The ARI and GAMA Boards of Directors voted unanimously on Nov. 11 and 12, 2007, to approve a merger of the two associations. The proposal was then sent to the respective memberships for a vote to be tallied in mid-December (results weren’t yet available at press time). If approved by the respective memberships, ARI and GAMA would be dissolved and replaced by a new, combined association incorporated in Virginia, where ARI and GAMA are currently located.

The new association would be named The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), and would consist of more than 370 members representing more than $27 billion in sales.

In an official statement, Patrick Quilty, GAMA chairman, said, “The compelling reason for the merger is the creation of a single organization representing our industries that will provide one voice and one message on important issues, while ensuring stronger advocacy to address increasing regulatory and legislative initiatives at the federal, state, and international levels. A single, stronger organization will better represent our interests.

“In addition, the new, larger association will be better able to attract, develop and retain quality staff, and natural synergies can be used to increase member services in the areas of standards, certification, and advocacy,” he noted.

“I, personally, am very excited about the possibilities that this merger could bring,” ARI Chairman C. David Myers told ARI members gathered at their annual meeting in Key Largo, FL, Nov. 11-13. “There has never been a more important time for us to interact with policymakers here and abroad, and with a larger association - indeed, in the top 15% of associations in America - we can have the lobbying clout commensurate with our manufacturing prowess.”

“As an industry, we simply have to be more effective in shaping the environment that we are in. I think that together ARI and GAMA can be more effective, but it also means we can be more effective working with our trade allies, the contractors, wholesalers and distributors,” Robert Wilkins, outgoing chairman of ARI, told The ACH&R News, a Supply House Times sister publication, at ARI’s convention.

“By working together, we can really get out in front of the issues that shape our industry rather than only react to them,” said Wilkins. “As we work together over the next several years in addressing legislation and regulatory issues, we will be in a better position to represent the industry, including the contractor and wholesaler interests.”

C. David Myers, who is a vice president of Johnson Controls and president of its Building Efficiency Unit, would serve as the first chairman of AHRI. Current GAMA President Jack Klimp would serve as CEO of AHRI during a two-year transition period. Current ARI President Stephen Yurek would serve as president of the new association.

At issue for the voting members: Will smaller manufacturing companies feel properly represented as small fish in an even bigger pond? The NEWS asked Robert Wilkins.

“Many of the smaller companies already appreciate the advantages that an association can bring in the form of lobbying for beneficial industry legislation. Sometimes, it is not something these companies can perform on their own behalf. We firmly believe that the combined association will provide even greater benefits to the smaller, as well as larger, members of both ARI and GAMA,” said Wilkins.

While there are several issues to consider, members of ARI’s Executive Committee on Nov. 2 agreed that the main compelling reason to merge is: “A stronger and broader voice for air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration manufacturers to respond to increasing and more complex energy and environmental issues through greater standards, certification, and advocacy activities.”

The committee reviewed several terms of the proposed merger and made recommendations for inclusion in the final agreement. Some of the recommended terms were:

  • All of ARI’s standing committees would remain in the new association (membership on the committees would grow to include both ARI and GAMA members).
  • All current ARI and GAMA board members would belong to the new board, but through attrition, membership would be eventually reduced to about 67 (42 product section chairs and 25 directors-at-large).
  • All product sections and divisions would remain the same, except ARI’s Fan and Blowers and GAMA’s Motors and Blowers sections would be combined.
  • The 2008 dues for both organizations would continue to be collected separately, for the time being. (ARI will send 2008 dues invoices by Dec. 1 after the board approves the 2008 budget.) For 2009 and beyond, dues would be established by the board of directors. Both organizations would gradually align dues structures, with the goal of avoiding major changes. Overall dues would not increase because of the merger, though ARI representatives did not rule out increases in the normal course of business.

    On Jan. 1, 2008, the new combined association, if approved, would be incorporated under Virginia law.