In the last couple of weeks, the merger between CPSA and NSPF has fueled conjecture and rumor about the future alignment of trade associations in the pool and spa industry. Some have publicly speculated that NSPF and CPSA intend to launch an organization to directly challenge APSP, but leaders of the newly formed “Alliance” have stopped short of saying that.

RELATED: CPSA to Combine with NSPF

In light of these developments, AQUA spoke with Rich Gottwald, APSP president and CEO, and Jack Manilla, APSP Chairman, about upcoming plans for APSP and its role in representing pool and spa professionals going forward.

Q: What’s going on at APSP?

RG: We’re getting questions about the announcement from CPSA and NSPF that came out a couple of weeks ago, and we thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about what we’re doing on behalf of the industry.

JM: At times there’s a tendency to focus on conflict and controversy, but here at APSP we are really looking forward to celebrating a banner year with thousands of our industry friends at the PSP Expo in Orlando.

This has been a banner year for APSP. We’ve just finished a $1.7 million legacy investment in world-class education technology for our members. Many of these programs will be introduced at Expo in Orlando and in the following months.

RG: We have partnered with an online developer to take all our educational programs — our certification programs, all the content we have — update it and put it in online through interactive education modules. So people in the industry, no matter where they are or what time it is, can simply sign in and get educated.

We’ll have about 100 modules, and each module is about an hour of education. So whether you’re a service tech, a builder or retailer, you’ll have access to all of those courses.

In addition, we are launching our PPSO [Professional Pool and Spa Operator course and certification] program for the public pool side of the business (although many people on the residential side of the business will take it, too). And we expect to have approval for that soon in all 24 states where it is mandated. By the time that rolls out on January 1, we expect to have approval in all 50 states.

RELATED: APSP Launches Professional Pool & Spa Operator Course

Our goal is to make sure that all the education that is needed by the industry is created by and for the industry, and available at a very economical price through the industry’s trade association.

That’s what we’re going to do.

Q: How do you arrive at your goals for the industry?

JM: We listen to a vast array of members, and then respond to what we hear.

Based on those conversations we’ve been having for years, we’re fostering continued strategic investment in all of our thousands of member volunteers who have been developing our industry standards since back in the early ’80s — all of the ANSI/APSP standards that have guided our industry and set the nation’s overall standards for pools and hot tubs for generations.

That’s been one focus, but our work goes on in advocacy at the federal, state and local level.

We’ve examined at over 1,000 pieces of legislation in the last 12 months, looking to represent our industry’s interests.

But above all, we’re really dedicated to growing and developing our members businesses, and promoting the safety and enjoyment of our products.

So it all comes down to our members’ businesses, providing a gold standard for industry education, and promoting our multi-billion dollar industry.

RG: When I talk to members across the country, they say their No. 1 challenge is finding and keeping good workers. What can we as an association do to help? Well, our companies need to find people, train them and then retain them as employees.

All that online education and training I just mentioned — I think we’re getting our arms around the training part. But how do we find people? We have a workforce development committee that is developing a strategic plan that involves partnering with vocational schools and partnering with states. We have not solved the problem of worker scarcity and finding good people. But we’re focused on trying to help our members solve the problem.

Q: What are your members saying?

JM: They want us to speak with one voice — if a builder is going down to the permit office to pull permits and they’re challenged on construction codes, or if a service company is facing an inspection of one of their pools by the department of health, situations like that, they need a clear voice from the industry on the right way to build and the right way to maintain a pool.

That’s an ongoing need by the members I talk to. And it’s an evolving thing — different counties and cities often want to do things their own way: “This is how we do it here,” they say. Helping them deal with those issues by creating a clear and consistent code, that’s one way we help them do business.

At the same time, we’re trying to speak with one voice by unifying and building supporting relationships in the industry nationally — from coast to coast — and internationally as well.

All of these things are a response to the needs of the industry.

RG: As part of that effort, we’re working to get the IPSC through the ICC adopted across the country. And at this point, we’ve gotten it adopted in about 16 states and 80 jurisdictions — we want it adopted in every jurisdiction — so that companies will know if they’re building a pool in a different town than the last one they built, the codes will be the same.

Or if you’re a manufacturer creating equipment, the design criteria will be the same in every state.

So harmonizing best practices and codes and standards is really important to our members.

And I think one of the ways we do this is by working closely with different groups in the industry — making sure we all have the same end in mind. And over the past four years we’ve worked very hard and been very effective at collaborating with affiliates, whether it be the Pool and Hot Tub Council of Canada, or SPASA in Australia — we work very closely with NESPA and others as well. And we will make another affiliation announcement at the show in Orlando.

Those types of affiliations get the industry working together, so we’re all focused on the same standards and best practices, rather than having everyone doing their own thing.

Over the past four years, our membership is up about 500 companies to 3,200 companies in all. We’re a trade association, so we represent the industry through its companies. And if you add up all the people in those companies (because everyone in a member company is a member of the Association), it’s over 100,000 people.

And the reason that membership is up is that our message is resonating. Our members see the work we’re doing on a national and international level is important and they want to support it.