• Orlando Pool & Spa Show

    Credit: Florida Swimming Pool Association

    Orlando Pool & Spa Show

The Florida Swimming Pool Association is dipping its toes in the management business. The state’s solar advocacy group has tapped FSPA to manage its day-to-day operations.

“We were looking to shift from our existing government relations team and management to somebody else. We reached out to FSPA. They gave us a proposal. They’re doing our management now,” said Wayne Wallace, president of the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association.

FSPA is contracted to provide membership and promotionional services for the solar association, which is shy of 100 members. FSPA’s Wendy Parker Barsell now is pulling double duty as executive director of both associations. Parker Barsell said she and FSPA’s communications specialist, Charis Tyson, will allocate a limited number of hours a week to help grow FlaSEIA’s membership base.

Support provided to the solar association “goes above and beyond” their commitments to FSPA, which boasts 500-plus members across 16 chapters, Parker Barsell explained.

Participants in both industries will see the associations’ first major collaborative effort early next year when FSPA’s Orlando Pool & Spa Show takes on a new identity. The trade show is being rebranded the “Everything Under the Sun Expo.” Long used as the pool show’s tagline, the name change reflects the larger presence solar will have at the convention, which attracts thousands of attendees and features 200-plus exhibitors.

It will be FlaSEIA’s first trade show since 1986. “The economies can be such that FlaSEIA, starting off, we can do it for a lot less capital,” Wallace said. He expects 20 to 30 solar manufacturers to participate.

Parker Barsell makes it clear that FSPA still owns the show, which will be held in February 2014 at the Orange County Convention Center. Sharing convention floor space with FlaSEIA is part of the contract. “We most likely, based on interest, will have two different areas for the products showcase,” Parker Barsell said. “We’ll have some differentiation. … But we want people to enjoy the entire show.”

There is some synergy between the industries that can be beneficial to both associations — solar heaters for swimming pools, being the obvious example. The convention will be a networking opportunity for contractors in both industries who are championing energy efficiency. Parker Barsell said that the show will include several classes that solar and pool pros can take together, in addition to a schedule of industry-specific seminars.

Wallace admitted there was some hesitation on FlaSEIA’s part to join the show. A trade show needs to attract contractors and suppliers who’ll buy from manufacturers who make products for a variety of commercial and residential applications that go beyond pool heaters.

“There was a bit of apprehension of electricians coming to a swimming pool show,” Wallace said. “But we think we can overcome [that.] Hopefully, it’ll be reasonably, on the high end, successful. In the future, we can maybe do it on our own.”

For now, the Sunshine State’s solar industry needs some help. Florida failed to make the Top 10 list of states with solar power capacity. Florida added a combined 24.2 solar megawatts last year, ranking 17th nationwide, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The sun set on the state’s solar rebate program in 2010.

“We have the sun. We just don’t have the incentives,” Wallace said.

Helping FlaSEIA shape the state’s solar policies is Tallahassee, Fla.-based Canopy Strategy Group, which also provides government relations support for FSPA.

An independent firm representing multiple associations is common consulting practice. What is unusual, but not unheard of, is an association taking on another association as a client.

“At the state level, there are a number of restaurant and hotel-and-lodging associations that are in the same shop,” said John Graham, president and CEO of the American Society of Association Executives. “It makes sense if the chemistry works for both of them.”