By Dan Moreland
Fifty years ago, in an unremarkable conference room at the Continental Plaza Hotel in Chicago, Ill., a dozen forward-thinking industry professionals accomplished something truly remarkable. They formed the United Pesticides, Formulators & Distributors Association (UPFDA), a trade group representing the diverse interests of product suppliers serving the professional pest management industry.
Five decades later, one member of that distinguished group — Millard Oldham — returned to the “Windy City” to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of an organization that has faithfully advocated on behalf of this critical segment of the industry in both good times and bad.
“UPFDA has evolved over time (including a name change to the United Producers, Formulators & Distributors Association), but it has never strayed from its commitment of representing the interests of distributors, formulators and manufacturers in matters of importance to these key industry stakeholders who have played such an important role in the success of the pest management industry,” observed Executive Director Valera Jessee.
“A 50-year anniversary is pretty special,” she added, particularly for an industry trade group. “It means that an association has proven itself. It has delivered on its promises, adapted to change, and weathered economic ups and downs.” As a way of acknowledging its remarkable history, “we wanted to do something special for this year’s event that would recognize UPFDA’s many contributions to the industry and celebrate all those individuals who have contributed to the success of the organization,” said UPFDA President Karen Furgiuele.
Therefore, unlike previous annual meetings, this year’s Spring Conference featured a gala banquet on the final night of the two-day meeting. In kicking off the evening’s festivities, Furgiuele said, “I’m so proud of everyone for making this 50th anniversary so special because I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be around for the 100th anniversary,” causing the room to erupt in laughter.
The centerpiece of the celebration was an elegant five-course dinner and keynote address at the historic Drake Hotel featuring Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Hampton, whose speech was generously sponsored by Bell Laboratories.
In introducing the all-pro defensive lineman for the Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears, Steve Levy, president & CEO of Bell Laboratories, said, “It’s only appropriate we have a Hall of Fame speaker since this is a Hall of Fame event.”
In an animated 30-minute address that was at times both humorous and inspirational, Hampton shared his thoughts about what it takes to create a championship-caliber team, whether it be on the gridiron or in the boardroom. “The ’85 Bears were special for a lot of reasons,” including a shared desire to be “the baddest team alive,” he said. “We strived for greatness.”
And there was no greater contributor to that legendary football team than running back Walter Payton, the “spiritual leader” of the Chicago Bears, according to Hampton. “Walter was special,” he said, the hardest working and most dedicated player on the team.
Hampton recalled Payton arriving at the team’s training facility every week bruised and battered after being the focal point of the opposing team’s defense on Sunday. Yet Payton was always the first one on the practice field, leading by example despite his star status. Hampton says he still misses Payton, who passed away in 1999 of a rare liver disease at the age of 45.
Hampton, like Payton, is no stranger to life’s challenges, losing his father in 8th grade and overcoming serious injuries following a 30-foot fall from a tree when he was only 12 years old, which confined him to a wheelchair for five months while he recovered. Hampton’s athletic prowess didn’t become evident until the 11th grade when his high school football coach convinced him to leave marching band to try out for the football team. Once he tasted success on the gridiron, Hampton never looked back, becoming an All-American football player at the University of Arkansas and the fourth overall player selected in the NFL draft in 1979.
Even after his pro football career ended in 1990, Hampton said he wasn’t ready to retire, instead choosing to pursue a new set of goals in his post-football career. “We all need four things in life,” he said. “We need something to do, someone to love, something to believe in and something to hope for, and that’s where the goals come in. A goal is something that will make you do something exceptional,” a personal philosophy that has allowed Hampton to do just that, with his induction into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1993 and Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
Following a break in the program, allowing Hampton to pose for pictures with conference attendees, Master of Ceremonies Tommy Reeves shared “50 Years of Memories” with his industry colleagues, mixing historical milestones with his patented sense of humor to create new memories for all those in attendance.
“We built this organization from the ground up,” Reeves said. “We’ve had a great run, but we’re nowhere near the finish line. Here’s to 50-plus more years of continued growth for all.”
Following a champagne toast, PCT Publisher Dan Moreland recognized all surviving past presidents of UPFDA with a special 50th Anniversary award recognizing their selfless dedication to the association. “Thank you for your service. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your professionalism,” Moreland said. “You have made a positive difference in the industry and in all of our lives.”
Among the past presidents in attendance at the Chicago event were Millard Oldham, Steve Levy, Rick Veatch, Tommy Reeves, Karen Furgiuele, Tom Eichler, Lon Records, and Tom Forshaw III. Those past presidents unable to attend included Larry Eichler, Bill Kenney and Tom Wright.
EDUCATIONAL HIGHLIGHTS. In addition to the banquet, the UPFDA Spring Conference featured a comprehensive educational program featuring Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, who congratulated UPFDA members on their commitment to the industry. “UPFDA has become a staple in the pest management industry,” he said. “Its strength is in its members. Thank you for coming back to Chicago for your 50th anniversary. May you continue to make our country a safer and better place to live in the next 50 years.”
Following Frerichs on the program was David Crowe, founder and president of DC Legislative & Regulatory Services, who shared his thoughts about the political and regulatory climate in the Trump era.
He indicated that much of the current political divide is a result of the financial crisis of 2008 and political parties that have “lost touch with their base.” In this climate, he said, there was one candidate — Donald Trump — who said, “the system is rigged, you’re getting screwed” and I’m the only one who cares about you.
Crowe said the only comparable time in American history was during the presidency of Andrew Jackson, a political outsider who, like President Trump, vowed to take on the status quo. “He did everything he could as fast as he could to undue (the accomplishments) of John Quincy Adams,” Crowe said. “He tried to keep Washington a small, provincial city.”
As a result, Crowe said, people shouldn’t be surprised by President Trump’s agenda during his first 18 months in office. “It shows his extreme dedication to do what he said he was going to do,” he said.
So, what does the future hold for the mid-terms? Crowe isn’t exactly sure. “I’m one of the few people who knows he doesn’t know,” Crowe said with a laugh. “It’s a crazy, crazy time. Everything about the current era is confusing.”
Following Crowe’s keynote address, Dr. Stanton Cope, vice president of technical products and services for AP&G, discussed the mosquito market, urging PMPs to customize their mosquito services for the account and the region of the country they’re located. Mosquito control, he said, “is not a one-size-fits-all” type of service. “One program in one part of the country is not (necessarily) going to work in another part of the country.”
Cope said “there’s a lot of opportunity” in the mosquito market, particularly for backyard mosquito services, but it requires PMPs to conduct a thorough inspection, identifying common and not-so-common breeding sites in the account. “The best thing you can do if you’re in that yard is to show the customer mosquito larvae. Show the customer what you found.” He also urged technicians to “look up” when conducting inspections. “Some of the biggest issues with backyard mosquito control are clogged gutters and tree holes,” he said.
It’s also important for PMPs to underpromise and overdeliver when performing mosquito work, being sure to position their services as mosquito abatement, not mosquito elimination.
Cope concluded his session by stating that mosquito control is a noble endeavor. “If collectively through our efforts, we prevent one family in New Hampshire from being destroyed by Eastern Equine Encephalitis. If we prevent one child in Thailand from dying a horrible death from hemorrhagic fever, or one expectant mother…from having a child with birth defects…we’ve done our job.”
In yet another session, former U.S. Congressman Bob Dold, a fourth-generation PMP with Rose Pest Solutions, shared his thoughts on “Understanding Consumers of Professional Pest Management Services.” Dold pointed out that the target market for PMPs are women, who make the majority of purchasing decisions in the home.
And today’s women are “leading busy lives,” he said, so it’s up to the industry to make it easy for them to purchase professional pest management services. “We have to make it easy for them to do business with us,” he said. “If a prospective customer tells you, ‘I have to talk to my husband,’ then you haven’t made the sale.”
Dold said PMPs sometimes forget we’re in the people business. “If we’re not connecting with people, we’re the ones who are going to fall by the wayside.” As a result, it’s essential PMPs and product suppliers alike constantly seek feedback both from current and potential customers. “Trying to make yourself relevant is often the key,” he said. “And part of that is understanding your consumer.”
BOARD MEETING HIGHLIGHTS. Prior to the educational sessions, the UPFDA Board of Directors met to discuss the business of the organization. UPFDA Treasurer Cisse Spragins indicated UPFDA’s financial situation is stable thanks to members staying current with their dues and the success of the annual spring conference.
In a related matter, the Board also approved a $1,250 contribution to the Association of Structural Pest Control Regulatory Officials (ASPCRO), which will be holding its annual meeting in San Antonio in late August.
AMVAC’s Ron Johnson, representing the Advocacy/Ethics Committee, indicated there are no advocacy or ethics issues at this time requiring UPFDA’s attention, although members remain concerned about the role of Amazon in the sale of illegal or mislabeled pesticides, including the breaking down of bulk packaging so pesticides can be sold in smaller quantities.
MGK’s Scott Riley, who chairs the Liaison Committee, shared that UPFDA will be holding its Fall Board Meeting in conjunction with the ASPCRO Annual Conference, Aug. 20-21, in San Antonio, Texas. “San Antonio is a good location for a meeting and it affords us an opportunity to meet with the regulatory community,” he said.
In addition, Donna Giacalone of Bug Stop Inc., who represents UPFDA on the NPMA Board, said the association recently announced a restructuring of its membership dues, which will take effect in January 2019. She indicated there will be no dues increase for Allied Members.
THANKS FOR COMING. UPFDA Executive Director Valera Jessee said the 50th Anniversary Spring Conference would not have been possible without the generous support of a number of corporate sponsors including: AP&G, AMVAC, BASF Professional & Specialty Solutions, Bayer Environmental Science, BedBug Central, Bell Laboratories, Bug Stop, Inc., Corteva Agriscience, FMC, Gardex Chemicals, Forshaw Distribution, Liphatech, Oldham Chemicals, MGK, Paragon, Neogen, PCT Media Group, PMP magazine, Syngenta Professional Products, Target Specialty Products and Zoëcon/Central Life Sciences.
“We are indebted to each of these organizations for their financial support of the Spring Conference,” she said. “As a result of their generosity, we were able to attract an impressive array of speakers and experience a 20 percent increase in attendance at this year’s conference. The issues we discuss, the relationships we develop, and the products and services we provide, make a positive difference in the industry.”
“Thanks to everyone for wanting to make this such an outstanding event,” added UPFDA President Karen Furgiuele. “This is everyone’s organization, and everyone has worked for its benefit this year.”
In one final piece of news, UPFDA announced its Annual Meeting will be held at NPMA PestWorld on Oct. 24 in Orlando, Fla., and its Annual Spring Conference will be held in San Antonio, Texas, at the Hyatt Riverwalk on April 23-25, 2019.
For additional information about the organization or to become a member, visit the UPFDA website at www.upfda.com or call 770/965-6972.
The author is publisher of PCT magazine.