A disturbing undercurrent in the ongoing debate over ASA's White Paper is a growing polarization that seems to be developing among wholesalers. Divisiveness between whole-salers - big vs. small or industrial PVF vs. PHC - is the least desirable byproduct that a restructuring of the American Supply Association could create.

Much of the feedback we've received indicates that smaller wholesalers fear that a stronger national association will lose sight of their needs. They see the White Paper as a vehicle for larger distributors to recast ASA in their own image.

Whatever happens to the White Paper proposals, ASA and its members must ensure that a restructuring addresses the needs of all its members. Educational programs, software packages and trade shows of a new ASA must be suitable and affordable for small distributors as well as large, industrial PVF as well as PHC.

When the ASA board meets later this month, it likely will approve the concept of a reconstituted association. The board already has made final changes to the White Paper document after soliciting its own feedback from ASA members through town hall meetings and surveys.

What follows next is the more difficult part. ASA must implement the vision contained in the White Paper to make itself a more meaningful organization to its members.

What ASA and its members must keep in mind is where all this White Paper talk started. The truth is that the survival of the wholesale channel of distribution is at stake. ASA, as it is now, cannot provide the necessary leadership on national issues that affect PHCP distributors. The current structure is simply not working well.

Wholesalers face more menacing opponents than one another in their fight for survival. Groups of wholesalers lined up against each other cannot possibly benefit the wholesale distribution channel.

But that's not to say that any wholesaler should leave the debate on ASA's restructuring. We see it as quite the opposite. Now is the time for wholesalers to make their feelings known on how they want the White Paper proposals to be implemented. Their goal should be the creation of a more effective association that serves their needs better.

Wholesalers play too vital a role in the smooth functioning of the American economy to get caught up in nonproductive intramural squabbling. The discussion on the White Paper should go on, but with a positive goal in mind.