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issue: August 2003 APPLIANCE Magazine

Guest Editorial
Extending Our Reach


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by Ron Massa, chairman of the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association and president of A.O. Smith Water Products Company

Earlier this year, I was elected chairman of GAMA, the national trade association of the manufacturers of water heating and space heating equipment and components. I've been involved in GAMA activities for a number of years, and I've come to know many of you, not only in the manufacturing sector of the appliance industry but in the retailing, distributing, marketing, and advertising sectors as well.

I have to admit that my election to the chairmanship of GAMA has been transformative for my "world view" - giving me a clear recognition that the prosperity of all sectors of the appliance industry are linked together and challenged by the uncertainties of the global economy. That is why I was pleased to be asked to write this guest editorial for Appliance magazine.

As I have made a detailed study of GAMA's activities, I have been struck by the challenges our industries face on so many fronts, and I am convinced that those challenges have taken on an international rather than merely a domestic nature. Although GAMA is not a standards-making body itself, our top-notch technical staff plays an essential role in the standards-making activities of many organizations, with an influence on codes and standards that serves our industries well. Until relatively recently, many U.S. manufacturers have enjoyed the luxury of thinking only "nationally." However, if we are to prosper, I believe we must begin thinking in global terms. The free flow of our members' products and components across international borders will be accelerated vastly by harmonizing codes and standards for these products worldwide. It is important, however, that harmonization take into account not only the differences in current standards around the world, but also the differences in markets for products and in their applications. Manufacturers, working together, are uniquely qualified to bring their knowledge and experience to this effort. In fact, GAMA's members were the driving force in achieving harmonization of gas appliance and equipment standards for the U.S. and Canada. The manufacturing community will have to continue to drive these activities if we are to extend the benefits of harmonization around the globe - an effort to which GAMA is committed.

I know that GAMA staff has already begun working with representatives from other organizations on new campaigns concerning international standards and ways to eliminate non-tariff trade barriers. It is imperative that we protect our industries' interests as standards are developed at the national level and on the international level as well. The experts know that standards and standards-related technical regulations are pervasive in global trade, affecting an estimated 80 percent of world commerce, so I will encourage GAMA to be closely involved with the U.S. Department of Commerce's new "Standards Initiative" to address America's concerns relating to trade and international standards.

I've also noticed a number of articles in our newsletter, GAMA Reports, in recent months on ways that U.S. companies can utilize our government to launch themselves into the global market - "tools" such as the U.S. Commercial Service, the Export-Import Bank, the State Department's Office of Commercial and Business Affairs, and the World Bank. And GAMA worked to persuade the U.S. Congress to grant President Bush trade promotion authority so that once American companies enter those markets, we have a level playing field on which to compete. Finding new ways to help GAMA members extend their reach internationally is a key to our continued growth and prosperity, and it is one I want to institutionalize at GAMA for the long term.

GAMA has long worked with the safety certification laboratories that verify compliance with safety standards. We have recently launched a campaign, through GAMA's Laboratories Liaison Committee, to work with the certification laboratories to promote consistent and rigorous application of standards across laboratories. Standards that are not applied uniformly are no longer standards. The same uniformity in the application of standards that we are encouraging in America must be extended to laboratories overseas, as we promote mutual acceptance of certification and test data across national boundaries. This uniformity and reciprocity are critical to healthy competition between countries. Obviously, the road to achieving this goal is long, but the potential for reward makes it worthy of our efforts.

American manufacturers must always bear in mind that U.S. commercial and consumer law is aimed at providing consumers with the assurance that products such as space heating and water heating equipment will perform safely and efficiently. So I have always encouraged GAMA through the years to develop an effective working relationship with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the independent regulatory agency charged with reducing the risk of injuries and deaths associated with unsafe consumer products. GAMA's expert technical and legal staff works closely with CPSC to obtain that agency's recognition of U.S. voluntary safety standards for the space and watering heating industries' products.

On my watch, I intend to capitalize on GAMA's foundation of demonstrated capabilities that already benefit all our companies. GAMA's experienced market statistics staff is continuously compiling and analyzing industry data to provide us with complete and accurate numbers possible so that we can evaluate our own individual marketing strategies. Our proactive legal and government affairs staff is keeping our industries' positions squarely in front of the decision-makers on Capitol Hill and in the federal agencies, and when need be, defending our interests in the courts.

All the same, I've noticed GAMA's President Evan Gaddis pushing the staff to explore new avenues and opportunities, and I am convinced that this is precisely what GAMA also must do for its members. It is not enough merely to stay the course, as successful as that has been. I believe GAMA also needs to help its members embrace new markets, new technologies, and new methodologies.

GAMA added a Power Generation Division last year, with an emphasis on fuel cells, microturbines, and other new energy technologies, and this year we will add a Gas Air-Conditioning Division. Exploring and embracing new technologies can go a long way toward positioning GAMA members and American industry in general to profit from whatever energy sources become the future staples of our industries.

Simply stated, my goal is to encourage GAMA to continue doing the things it does well, but also to stretch its capabilities in new directions, including internationally, to help all of us meet the challenges ahead.

 

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