Just as the nature of business, manufacturing and world trade has changed over the years, so too has the role of trade associations.

Once organized primarily around social functions, trade associations today must deliver real, measurable business value. Increased attention to the bottom line, time pressure and cost/value analyses have changed the way in which companies view expenditures in general. While the networking aspect of trade associations continues to be important, social programs have given way to a much more business-focused format.

As a result, we reorganized the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute in 1998 around the "Focus Five," five specific industry issues affecting most, if not all, of the companies within the membership base.

Fair Trade

Purpose: To promote domestic competitiveness and mutual respect among trading partners for basic free market principles and intellectual property rights.

Scope: Imported products required to meet the same requirements as domestically manufactured products in the United States and globally.

Co-Chairs: Frank Evans, MPC Plastics Inc.; Steve Tokarz, Brasscraft Mfg.

Progress Report: As PMI's executive director, I hold a position on the Department of Commerce Industry Trade Advisory 9 Committee, which meets quarterly to discuss trade issues affecting manufacturers and the building industry. This has been a significant conduit to raising issues affecting plumbing manufacturers to the attention of the department. As a member of the ITAC 9 Committee, I am in a position to bring specific manufacturer concerns to the department. Significant last year, PMI signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the department formalizing the working relationship and facilitating the initiative to ensure fair trade.

I also continue to forge relationships globally. I attend the annual meeting of CEIR (the European Valve Association), which focuses on, among other issues, fair trade, intellectual property protection and related issues.

PMI has developed a reporting system for use in identifying manufacturers who are distributing products that are not compliant with federal water conservation laws. To date, PMI has contacted a number of companies and they subsequently initiated efforts to become compliant.

FTC penalties associated with the distribution of noncompliant products have been posted on the PMI Web site (www.pmihome.org), distributed to the general membership and forwarded to the noncompliant manufacturers identified by the members.

Staff continues to monitor legislative and regulatory measures at the federal level regarding fair trade through various media material, networking on the Hill, and establishing new contacts.

Trade Show Consolidation

Purpose: a) To affect the visions of the PMI Statement on a Unified North American Building Products Trade Show; b) To engage increasing support for trade show consolidation from other manufacturers, related trade associations and trade show sponsors, through a continuous public relations campaign centered on the revenue-neutral formula.

Co-Chairs: Todd Talbot, Brass Craft Mfg.; Fred Luedke, NEOPERL.

Progress Report: PMI and its members are strong advocates for trade show consolidation and have a formal position calling for the end of the proliferation of trade shows. Over the years, PMI has worked to bring various parties to the negotiation table to discuss such possible scenarios as revenue-neutral consolidation of shows and co-location of related shows. More than 200 members of the Association's Council of the National Association of Manufacturers were contacted to gauge interest in the consolidation initiative.

PMI continues to issue press releases reaffirming the industry's support of trade show consolidation and showing support of those organizations who embrace the vision of larger, higher-stature, less-frequent North American trade shows.

Universal Conformity Assessment

Goal: Tested once, recognized worldwide.

Scope: Domestic and international plumbing product conformity assessment activities.

Objective Statements: 1) Promote the creation and adoption of a conformity assessment infrastructure that allows plumbing products to be tested and certified once but recognized nationally; 2) Monitor international conformity assessment advancements and coordinate with domestic conformity assessment activities with the goal of eliminating duplication in conformity assessment requirements and measures.

Co-Chairs: Lee Mercer, Moen Inc.; Michael Martinez, Price Pfister.

Progress Report: PMI has had a significant impact in a number of states working to harmonize product standards.

Significant strides have been made domestically as well as in Canada to streamline the product approval process and acceptance of certifications. Since conformity assessment measures and elimination of technical barriers are part of every foreign trade agreement, PMI works with contacts at the Department of Commerce; International Trade Administration; International Trade Commission; and U.S. Trade Representative's offices.

Through efforts on the FTAA agreement, staff has identified conformity assessment practices and contacts for 33 Western Hemisphere countries.

Water Conservation

Purpose/Scope: To establish or implement a strategy and plan to lead and influence North American water conservation public policy related to plumbing products and related product legislation, regulation, certification, listing and labeling.

Co-Chairs: Shabbir Rawalpindiwala, Kohler Co.; Casey Hayes, Haws Corp.

Progress Report: Working through this committee, PMI defeated Rep. Joe Knollenberg's attempts to repeal EPACT '92, which would have recalled the national requirement for high-efficiency (1.6-gallon-per-flush) toilets. Among the various activities associated with this effort were an aggressive PR/educational campaign and the "Consumer Guide to High-Efficiency Toilets," developed by staff with input from PMI members, to improve users' understanding of and appreciation for the performance and water-saving advantages of high-efficiency, low-flow toilets.

The document can be found in the "consumer information" section of the PMI Web site, and it is also being publicized to both the plumbing industry and the public with free copies available from PMI.

PMI monitors water conservation requirements and rebate programs state by state to educate jurisdictions and other bodies as they consider water conservation measures and to ensure that manufacturers are fairly represented in the discussions. PMI's position is that product design must be left to our members and not to well-meaning environmentalists. Recently Texas and California have been most active in this area.

PMI has turned its attention to other conservation issues including proposals, such as EPA's labeling program. PMI staff and its lobbyist continue active and regular involvement on these issues in the nation's capitol.

PMI maintains a close relationship with NAHB, ASA, PHCC and other allied organizations with an interest in this issue. PMI participates on the DOE Appliance Advisory Committee to monitor proposed changes in plumbing product performance requirements.

Leachates

(Although this committee is currently on "monitoring" status, it will be reactivated at this year's Spring PMI Meeting in Savannah, Ga., in response to Sen. Jim Jeffords' recent legislative attempts to ban lead from plumbing products.)

Purpose/Scope: PMI monitors regulations and initiatives targeting various leachates, effluents and production by-products.

Progress Report: Prior to its current "monitoring" status, the committee provided a paper regarding leachates to the JWWA of Japan. PMI has also forwarded the document to its contact at the Japan desk of the International Trade Administration and has learned that Japan would like to harmonize their requirements with NSF 61. Efforts will continue to prevent the promulgation of other conflicting standards.

The Focus Five form the foundation of PMI's semiannual meetings. Rounding out the agendas are standing committees (Government Affairs, E-Business, Member Services and Technical) and product groups (Faucets, Fixtures, Flushing Devices, Shower/Tub-Shower Fittings and Specialty Finishing).

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