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With ongoing consolidation at both the distributor and manufacturer level, there was a time when some questioned the long-term viability of the United Producers, Formulators & Distributors Association (UPFDA), a trade group formed in 1968 by a handful of forward-looking industry executives. But thanks to the efforts of a dedicated group of longtime UPFDA members, including a number with historical ties to the original founders, the Georgia-based association has experienced a modest renaissance in recent years.

“As the only industry trade group whose mission is to promote the general welfare of businesses engaged in formulating, manufacturing and distributing products to the professional pest control market, we’re in a unique position to address the specific needs of this important group of industry stakeholders,” says Valera Jessee, executive director, UPFDA. “And with the rapid changes that are occurring in the marketplace — whether they be increased government regulation, industry consolidation at the end-user level, or simply the high cost of doing business — more than ever it’s essential that this organization continues to have a voice.”

One way UPFDA members communicate their industry concerns with one another is through the organization’s annual spring conference, which was held at the J.W. Marriott Resort & Spa in Las Vegas, Nev., earlier this year, attracting more than 85 industry executives from throughout North America. Among the well-known list of speakers at this year’s event were Steve Gullickson, president, MGK; Dominique Stumpf, chief executive officer, NPMA; Alexis Wirtz, vice president of conventions and meetings, NPMA; and Cindy Mannes, executive director, Professional Pest Management Alliance (PPMA).

In his keynote presentation “Preparing Our Businesses for Future Success,” Gullickson said if there were a perfect business model, everyone would employ it, but that’s not reality. “There are 30 million businesses in the U.S. and 30 million operating styles,” he said. Successful businesses are simply more effective at executing on their strategic objectives than the competition. “That’s the beauty of business and that’s the challenge of business,” he said.

In a session titled “Marketing to the Masses,” Mannes said the “buyer’s journey” for pest control services has undergone a dramatic transformation in recent years thanks to the disruptive nature of technology and rapidly-changing customer demographics. “There is no linear path to purchase any longer,” she observed.

Whereas in the past consumers became aware of a product or service offering through traditional advertising before considering a purchase and ultimately taking action, that’s no longer the case today. “The new buyer’s journey is very different from the old buyer’s journey,” she said, requiring PMPs to invest in digital marketing (i.e., web design, social media, SEO, digital advertising, content marketing, etc.) to reach the modern-day consumer on their home turf.

Also appearing on the program was Dominique Stumpf, who shared her insights about “The New Face of NPMA,” pointing out the association now represents more than 6,000 members in 79 countries. To serve its growing membership, the association employs 23 “team members” that perform a variety of job functions, from member services and technical support to legislative affairs and consumer education. “The level of professionalism and experience we have on our team just keeps getting better,” she observed.

The key to success moving forward, Stumpf said, is to build on the strong foundation already present, while adding “layers of innovation using creativity and a new vision to build an even stronger, richer and more dynamic organization and industry.”

The three-day UPFDA Spring Conference also featured a general membership meeting, several receptions and a suppliers’ forum. During the general membership meeting, Secretary/Treasurer Cisse Spragins reported that UPFDA has improved its financial standing this past year thanks to a modest dues increase in 2015, as well as strong spring conference attendance.

The association also welcomed several new members to the association including Andy Linares, Bug Off Pest Control Center, New York, N.Y.; Susan McKnight, Susan McKnight, Inc., Memphis, Tenn.; R. Brad Harse, Paraclipse, Columbus, Neb.; Norman Goldenberg, Namron Associates, Miami Beach, Fla.; and Mohamed Rachadi, Brandt Company, Alpharetta, Ga.

In other UPFDA news:

  • At the spring board meeting, UPFDA voted to donate $500 to the Association of Structural Pest Control Regulatory Officials (ASPCRO), with $250 being donated by UPFDA and $250 by Superior Angran. Bell Laboratories also made a donation to to the organization.
  • At that same meeting, UPFDA voted to make Bob Rosenberg, former CEO of the NPMA, an honorary member of the organization. “As someone who has dedicated a good portion of his professional life to the advancement of the pest management industry, we thought making him an honorary member of UPFDA was a fitting recognition for all he has contributed to the industry,” said UPFDA President Tom Eichler.
  • The Regulatory Committee, under the able leadership of Bell’s Steve Levy, continues its important work of keeping members informed of regulatory issues that could impact their businesses.
  • Also at the spring board meeting, Donna Giacalone, executive vice president of Bug Stop, Inc., Chicago, Ill., was recognized for her lifelong contributions to the specialty chemicals industry. Chuck Kaz, president of Bug Stop, said, “I want to congratulate Donna on her 45 years in the chemical manufacturing and distribution business. I’ve had the good fortune to work with her for many of those years and she always gives her best, representing the highest standards of the industry.”

With another year nearly behind the organization, Jessee expressed her gratitude to the officers and board members who served in 2016 including: Tom Eichler, Neogen Corp., president; Karen Furgiuele, Gardex Chemicals, vice president; and Cisse Spragins, Rockwell Labs Ltd, secretary/treasurer. The immediate past president is Tommy Reeves of Oldham Chemicals, and the Board of Directors includes Steve Levy, Bell Laboratories; Jacqueline Angulo, Superior Angran; James Sickora, Target Specialty Products; Jack McClure, Chemtech Supply; Berry Cothern, Syngenta; Scott Riley, MGK; Dan Moreland, PCT; Ron Johnson, AMVAC; Donna Giacalone, Bug Stop; and Thomas Forshaw IV, Forshaw, Inc.

“I’m indebted to each of them for their service this past year,” Jessee said. For additional information about UPFDA, or if you’re interested in becoming a member, contact Valera Jessee, UPFDA, 5564 Ridgemoor Drive, Braselton, GA 30517, or call 440/275-3302. Jessee also can be contacted via e-mail at valerajessee29@gmail.com.