Two of the industry’s most influential manufacturing associations are very near an historic merger that would create an even more powerful advocacy for the trade. The boards of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) and the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) have approved the merger and sent the proposal to the respective memberships for a vote that will be tallied on Dec. 15.
The end result would be the Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), a larger, combined group of manufacturers that would collectively wield greater leverage on Capitol Hill, and enhance domestic HVAC positions in the global economy.
On Nov. 12 and 13, the respective boards voted unanimously to move forward, and are encouraging the support of the respective memberships. The memberships began receiving voting materials on Nov. 15. With membership approvals, the combined organization could become official on Jan. 1, 2008.
“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 Wilkins. “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.”
ISSUES FOR THE VOTERSAt issue for the voting members: Will smaller manufacturing companies feel properly represented as small fish in an even bigger pond?The NEWShad an exclusive interview with Robert Wilkins, outgoing chairman of ARI, at the annual convention held Nov. 11-13 in Key Largo, Fla., to discuss the merger.
“Many of the smaller companies already appreciate the advantages that an association can bring in the form of lobbying for beneficial industry legislation. Sometimes, it is not something these companies can perform on their own behalf. We firmly believe that the combined association will provide even greater benefits to the smaller, as well as larger, members of both ARI and GAMA,” said Wilkins.
While there are several issues to consider, members of ARI’s Executive Committee on Nov. 2 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.”
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. (ARI will send 2008 dues invoices by Dec. 1 after the board approves the 2008 budget.) For 2009 and beyond, dues would be established by the board of directors.
Both organizations would 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.
Below is a timeline of merger-related discussions and activities:
• 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 Nov. 15, merger materials and proxies were sent to ARI and GAMA members for their review.
• On Dec. 15, pro-forma ARI and GAMA membership meetings will count member proxies.
• On Jan. 1, 2008, the new combined association, if approved, would be incorporated under Virginia law.