Highlights from WWEMA 99th Annual Meeting

Jan. 1, 2008
Florida’s Ponte Vedra Inn & Club was the venue for the 99th Annual Meeting of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA), held in early November.

by Dawn Kristof Champney

Florida’s Ponte Vedra Inn & Club was the venue for the 99th Annual Meeting of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA), held in early November. The industry’s equipment manufactures and representative met over the course of three days, taking part in committee and Board functions, general sessions and roundtable discussions. The atmosphere was upbeat with most feeling generally confident about the state of the water and wastewater industry.

WWEMA Chairman Ken George of ITT Sanitaire opened the general session by presenting the results of WWEMA’s market indicators survey of its members, conducted each year. Survey participants were asked to indicate their companies’ business prospects for the next 12 months as compared to the prior 12 months, and responses were elicited for design work, quotations, bookings, sales (domestic and international), employment, materials and market growth.

“Business was fairly good over the past 12 months,” reported George, with 40% of the respondents indicating that their international sales increased by 10% or greater; another 25% of the respondents saw similar results on the domestic front. Looking toward the next 12 months, 80% of the respondents were evenly split between a 5-10% increase on the domestic front, while 65% envision similar results on the international front. As for market growth expectations for the coming year, the results were mixed with half the respondents anticipating zero to 2.5% growth; 30% anticipating 5% growth, 15% anticipating 7.5% growth and only 5% anticipating 10% or better growth.

WWEMA member Dr. Bob Andoh of Hydro International delivered the keynote address, the title of which was the theme of this year’s Annual Meeting: Innovations in the Water and Wastewater Industry: Mega Shifts, Trends and the Need for Paradigm Shifts. He discussed challenges to achieving sustainable development in an increasingly urbanizing world.

“Conventional approaches and solutions may no longer be relevant. Paradigm shifts are required to meet the demands of the 21st Century and beyond,” Andoh said. “Without innovation and changes in current paradigms, some of the looming local and global-scale challenges appear insurmountable.”

He concluded his compelling presentation by posing the following question to the audience: “What will future generations think of our generation for not taking responsibility for today’s problems?”

Scott Kelly of Jacksonville Electric Authority gave a presentation on WatergyTM - What is the Latest Buzz on the Water-Energy Front? He spoke of the intrinsic link between energy and water, noting that 11% of a water utility’s budget is spent on energy, and that water’s use of energy represents over 20% of the total volume of energy produced in the state of California. He observed that ‘watergyTM’ is practiced more in third-world countries than in the United States, though he did note that the U.S. federal government was beginning to focus on water and energy usage in buildings, having published a spreadsheet on how to measure these usages.

For JEA’s part, Kelly stated that “demand-side management is where the future is both within our facilities and among our customer base.” Automatic meter reading is a key part of JEA’s energy and water conservation initiative, giving its customers the ability to make informed decisions about usage patterns. JEA is also investing in biosolids optimization and expansion, moving from incinerating to pelletizing its residuals, and using biogas from its anaerobic digestion process to run the plants, dry the solids and heat the hot water boilers, what he refers to as “enhanced green energy”. He predicted that climate change and greenhouse gas emissions will have a major impact on water utilities in the future and that energy efficiency will become a major factor in future water and wastewater processes and equipment selection.

Steve Maxwell of TechKNOWLEDGEy Strategic Group reported on merger and acquisition activities in his presentation titled Musical Chairs in the Water Industry. He noted that though the pace has slowed recently while acquirers deal with “digesting what they consumed,” there remain a lot of small deals being made in the industry due in large part to the huge volume of equity funds available.

“The strong and sustainable nature of the water and wastewater business, with growth rates outpacing GNP in the 6% - 8% range, continues to make this market appealing to the investor community,” Maxwell stated. He predicted that further consolidation on the ‘municipal’ side of the industry will occur with communities looking to consolidate their facilities or else risk being in non-compliance.

On a lighter note, WWEMA secured the services of a professional speaker known as the ‘Branding Diva’ to help its members learn how to niche, package and leverage their products and services through meaningful marketing and owning a distinct brand. “If you cover your logo and they don’t know who you are, you haven’t branded your name,” explained Karen Post in her presentation titled “Brain Tattoo for Bigger Results”. She pointed out how selling industrial products is not a lot different than selling consumer products – it’s selling to people. Big Ass Fans with its distinct brand, and GE Ecomagination with its storytelling approach, were examples of strong business-to-business brands offered by Post.

She joined Steve Maxwell in a WWEMA member panel session that followed their presentations addressing “Mergers, Acquisitions and the Workforce.” She discussed how brands and business can be impacted during these transition times, offering the advice that change is inevitable “so don’t fight it, make it work for you!”

Other topics discussed at this year’s meeting included the Engineers Joint Contract Documents Committee (EJCDC) procurement contract documents; project delivery methods; offshore sourcing; new products integration; and selling to the industrial market.

About the author:

Dawn Kristof Champney is president of WWEMA, a national trade association founded in 1908 to represent the leading producers of technologies used for treating wastewater and producing potable water for municipal and industrial applications, worldwide.

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