One of the many great benefits of belonging to a trade association is the camaraderie of meeting people with similar interests, sharing information about your business, the challenges of your trade, and the successes that you have enjoyed along the way. Chapters are also the place to learn about changes in technology that improve and promote your success on the jobsite. AFSA chapters offer that opportunity for our members throughout 30 regions across the United States. While I did not agree entirely with a friend’s attitude at a chapter meeting one evening many years ago, he inelegantly told us all that, “If my competitors weren’t smart enough to join our chapter and attend and share information and learn what was going on, I’m not going to waste time on them.” As far as he was concerned, the chapter was an important tool in his toolbox that benefited his company and put him ahead of the competition. The meetings were too important, and he did not want to share his little secret.
I am a little more forgiving and less selfish, but my friend did make a great point. Chapter meetings are an important place to learn what is going on in your state and region. It is the place to learn what is happening with local Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) regarding changes in regulations or the processes for submitting plans, getting them processed, and reserving time slots for inspections. Many states have committees that initiate new regulations at the State Fire Marshal’s Office and chapters are often invited to be included in that process. Chapters are where state officials go to seek members who wish to be involved in creating positive, timely changes to state codes and regulations. Our chapter members are the boots on the ground who know what needs to be done to make that happen, while at the same time, protecting the industry. Chapters are where national legislation affecting your business models is discussed and addressed in support or opposition when needed. The chapters in our regions are who we depend on for feedback and assistance for such national legislation.
Chapter meetings are a great place to create and support NexGen programs and training opportunities geared for current or future apprentices to address the need to maintain our current fitter’s education and to recruit more fitters to meet the future needs of our industry. Chapters are currently hosting NexGen and apprentice events such as barbecues, Topgolf nights, apprenticeship competitions, and many other creative outings that are geared at recruiting and maintaining those who may not know that this is an amazing industry with a solid future that includes great benefits and career opportunities.
Chapters also provide outreach that is so important for increasing public awareness of fire sprinklers and their contributions to the quality of life and safety at home, in the community, and to protect our local economy from fire. This is done through chapter support of local events, and through hosting golf tournaments and fundraisers for those affected by the effects of fire. Not only are these events great fun, but they are a valuable resource toward creating relationships and contacts that will likely benefit you down the road.
The Membership team is excited for the opportunity to serve your chapter needs. With the valuable contributions of our chapter executive directors and board members, our chapters are growing and expanding across the nation. We can’t thank our chapter leaders enough for their commitment and dedication to their chapters and AFSA. Meda Merritt (ext. 133) is the director of chapter membership and chapter relations. Along with Dominick Kasmauskas, regional director of membership and chapter support (ext. 135), and myself (ext. 139), we look forward to helping you expand your outreach, promoting your chapter and helping you whenever and wherever we can. You can reach us anytime at email@example.com or at (214) 349-5965 and dialing the extensions noted above.
Have a wonderful summer!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bruce Lecair is senior director membership and chapter support for AFSA. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.