Two of the industry’s most influential manufacturing associations reached a historic merger that creates a powerful advocacy for the trade. The boards of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) and the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) approved the merger and sent the proposal for a vote that successfully passed. The end result is the Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), a larger, combined group of manufacturers that collectively wield greater leverage on Capitol Hill and enhance domestic HVAC positions in the global economy.
Discussions of this merger began early this year as the two associations met at the 2007 International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo) in Dallas. As of mid-February, subcommittees had been put together to examine potential benefits or pitfalls in three specific areas: governmental affairs, certification, and staff and administration. Though neither association could identify names or manufacturers involved in these respective subcommittees, the three committees were formed quickly and reported to the merger study group within 30 days of being created.
The possibility of combining the two trade associations into one had been discussed several times in past years. Each time, however, the topic did not reach the point of serious deliberations. As time passed and multiple meetings occurred, many actions and issues were discussed.
• On Nov. 11, the ARI board reviewed merger documents and recommended to ARI members that the proposed merger be approved. The GAMA board met on Nov. 12 and approved a similar recommendation to its membership.
• On November 15, merger materials and proxies were sent to ARI and GAMA members for their review.
• On December 15, Pro-forma ARI and GAMA Membership meetings counted member proxies.
The committee reviewed several terms of the proposed merger and made recommendations for inclusion in the final agreement. Some of the recommended terms were:
• All of ARI’s standing committees would remain in the new association (membership on the committees would grow to include both ARI and GAMA members).
• All current ARI and GAMA board members would belong to the new board, but through attrition, membership would be eventually reduced to about 67 (42 product section chairs and 25 directors-at-large).
• All product sections and divisions would remain the same, except ARI’s Fan and Blowers and GAMA’s Motors and Blowers sections would be combined.
• The 2008 dues for both organizations would continue to be collected separately, for the time being.
For 2009 and beyond, dues will be established by the board of directors. Both organizations will gradually align dues structures, with the goal of avoiding major changes. Overall dues would not increase because of the merger, though ARI representatives did not rule out increases in the normal course of business.
While there are several issues to consider, members of ARI’s Executive Committee agreed that the main compelling reason to merge is: “A stronger and broader voice for air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration manufacturers to respond to increasing and more complex energy and environmental issues through greater standards, certification, and advocacy activities.”
On Jan. 1, 2008, the new combined association will be incorporated under Virginia law.
“As an industry, we simply have to be more effective in shaping the environment that we are in. I think that together ARI and GAMA can be more effective, but it also means we can be more effective working with our trade allies, the contractors, wholesalers, and distributors. By working together we can really get out in front of the issues that shape our industry rather than only react to them,” said Robert Wilkins, outgoing chairman of ARI. “As we work together over the next several years in addressing legislation and regulatory issues, we will be in a better position to represent the industry, including the contractor and wholesaler interests.”