New benefits and new board members were unveiled at the Aquatech Society’s annual conference, held Jan. 13-17 in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada.

The event, which drew 380 industry members, took place at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.

“Aquatech isn’t just a place to buy stuff,” said Thomas Brown executive vice president of the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based group. “These conferences really reiterate that it’s all about camaraderie, services and benefits to our members.”

One such benefit, which has just been launched under the name Watermark, is a comprehensive advertising program open to all members. The service will design marketing materials in a variety of formats, from door hangers to truck lettering to “everything a builder needs to support a sale in the consumer’s home.”

Watermark staff also can handle the higher level management of an entire ad campaign.

“Watermark is designed to take the burden of advertising off the member’s plate,” Brown said. “We want to free up our builders to build and our retailers to serve customers and concentrate on growing their business.”

This year also saw three spots open on the board of directors. They were filled by incumbent Sandy Ewing of Ewing Aquatech Pools, Rob Morgan of Sunbelt Pools and Dale Howard of B&L Pools.

Howard is the first retailer to be voted onto the board, a noteworthy addition because the group’s significant growth in recent years is due largely to its decision to include retailers in 2002.

Other milestones were reached at the annual awards dinner held Jan. 16. Aqua Blue Pools & Spas of Central Florida celebrated 35 years as an Aquatech member, while Carolina Aquatech Pools was recognized for 45 years with the group. Thirty-eight gold awards were given out for excellence in design, and five retailers took top honors for their Websites and other initiatives.

The conference also featured a variety of seminars and informal gatherings that remain a popular draw for members.

“My favorite part was the round-table discussions with builders from all over the country,” said Scott Cohen, president of The Green Scene in Canoga Park, Calif. “Because the members are in noncompetitive areas, we were able to openly share ideas, business challenges, contracts and construction procedures devoid of the egos that so often taint these types of discussions,” he added.

The 2011 conference will be held Feb. 13-17 in Bonita Springs, Fla.