Longevity milestones in the PHCP-PVF industry are a big deal.

The celebrations of 50, 75 and 100 years in business (and sometimes even beyond) are a testament to multiple generations weathering economic ups and downs to establish entities that are a major part of the fabric of the local markets they serve.

In late June, another industry milestone will be celebrated when Southern Wholesalers Association celebrates its 90th annual meeting with a gala to be held at Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, Florida.

The ASA member regional association continues to thrive through an emphasis on networking, education and family. Last year’s event attracted 714 folks to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, including 175 companies and 355 delegates and another large turnout is expected on Florida’s Atlantic Coast for SWA’s 90th celebration.

“SWA provides a forum for wholesalers — large and small, public and private — to exchange ideas, leverage resources and remain relevant in the marketplace,” former SWA President John Simmons (area leader at Winsupply) says. “Relevancy is critical to all wholesalers in today’s business environment with e-commerce, consolidation and rapid changes in technology impacting all facets of commerce.”

Like many others with SWA ties, Simmons points to a number resources available to members across the board, such as the SWA Suppliers’ Advisory Council, the Leadership Development Council (which has seen numerous members in recent years go on to serve as SWA president), education, benchmarking and networking. SWA’s Profit Enhancement Institute, a two-day workshop that this year was held in late March in the Atlanta area, is another popular educational tool for members. The recent addition of the Dottie Ramsey LDC Scholarship, named after the 1992-1993 SWA president who retired several years ago from Knoxville, Tennessee-based
Modern Supply, is yet another feather in the organization’s cap.

“SWA has become a crucial resource for our membership in diverse areas,” Simmons adds. “Through the common bond of SWA, membership is able to build its knowledge, stature and make its voice heard much better than if we were to try and go it alone.”

SWA is under the direction of Executive Vice President Terry Shafer along staff members Linda Wilbourn and Michele Fort. “The credit for the success of SWA goes to Terry Shafer and his wonderful staff,” former SWA President Randy Wool (Wool Plumbing Supply) says. “They do a remarkable job of putting together one of the best conventions in the industry.”


Some things never change

Supply House Times in recent times has introduced the PHCP-PVF community to each year’s incoming SWA president and before that tradition started it chronicled the group’s annual meetings. Here are a few quick snippets from past Supply House Times SWA articles, related to the group’s value-proposition.

In the April 1978 issue of Supply House Times, the 50th anniversary of the SWA convention was celebrated with a special commemorative issue. In that issue the beginnings of the group were chronicled. On Dec. 7, 1928, 32 distributors from seven southern states gathered at the Atlanta Biltmore Hotel to discuss the feasibility of forming a trade association severing those states. SWA was formed and J.C. Johns of Crane Co. in Birmingham, Alabama, was named president. Dues for each SWA member firm were $25 a year (payable in advance). The first SWA meeting was held March 1, 1929. At the second meeting, it was reported as of Feb. 1, 1929, the average SWA member had 30% of its accounts past-due, thus the “Credit & Collections” theme to the meeting.

In the May 1962 issue, the 34th annual SWA convention in Miami Beach, Florida was covered. This event had a crowd of more than 600 at the Americas Hotel. Six guest speakers spoke on the topic of change in the marketplace. Outgoing SWA President Lloyd Noland Jr. of Noland Co. was one of the speakers. A key topic was the progress of the Southern Wholesalers Association Promotion program aimed at capturing a larger share of the remodeling market for the traditional channels of distribution.

In his presidential address at the 1962 convention, Noland Jr. recalled the organization’s founders. “They were not just creating another organization,” he said. “There were not a one of them who needed anything else just to belong to. They founded something to serve the industry.

“But as the years went by, we tended to do what nearly all trade associations do — we relaxed. We quit looking around to see the changes that were coming about in the world we were moving through — we just followed closely after what we had done before.”

Noland Jr., it was reported in the article, said SWA must “lock horns with the immediate problems of the industry — and lick them.”


Charging forward

Today, in addition to providing a host of networking and educational opportunities for distributors, manufacturers and manufacturers representatives alike, SWA has fostered a family-first environment where members are encouraged to bring their spouses and children to the annual convention.

“SWA’s value, in my opinion, is the networking and the educational offerings it provides,” former SWA President Harry Hays (American Pipe & Supply) says. “The family-oriented convention and the casual setting allow for opportunities to develop and build relationships, not only with peers, but with their families as well. These relationships allow for open dialogue, discussing best practices and marketing trends. This all has been beneficial for American Pipe.”

Wool has seen the association take off over the last decade. “Over the past 10 years SWA has become an important part of our industry by bringing manufacturers and distributors together in a unique setting that caters to both business meetings and family engagement,” he says. “As we all know, relationships are very important and the annual SWA convention has been instrumental in forging many relationships.”

Simmons adds: “The relevancy of our organization has resulted in solid growth year after year — a testament to our members recognizing the value-add SWA provides.”