• Engaging again: Pinched by the economic downturn, many members of industry associations stopped paying dues and operated without the benefit of belonging to a trade group. Now that the economy is turning a corner, organizations are welcoming back former and new members alike.
    Engaging again: Pinched by the economic downturn, many members of industry associations stopped paying dues and operated without the benefit of belonging to a trade group. Now that the economy is turning a corner, organizations are welcoming back former and new members alike.

After years of dwindling memberships, industry associations are boasting stronger numbers.

It’s an encouraging indication that the economy is improving and industry professionals are again seeing value in belonging to an organization.

The Florida Swimming Pool Association has redoubled its recruitment efforts in recent months and now has its largest roster since 2009. The Sarasota-based organization has more than 600 members across 16 chapters throughout the Sunshine State.

When the market tanked, memberships lapsed and FSPA’s enrollment stagnated for several years, generally hovering around 550, said Executive Director Wendy Parker Barsell. But things are picking up. Some are returning to FSPA after being inactive for more than three years, “but the surge has definitely been people who are new to the association,” Parker Barsell said.

While a better business climate is contributing to FPSA’s growth, it isn’t the only factor. The association recently expanded its scope of services to offer free continuing education courses to members’ employees. State law requires contractors to receive a certain number of CE credits between license renewals. FSPA courses are available at trade shows and chapter meetings.

“We had several companies bring upwards of 20 employees to the [Orlando Pool & Spa Show] to get education and it didn’t cost them anything except getting them to the show,” Parker Barsell said.

FSPA is also waiving the cost of its hazmat compliance program, valued at $500 a year. It includes material safety data sheets and 24/7 roadside assistance in the event of a spill.

“The industry is becoming much stronger again,” said Parker Barsell, noting that all six of the Florida builders on PSN’s recently published Top 50 Builders list are FSPA members. “That speaks to something, I would say.”

Chapters of the Independent Pool & Spa Service Association also are expanding their ranks. Just last year, Houston had one chapter. Now it has four, with another on the horizon. Chapters are sprouting up because Houston is sprawling ever outward. That’s made it difficult for members to gather for chapter meetings.

“People will come to the chapter closest to them. They’re not going to drive,” said Jim Jacobsmeyer, president of the Central Houston and Bay Area chapters. “We’re getting more and more members because we’re getting closer to them.”

All combined, the chapters have about 135 members, Jacobsmeyer said. That puts Houston within reach of becoming its own IPSSA region, which would give it a seat on the association’s board of regional directors. It needs fewer than 100 more members to achieve that.

“With 900 to 1,000 pool companies [in the area], we should easily be able to do this,” Jacobsmeyer said.

More Bright Spots

• The Northeast Spa & Pool Association reported growth in locations where licensing is required, citing the organization’s cost-effective educational resources. NESPA maintained a 94 percent retention rate throughout the recession.

• IPSSA has a record number of “associate members.” These are companies that pay annual dues to speak at functions, sponsor events and advertise in newsletters.

• The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals is projecting 8- to 10 percent growth in revenue related to membership this year.

• After a recent leadership transition, the National Plasterers Council reports approximately 60 new members in the past year. Officials attribute the increase to the organization’s popular plaster start-up course.

Editor’s note: Rebecca Robledo contributed to this report.