The Florida Swimming Pool Association and the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals are ending their affiliation.
The split will be finalized when the current agreement between the two groups expires June 30. After that date, FSPA’s estimated 700 members will no longer receive automatic joint-membership in APSP.
“Keeping 100 percent of everyone’s dues in the state of Florida will help us provide more benefits to our members,” said Wendy Parker, FSPA’s executive director. “We can spend all of our time making sure our interests are protected.”
This was not the outcome that either group expected when the year began.
FSPA’s affiliation agreement was due to expire June 30. Upon a request from APSP, FSPA agreed to extend the existing terms for one more year while the groups renegotiated a new contract.
APSP then sent FSPA a letter dated Feb. 26 announcing that it was terminating the affiliation contract. The “Dear John” document was a legal necessity to open the way for the new renegotiations, according to APSP’s CEO, Bill Weber.
But officials at FSPA were shocked, Parker said. The group had not been warned of the letter, which read as if APSP no longer wanted a relationship at all.
Shortly after that, APSP made it clear that this was just a matter of housekeeping, and the organizations agreed to meet in May to discuss a long-term affiliation.
But in March, FSPA sent a letter informing APSP that it wanted complete independence and, in particular, was no longer willing to give the national association any portion of its membership dues. At the May meeting, both groups agreed that this arrangement would not constitute an affiliation, according to Weber.
“We will continue to work cooperatively with APSP, especially on legislative issues that affect both groups,” said Steve Bluds- worth, a member of the FSPA Executive Committee and past FSPA president. “I think it will actually be healthy for both associations now that our membership is more clear-cut.”
For its part, APSP hopes to continue to cooperate with FSPA in areas of mutual interest as well.
“We have verbally agreed to a new cooperative agreement to replace the existing affiliation agreement,” explained Gene Fields, APSP’s chairman of the board. “Our new agreement will … provide a framework for working together on areas of common interest, particularly in legislation and regulatory matters affecting the industry.”
But some think APSP should have taken a different approach.
“I think APSP made a strategic mistake,” said John Romano, a longtime leader of NESPA who is also on the APSP Board of Directors.
APSP now will go without the benefit of the 15 percent to 20 percent of FSPA’s Category 2 dues, which were funneled to the national organization —a total of approximately $40,000 to $50,000 a year, according to Parker.
Before becoming an affiliate of the national organization, FSPA was known as Region 7. In 2000, the group signed an affiliation agreement with APSP (then NSPI).
Now FSPA will be focused 100 percent on Florida, with less attention and effort directed at helping out with other issues around the country.
FSPA will continue to promote the idea of dual membership in the organizations, said Bill Kent, FSPA’s Affiliation Task Force chairman. He expects most Florida-based manufacturers to belong to both groups.
Yet some observers expect builders, retailers and service firms with smaller pockets to let their APSP memberships lapse and send their money only to FSPA.
It seems clear, however, that APSP membership rolls, which insiders say have shrunk in recent years, will get even smaller.
APSP is expected to move forward with establishing a new presence in Florida. Essentially, the organization would reconstitute the old Region 7 as part of APSP proper.
For this year’s renewal campaigns, both organizations are sending out materials to Florida members for them to re-up their memberships.
That would involve canvassing the Sunshine State and competing with FSPA for members. “They are welcome to do that,” Kent said. “We’ll see how that works out.”
While the affiliation with FSPA may have ended, APSP has worked out an agreement with the Northeast Pool & Spa Association to maintain that group’s status as an affiliate. The new three-year deal is expected to be finalized soon.