San Antonio — The Progressive Retailers Organization was at the Westin La Cantera Hill Coun
A full slate of thorny legislative challenges ranging from regulatory issues to international trade was the focus of last month's annual member meeting of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM).
Appropriately, the perennial spring conclave returned to the nation's capital this year, where major appliance vendors gathered in the shadow of the White House at the historic Willard Intercontinental Hotel. A record 200 attendees were on hand for this year's event, whose theme was “Serving a Global Industry” and which included two days of panel discussions, meetings, receptions, addresses and Congressional visits.
Highlights included a keynote by former three-term Michigan Governor John Engler, who now serves as president/CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). NAM, with its 13,000 members, and AHAM are working together on Capitol Hill in order to have a greater impact on the “numerous challenges” that both groups share, Engler said.
Those challenges include increased competition from markets in Europe, India and China; a web of disparate state-level regulations; the rising cost of conducting business in the United States; and the need for a well-educated workforce.
On the issue of fair trade, Engler argued that our nation's $667 billion trade deficit could be reduced by taking a hard line on counterfeit goods, ensuring that existing treaties are adhered to, and through fairer currency evaluations to help offset the weak dollar.
Cutting costs for U.S. manufacturers — which operate at a 22 percent cost disadvantage in this country — could also give vendors a leg up in the global marketplace. These rising costs, which Engler described as a “self-inflicted wound,” come from taxes, regulations, healthcare, energy and litigation, with the latter amounting to $250 billion a year alone. Engler called President Bush's class action reform “a step in the right direction,” but described current torte reform efforts as “a national joke.”
Engler also called for more accountability for the $400 billion that's spent annually on public education, and an expanded infrastructure to provide more electrical power and more robust voice/data communications.
In his general session address, AHAM's president Joe McGuire noted that the trade group is tackling more issues than ever before, albeit without any concomitant increase in staff size. Hot-button topics on AHAM's agenda include the enactment of a comprehensive energy bill, a manufacturer tax credit for super-efficient appliances, and the morass of differing state-level standards on energy efficiency and waste diversion.
McGuire also announced that the North American Retail Dealers Association (NARDA) has adopted AHAM's standard for repair technicians.
AHAM also honored several industry executives with awards for service and leadership. The industry's top honor, the Home Appliance Industry Leadership (HAIL) Award, was presented to Lee L. Bishop, senior counsel, product safety, GE Consumer & Industrial. Bishop was recognized for his service of more than 10 years as chair of the AHAM cooking fires task force, providing practical, legal and technical insight to AHAM's efforts to support reasonable and responsible public policy.
The AHAM Chairman's Award, which recognizes significant contributions to the association by non-member individuals, was presented to Richard F. Topping, director/appliance research, TIAX, LLC, for his sound technical and policy analysis which has contributed greatly to the home appliance industry and government.
Next year's AHAM annual member meeting returns to Key Largo, Fla., from April 30-May 1, 2006.