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AHAM Meeting Attendees Talk Of War And Washing Machines

Though business was conducted, it wasn’t quite business as usual at the annual AHAM meeting, “A Capital Summit,” earlier this month, just blocks from The Hill. More than once, talk of tanks taking over Baghdad overshadowed talk of washing machines and refrigerators.

But war didn’t keep AHAM members home, as about 170 top representatives from U.S. and European major and portable appliance manufacturers, suppliers and related organizations turned out for the meeting.

Capping the opening night’s dinner with a part sobering, part rallying speech was special guest U.S. Navy Vice Admiral James Metzger, who came in place of his boss, Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He praised the majap leaders for the group’s approximate $20 billion in annual sales, which, relating that number to his own area of expertise, could procure 300 Striker vehicles, seven naval ships, 22 stealth Raptors and 11 Osprey helicopters, he said.

He also thanked the industry leaders for their influence in terms of developing logistics and technology, from which the military often borrows, and for creating quality merchandise. “I have been on submarines all my life, and we only had one washer and dryer — so it was pretty important that it worked!” Metzger said, eliciting laughter from the crowd.

“Thank you for all it is you do to make this country as great as it is — you make it worth defending,” he added.

Another highlight of this year’s meeting was a trip to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building for an official White House briefing, which included presentations by two members of President George Bush’s staff, Council on Environmental Quality Chairman James L. Connaughton and Brian Reardon, special assistant to the President for economic policy. These talks also strayed from majaps, focusing instead on the Bush Administration’s environmental policy and its plans for bolstering the economy, respectively.

The current state of the rest of the world aside, AHAM president Joe McGuire delivered a state of the association address on the meeting’s second day. A growing membership and certain mobilization efforts in the past year prove the strength of the organization, he said. He also listed a few AHAM accomplishments, cited in the Annual Member Report, from the past year:

  • AHAM continued in its efforts to develop standards in 2002. Four AHAM majap standards — one each for clothes washers, household refrigerator/freezers, room AC and connected home appliances — were established. The latter is the first in the world to address the issue of standardized object modeling for interconnected, or “smart,” appliances.
  • AHAM organized a joint letter to President Bush urging him to reconsider the imported steel tariffs due to their negative impact on appliance and equipment manufacturers. In February 2003, McGuire met with U.S. Commerce Secretary Don Evans, urging reexamination of the tariffs.
  • AHAM’s No. 1 legislative priority in 2002 was the “Resource Efficient Appliance Incentive Act,” which passed both Houses of Congress but ultimately failed to be accepted. If passed, it would provide tax cuts to manufacturers of super efficient clothes washers and refrigerator/freezers. AHAM is teaming with several environmental and energy efficiency advocacy organizations to keep pushing for this act.