve manufacturers of high performance products,” Stoiber explained, “and improve the environment they do business in.” Among the efforts WDMA plans to focus on most immediately, he said, was establishing an industry presence in Washington. Managed by SmithBucklin, a company that manages numerous trade associations, WDMA now plans to leverage that organization’s existing offices and staff expertise in Washington to get its members heard.

WDMA has not yet put together a detailed lobbying agenda, but Stoiber said there’s agreement that an infrastructure to get the industry’s voice heard is needed. “We all know there are going to be a lot of issues on the table.”

Highlighting this new emphasis on advocacy, one potential change WDMA is considering is a change from the traditional WDMA association meeting format to a legislative conference in Washington. Such an event would not only give members a chance to meet with each other, but also meet with their legislators.

Another arena where WDMA plans to enhance its activities will be education, Stoiber continued. Noting that traditional association meetings, gathering top executives and suppliers at a resort to hear from a few speakers are not adequate in today’s environment, he said that WDMA plans to broaden its reach. It will begin rolling out some programs this year, he continued, with the goal of serving everyone from personnel on the factory floor to salespeople in the field, and not just manufacturer member personnel, but everyone in the supply chain.

The Tucson event, perhaps for the last time, followed the traditional WDMA format, featuring a number of speakers covering a range of topics. Attendees heard from Lee McPheters, an economist from Arizona State University, that the economy is expected by most now to hit bottom by the end of this year, with a slow recovery likely, despite the spending that will result from the stimulus bill. While the current economic situation is not a “depression,” he said there was no doubt it is one of the worst recessions that the country has experienced since that time.

Other presenters included attorney Paul Gary, who examined some of the legal challenges that continue to plague the industry. Among his chief recommendations for manufacturers was the need to manage consumer expectations and use warranty language more proactively. Charlie Popeck of Green Ideas, an Arizona-based company involved in LEED building projects, emphasized that green is now “mainstream” with building owners and companies determining there is a real return on investment in LEED certified projects.

Nils Petermann offered a similar perspective on the mainstream acceptance of energy efficiency, pointing to the success of numerous energy efficiency provisions in the recently passed stimulus package. Speaking as part of the political panel, he suggested that more government action on the energy efficiency front is possible, pointing to potential climate change and/or energy legislation that could make its way through Congress during the coming year.