Alessandra Arendt

It turns out the second time is the charm when it comes to joining the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals with the National Swimming Pool Foundation.

The groups have agreed to unify into a new organization. Called the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, the new group is scheduled to begin operations on April 1.

“This is something that I think the industry has needed for a long time,” said APSP CEO Lawrence Caniglia. “We are two good, strong organizations. We have common missions, where we want people swimming, we want safe environments, we want healthy environments and we want more pools and hot tubs...”

APSP Board Chair Donna Williams
APSP Board Chair Donna Williams

The new group will include both a 501(c)(6) trade association, in line with APSP, and a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt foundation of the model that NSPF holds. The PHTA will serve as the umbrella organization. Trade activities akin to APSP’s will be handled by a sub-group called the Pool & Hot Tub Professionals Association. Foundation duties like NSPF’s will take place under the banner the Pool & Hot Tub Foundation. All three will be governed by a single board of directors, which initially will include five members each from APSP and NSPF.

Interim PHTA CEO Lawrence Caniglia
Interim PHTA CEO Lawrence Caniglia

Rob Butcher, president of NSPF, said the three group names were purposely chosen for brand consistency.

Caniglia, who took the reins of APSP in February 2018, originally planned to retire next month, having chosen not to renew his contract. He will remain as interim CEO of the new organization until the board permanently fills that post. Afterward, he will work part-time as an association-management consultant, which he had originally planned to do after leaving his long-time post as executive director of the Northeast Spa and Pool Association, before APSP recruited him.

Board member James R. Mock, who comes from the NSPF board, will serve as interim executive director of the Pool & Hot Tub Foundation. NSPF CEO Tom Lachocki, who announced last fall that he would depart the group this year, is scheduled to leave in February.

Caniglia and Mock will collaborate to settle many of the logistics. The board will work to hire the new CEO, whom it hopes to have in place by fall, said APSP Board Chair Donna Williams.

The new board of directors plans to hold its first meeting in mid-March to manage the details of integration, begin its CEO search, establish staff requirements and locations for core services and programs. The group expects the integration work to continue through 2019.

“This is an historic moment for all of us, as we are capitalizing on the considerable groundwork that was laid over the past few years to finally realize the enormous benefits of bringing together the two most established and effective organizations serving our industry,” Williams said.

Added Butcher: “We are seizing the opportunity to have a greater impact. Under the new Alliance, our combined resources will allow us to amplify and more effectively promote the fun and benefits of swimming, of being in the water, pools and hot tubs...”

No immediate changes to programming are planned. Both groups will keep their commitments for 2019.

While many of the logistics are yet to be figured out, the organizations know they will retain both current headquarter offices – APSP’s in Alexandria, Va.; NSPF’s in Colorado Springs, Colo.

NSPF and APSP attempted such a merger three years ago, but this time have taken a different tack. In 2016, they announced an intent to unify and hired a consultant to help them explore the possibility, identify opportunities and roadblocks and iron out details such as name, staffing and location. After approximately nine months, the groups opted out, which was met with widespread disappointment among industry professionals.

With this outcome, the two organizations remained on their individual paths, on which they had become increasingly competitive with one another, each initiating overlapping programs, such as NSPF's integration of Genesis and the California Pool & Spa Association or APSP's relaunching of its commercial service certification program.

“For a long time, we’ve been working against each other, because we’ve been competing, trying to do the same thing,” Caniglia said. “It really doesn’t make sense to do that. When we take these two very good, very strong organizations and put them together, all the things we were trying to do individually [will come out] so much stronger.”

Williams and Butcher said the time is now right because the CEOs of both groups have left or are leaving, and both were replaced with interim CEOs who want to retire soon. “So we’re confident they both can work in the best interests of the new group,” Butcher said of Caniglia and Mock.

Plenty of groundwork had been laid in the first attempt at unification, they added, making it possible to reach this decision within 60 days of first meeting. But there’s still plenty to figure out.

“We recognize this is no small task we have set for ourselves,” Caniglia said. “But we also believe APSP and NSPF have extraordinarily talented staffs, with extensive industry experience. With their help, we will move forward to pool our strengths for the benefit of our stakeholders.”

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