Service technicians have largely withstood the economic storm that has battered Florida’s new-pool construction industry.

As a result, the Sunshine State’s trade associations are launching a renewed campaign to bring as many service companies as possible into the fold.

“[Service has become] a very significant component, and one that probably employs the greatest number professionals in the Florida pool industry,” said Wendy Parker Barsell, executive director of the Florida Swimming Pool Association.

While pool-building statewide (based on permits) remains down about 70 percent from five years ago, service — including repairs and remodels — continues trending upward. Florida has approximately 1.2 million existing pools.

A study commissioned by FSPA in 2006 found the state’s service technicians numbered nearly 15,000. “If anything, that’s probably gone up,” Parker Barsell added. “So there are literally thousands of people out there running service routes, and a number of them, we believe, came from the larger building companies.”

This month, FSPA is contacting and mailing thousands of informational fliers to licensed and non-licensed service firms alike across Florida, especially those with no more than a few employees, officials noted.

The group hopes to attract members through preferred rates on insurance, as well as other benefits such as government relations advocacy, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), debt collections and online referrals.

The push by FSPA comes as another service group, the Independent Pool & Spa Service Association, prepares to widen its own membership across the state. In addition to six chapters currently in Florida, IPSSA is ramping up operations in Sarasota, and soon plans to establish a foothold in Longwood, just north of Orlando.

The group entered Florida in 2006 and currently has 127 members as of July 1, according to Todd Starner, director of IPSSA’s Region 11, which includes Florida and Georgia. Chapters have added a member a month on average over the past quarter, he said.         

“We’ve been changing up the criteria for membership to help us better compete,” Starner said, noting the differences between IPSSA and FSPA. “We’ll always have our sick route coverage. And I like the fact that we require attendance at meetings [because] I think it helps build camaraderie.

“But, ultimately, I’m happy that FSPA is opening its doors,” he continued, “and that they’re going out and acting on behalf of technicians.”               

Meanwhile, service professionals such as Bonnie Boeren welcome the added attention from the state’s trade groups. Whether it results in membership remains to be seen, but it certainly provides food for thought, said the vice president of Michael’s Pool Service & Repair in Tampa, Fla.

“You just get so busy,” she added. “But I’ll have to look into it. I believe you should be a member of a professional organization.”