Eileen Benjamin, executive director of The Pool Spa & Aquatic Alliance, with NSPF CEO Thomas Lachocki, Ph.D.
Photo courtesy The Pool Spa & Aquatic Alliance/CPSA Eileen Benjamin, executive director of The Pool Spa & Aquatic Alliance, with NSPF CEO Thomas Lachocki, Ph.D.

The pool and spa industry’s new membership association has taken another important step in its development.

Last September, the California Pool & Spa Association merged with the National Swimming Pool Foundation. In doing so, it announced the creation of The Pool Spa & Aquatics Alliance, a new membership association that falls under NSPF’s umbrella but doesn’t have the restrictions of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization such as NSPF.

In early March, the Alliance’s first executive director joined the association. Eileen Benjamin is charged with growing membership and developing benefits.

With more than 20 years of strategic corporate and client partner relationship experience, she most recently served as CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for the City of Costa Mesa, Calif., and as executive director of the Foundation for the Children of the Californias. In the past decade, she has been involved in seven boards and affiliations.

Her work has been marked by aggressive growth, with the Costa Mesa Chamber expecting to nearly double its membership this year due to programs Benjamin instituted, she said.

She will work out of her home office in Southern California.

“When you make a career move, you want to go someplace where you feel like there’s a real opportunity for growth and where you think you can make a really positive impact,” Benjamin said. “The Alliance, combining the Foundation with the CPSA, is extremely exciting. You’re putting together two really accomplished, organized groups ... for one collaborative voice.”

In the Golden State, the Alliance will continue to do business as the California Pool & Spa Association. While the Alliance/CPSA continues to focus largely on government advocacy, it now will look at ways to expand its benefits, both by filling service gaps and leveraging programs that already exist through NSPF and Genesis, which it absorbed in 2015.

The Alliance recently made its first foray outside of California by contracting a firm in Arizona to lobby on behalf of the industry there.

“Right now, we are taking baby steps in growth outside California,” said Jerry Wallace, chairman of the board for The Alliance. “Our focus is California first.”

He said the Alliance does not plan to expand lobbying efforts to Florida, the Northeast, or Texas, which already have robust government-advocacy operations in place. “We’re not looking to invade territories, per se,” he said.

The formation of the Alliance appears to be the next move by NSPF to compete with the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals. In the past couple years, both groups have made more moves into the other’s specialty, including NSPF’s merge with Genesis, and APSP’s recent relaunch of its Professional Pool & Spa Operator program, which serves the same market as NSPF’s Certified Pool Operator designation. California appears to be a local battleground, as APSP recently hired a staffer there to help reclaim the state after years with little presence.

With Benjamin just starting, she and the Alliance board are still developing a strategic plan to meet their growth goals. But NSPF CEO Thomas Lachocki, Ph.D. shared the view from 10,000 feet: “The big-picture goals are pretty simple: We’re going to work to be able to increase education within our field, to raise professionalism. We’re going to work to promote pool, spa and aquatic facilities; and we’re going to work at having reasonable and intelligent laws in place.”

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