Since the hiring in April of its association management firm and executive director, the National Plasterers Council has made significant inroads into rebuilding, officials said.

“Everyone down to the last [Board member] was just so thrilled with the … progress the group has made in a short period of time,” said Dave Schilli, the organization’s chairman and president of Dave Schilli Pool Plastering in St. Louis. “Everybody has a positive attitude again. We feel like we’re moving forward again instead of just being stationary.”

Last year, NPC saw the abrupt departure of its then executive director, Mitch Brooks, and his firm, Visioneering Consultants in Port Charlotte, Fla. In the interim, a past chairman took over running the association as it sought new management.

The association named The Sanford Organization of Wauconda, Ill., as its management firm. Jeff Henderson, a vice president at TSO, now serves as NPC’s executive director.

Since then, the organization has overcome its financial problems. “The NPC is in the black,” Henderson said.

In one of the group’s first moves, it has set the dates and venue for its annual conference — Feb. 11-13, 2015, at the Sheraton Crescent Hotel in Phoenix. The location makes it possible to hold part of the conference outdoors, despite the season, if more room is needed for demo areas, Henderson said. Registration is expected to open in August or September.

Higher-ups are further encouraged because NPC can offer its Rey Perales Memorial Scholarship Fund again. Based on membership donations, the scholarship program generally gives approximately $5,000 to one or more children of members, who apply it toward the higher-learning institution of their choice. The organization could not award the scholarships last year, but Henderson reported that NPC has collected adequate money to restart the program. Applications are usually received until the end of the year, with awards announced shortly thereafter.

The organization also expects to increase its educational offerings, particularly the availability of its benchmark start-up certification course.

“We aim to start providing classes at the time of year when they are starting to hire people,” Henderson said. “They can ramp up, take a Saturday class, get this basic certification and education, and … [this] allows them to outsource their training for their employees.”

This makes sense, he said, because, historically speaking, approximately 25 percent of the students of this course have less than 30 days’ experience.

NPC plans to bring on a new start-up teacher in addition to member Greg Garrett of Phoenix-based Applied Materials Technologies, and to offer a class in Spanish, Henderson added.

The organization’s annual membership-renewal drive began in June, and Henderson reported the group was off to a good start. “The number of new members we’ve been getting every month has been increasing over the previous month for four months in a row,” he said. “We feel we’re getting a little bit of a groundswell.”

NPC hopes to see its original research also on the rise, as it makes moves to revive its National Pool Industry Research Center, a facility housed at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. The facility has gone unused for the past few years. So far, members have sent cleanup crews to prepare the space, while NPC and the university are in talks about how and when to start it up again.

Schilli anticipates a major overhaul for the group to take place over the next six to 12 months. “The problem with NPC in the last couple years, the engine was running but the wheels weren’t turning,” he said. “Now we’ve got the engine running, the wheels turning and the parachute coming out the back.”