Arizona’s split from the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals is all but complete now that some of the biggest players in the Phoenix area are on board.

Shasta Industries, Presidential Pools & Spas and Paddock Pools Patios & Spas pledged financial support in August to the fledgling Southwest Pool & Spa Association. The new trade group will vote on a slate of officers for its board of directors by the end of September.

“We’re seceding from the union,” joked John Mortensen, director of organizational development and training for Rondo Pools & Spas in Phoenix.

But the formation of SWPASA is serious business.

Mortensen, who has taken the lead in forming the new group for more than a year, said he has nearly $30,000 in pledges from Arizona businesses to get the trade association off the ground. Two other top builders in the Phoenix area, California Pools and Pacific Pools & Spas Inc., have not formally pledged money. But Mortensen said he is confident that they will support the effort.

Hayward Pool Products, a leading manufacturer, also is on board with SWPASA, as are several of the largest subcontractors and tile and plastering businesses in the Valley of the Sun.

All told, nearly 50 industry figures attended a meeting Aug. 28 to voice their support and start bandying about names for the board of directors.

“I don’t think it’s unrealistic that we could have as many as 60 companies joining,” Mortensen said. “I’m just ecstatic about the response. It’s good to see this level of participation.”

Arizona’s break from APSP began in spring 2006 when the Central Arizona Chapter petitioned the national body for an increase in funding or, alternatively to become a full affiliate. The chapter’s leaders thought not enough money was funneling back to Arizona from APSP’s national office in Alexandria, Va.

APSP declined to approve an affiliate in Arizona, but offered the chapter a $25,000 loan until the new Regional Service Center was up and running. That offer wasn’t enough for the board of the Central Arizona Chapter, which resigned in summer 2006 and began to plant the seeds of a new organization, which is now SWPASA.

“That’s basically it in a nutshell,” said Mike Hermann of Opyne Capital Corp., a Phoenix financial institution that serves the pool industry. “It’s nothing against APSP, but it just wasn’t working for us.

“As a national organization that deals with federal legislation, they’re doing a great job,” he said. “But we needed something more, something closer to home and directed toward our needs.”

Mortensen is adamant that “this is not an anti-APSP association,” noting that many SWPASA members will remain dues-paying members of APSP.

“Our only beef is that we know how much money goes out of the valley, and we know how much comes back,” Mortensen said. “And there should be more coming back.”

The money already pledged to SWPASA in a few short weeks, Mortensen said, represents roughly what APSP would give its Central Arizona Chapter to operate for an entire year.

APSP, meanwhile, is moving forward with replacing the departed members of its Central Arizona Chapter.

“We still have a very sizable membership in Phoenix, and the [APSP] chapter is still there,” said Bill Weber, president/CEO of APSP. “We’ve tried over a period of time to reconcile these differences. Obviously, from their perspective, we haven’t.”

Hermann said he hopes the split doesn’t lead to hard feelings between the two trade groups.

“I just got my dues membership request,” Hermann said. “I’m going to support them, too.”