ARI, GAMA Discuss Possible Merger

February 26, 2007
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The Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) and the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) are looking into the possibility of merging.

The two respective associations are currently weighing the pros and cons of combining their efforts after a study group, which met at the 2007 International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo) in Dallas, recommended such further examination. As of mid-February, subcommittees were being put together to examine potential benefits or pitfalls in three specific areas: governmental affairs, certification, and staff and administration.

Steve Yurek, ARI

Though neither association could identify names or manufacturers involved in these respective subcommittees, the “three committees will be formed as soon as practicable and will report on their progress to the study group within 30 days,” it stated in a Feb. 8 release, signed by both GAMA Chairman William Rafferty and ARI Chairman Robert Wilkins.

“This is not a deadline for a recommendation, but rather an effort to expedite the process,” it stated in the release sent to members of both associations. “After receiving the committee reports, the study group will meet and provide a recommendation to the executive committees of GAMA and ARI on possible next steps.”

Jack Klimp, GAMA

In an interview with The NEWS, GAMA president Jack Klimp was cautious in his remarks concerning the possible merger.

“The notice that we are studying the possibility of combining GAMA and ARI into one trade association went out to GAMA and ARI members only on Feb. 8, so at this writing it is far too early to expect any responses, positive or negative, from a significant number of GAMA members,” he noted.

“We are in the very early stages of consideration, and I know that our members will be giving much thought over the coming weeks and months to the idea of a combination,” echoed Stephen Yurek, president, ARI.

EXPLORATORY MEETING MEANS MORE EXPLORATION

Several times in past years the possibility of combining the two trade associations into one has been discussed, but each time the topic did not reach the point of serious deliberations. The most recent study group included the current chairmen and several past chairmen of both associations, along with outside legal counsel. No staff from either association was present “so as to encourage a completely open dialogue.”

After meeting for the better part of a morning, the study group agreed to the creation of the three subcommittees.

“I don’t foresee any particular obstacles at this point, and while we have asked that each committee forward its recommendations to the governing bodies of ARI and GAMA within 30 days of their commencing their discussions, that deadline is not set in stone,” said Yurek.

“GAMA’s single, clear-cut objective in initiating a discussion of combining the two organizations is to consider what would be the best course of action for all our member companies - large and small,” Klimp told The NEWS. “So several questions are foremost in our minds at GAMA: Do GAMA and ARI hold common positions on important industry issues such as environmental matters, federal preemption of state and local regulation, and ongoing efforts to increase energy-efficiency standards?

“Would uniting our associations achieve a measurable synergy? Would we be more effective and able to accomplish more as a combined organization rather than as two independently acting groups? Would a combined GAMA and ARI be able to provide improved and increased services to our members while continuing to allow the varied divisions of this larger association to address their product-specific issues?

“The answers to these questions are precisely what we will be searching for in the days ahead,” he said.

These discussions of a combination will not be driven by economics, assured Yurek. “There will be strategic considerations regarding whether or not HVACR manufacturers would be better served and the industry better positioned to address the many issues confronting the industry today and in the future through a combined organization,” he told The NEWS.

Together, the two associations represent over 90 percent of North American HVACR manufacturers. Together, they share as members about 30 larger companies. If viewed collectively as one industry, the question naturally arises why the two organizations should be separate, but the two associations will determine that outcome.

Publication date: 02/26/2007

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