A new policy put into effect by the Independent Pool & Spa Service Association is having its intended result, with the organization seeing an uptick in membership this year.

For some time, members of IPSSA’s board of regional directors had been aware that the organization was getting smaller. The decline in membership came despite IPSSA adding chapters and regions in areas such as Florida and Texas, where the group is growing. In fact, membership nationwide dropped by 26 during the last two quarters of 2012.

From feedback given by members and prospective members, the directors learned that two of the stumbling blocks to putting numbers back into the positive column were the requirements that prospective members pass IPSSA’s water chemistry test, and that they attend at least three consecutive meetings.

At their meeting in early February, the IPSSA directors loosened the requirements that chapters and regions may adopt. Now, if a pool service technician has one of six certifications, he or she may fast-track their IPSSA application, and will have up to a year to take the water chemistry test.

Early results show the new policy is working.

“I’ve got 19 new members coming in, and all of them would’ve had to wait and take the test, but they’re Certified Pool Operators,” said Todd Starner, IPSSA expansion chairman and director of Region 11, which covers Florida and Georgia. Starner also attributed some of the growth to the activity at the Orlando and San Antonio pool shows, where IPSSA was an exhibitor. It’s not just the high-growth areas that are adding members either.

“Every region except Region 5 [Orange County, Calif.] is in the plus category,” Starner said.

The certifications that enable a candidate to qualify for fast-track membership include the following: current CPO certificate; valid Los Angeles County Public Health certification; completion of APSP Tech 1 or Tech 2 course; valid state of Florida Certified Pool Contractor or Certified Pool Operator; valid state of Georgia CPO; or valid state of Texas CPO. (Texas applicants also must attend three of four meetings.) Individual chapters may set requirements in addition to national standards.

One person to take advantage of the new rules is Billy Riveiro. He and Laura Sweetman have just started a pool business, The Pool Frogs, to service the Tampa area and found out about IPSSA at the Orlando Pool & Spa Show in February. Riveiro is able to join the group through having his Florida CPC license and has started attending meetings.

“IPSSA is teaching the small businessman how to be profitable, and I like that,” he said. The pair plan to take advantage of the organization’s liability insurance programs for pool technicians.

Members who join under the new requirements are eligible for all IPSSA benefits from the day their membership goes into effect, including the insurance plans.

Another priority for the group is a need to reach out to younger techs.

Many longtime IPSSA members, including some of the association’s founders, are retiring from the pool business, and thus from IPSSA. The group had had trouble getting new members to take their place until introducing the new policies.

The change in membership requirements isn’t the only thing IPSSA is doing to boost its visibility among service technicians. The group is working on an improved website, which IPSSA hopes will draw in younger techs. The association also has been working with drowning prevention groups, hoping to raise its profile among pool owners, so they’ll seek out IPSSA members when looking for service techs.