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    John Norwood (left) and Mitch Brooks now will be working together at SPEC.

California pool and spa industry advocate SPEC hopes a new alliance will help strengthen its standing across the state.

The agreement, announced July 1, calls for Florida-based association management firm Visioneering Consultants Inc. to guide SPEC’s board of directors and fund-raising efforts.

“It was time to bring SPEC into the modern era,” President/CEO John Norwood said. “We really have to be the front for the industry, and this will help us put SPEC back on the map and in front of people’s eyes.”

SPEC’s board approved a year-long contract with VCI, Norwood said, though the agreement could be extended if the marriage proves fruitful. Under terms of the deal, Mitch Brooks, CEO of Port Charlotte, Fla.-based VCI, will serve as executive director of SPEC, reporting to Norwood.

“Mitch obviously has a lot of credibility through his work with the National Plasterers Council, the Florida Swimming Pool Association and others,” Norwood said.

Indeed, the move comes at a critical time for the Sacramento-based advocacy group. In addition to a mushrooming underground economy, California pool and spa professionals face an ongoing litany of water conservation and budget-related taxation issues.

As a lobbyist, Norwood has managed to clear a number of potential legislative hurdles since taking over leadership of SPEC in July 2009. But in terms of membership and fund-raising, the group’s hand-off from founder and then-CEO Don Burns couldn’t have come at a tougher time.

The California market remains among the nation’s hardest-hit pool-building regions. And an always active legislature means SPEC’s advocacy efforts can ill afford a drop-off in support.

In addition to boosting the group’s membership and balance sheet, VCI is charged with developing SPEC’s directors into a more traditional governing board as opposed to the staff-driven model that guided SPEC in the past. VCI also will help the board write a clearly defined strategic plan outlining its objectives over the next two to three years, Brooks said.

“We truly recognize that SPEC is vital not just to California, but to the entire country as far as its task and mission,” Brooks added. “This was something that, when the opportunity arose, we felt obligated to do for the benefit of the entire pool and spa industry.”