Notes From A Sparkling ASA Convention
Most of you missed it. The economy being what it is, attendance at the American Supply Association’s Annual Convention, held Oct. 14-16 in Washington, D.C., was underwhelming.
And that’s unfortunate, because from a content standpoint, this was one of the best ASA conventions in this reporter’s long memory. Motivational froth gave way to substance, even though much of what the talented speakers had to say was not very encouraging. But conventions are supposed to be a place to obtain ideas, insights and intellectual stimulation, and from that perspective ASA 2009 was a rousing success.
Also, ASA took advantage of the location to organize a series of congressional lobbying visits by ASA members. Approximately 300 people trekked to Capitol Hill and took part in some 117 appointments with House members or staff and 77 on the Senate side to express their views on cap and trade, LIFO repeal, estate taxes, copper theft and other legislation impacting the industry. Moreover, ASA met with a coalition of allied associations and companies to promote the W.A.T.E.R. Act, aimed at giving consumers a tax credit for installing WaterSense-approved products, similar to DOE’s Energy Star program for appliances.
Besides gang tackling, the lobbying effort was notable for its organization and professionalism. Members were armed with issue briefings and talking points from longtime ASA lobbyist Pat O’Connor. I tagged along on one of the visits with the Pennsylvania delegation to meet with staffs from that state’s Senators Arlen Specter and Ike Casey (photo above), and came away impressed with ASA members’ grasp of the issues and skill in presenting their concerns to the staffers.
Here’s a peek into my notebook for some of the highlights from various speakers:
Karen Alderman HarbertShe’s president/CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, and a former assistant secretary at the Department of Energy. Speaking at the Industrial Piping Division’s Breakfast on opening day of the convention, Harbert gave the audience a bleak look at what she called the “inconvenient truths about energy” entailed in our current policies and future trends. “We are committing energy suicide,” she said. “Demand is growing while supply is stalled.” Key points:
David KohlerKohler Co.’s president and COO gave a frank, detailed assessment of his company’s economic outlook, as follows:
George WillNobody comments about national and world affairs with greater eloquence and authority than this nationally syndicated columnist and TV pundit. He spoke at an ASA “Power Lunch” preceding the congressional visits and offered typically brilliant insights into public policy and American society, packaged with wry humor. My favorite parts:
Alan BeaulieuThis economist from the Institute of Trend Research has become a familiar choice for speaking engagements industry-wide because he’s one of the few witty economists with an entertaining style. That shouldn’t obscure the fact that he also tends to be right on with his predictions, which tend to focus longer term than most. I first heard him speak at an NAW Executive Summit in January 2007, in which he predicted recession to occur in 2009-2010. He appeared at the same event in January 2008 and repeated the warning, adding: “It could be an ugly one.”
Speaking at ASA’s “Future Trends Luncheon,” Beaulieu’s economic forecast closely coincided with David Kohler’s outlook for slow recovery, although he did offer that “you’re going to like 2011 if you’re in construction.” Some predictions and analysis from Beaulieu:
Steve MaxwellThis water industry consultant was the only less than dynamic speaker I heard at ASA, but the content of his PowerPoint presentation from which he read almost verbatim was absorbing. The title of his address at the IPD Future Trends Strategy Session said it all: “Water: The Next Oil.” Key points:
Another noteworthy program at this year’s ASA convention was a Peer Networking Session. Read more about it in my Editorial column.