Like many business conventions and meetings scheduled after Sept. 11, attendance was down at the National Paint and Coatings Association annual meeting, which was held Oct. 28-30 in Seattle, WA. Faced with economic and travel safety issues, some attendees and companies cut back travel plans and did not attend the event.
Still a strong number of members gathered for the two-and-a half day meeting and leadership conference which focused on issues currently affecting the paint and coatings industry. The meeting also included a timely and patriotic presentation from a New York Times best-selling author.
"These are trying times. I appreciate your support in your industry and in our association," said Andy Doyle, NPCA's president, at the opening session held Oct. 29 at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel and Towers.
As usual, Mr. Doyle presented a brief overview of NPCA's work and progress from the past year. However, this year, some of the more recent endeavors are not the norm for the association. Mr. Doyle said NPCA has been "forced to grapple" with security issues following the events of Sept. 11, and in association with government agencies, is working to distribute sensitive security-related information to members. In fact, at the time of the meeting, the association had already issued two alerts via e-mail to its membership, and was in the process of preparing another alert, according to Mr. Doyle.
Mr. Doyle also addressed issues NPCA is more accustomed to dealing with, including state, local and national rules and regulations that are affect ing or will affect the industry.
Of course, lead-based paint lawsuits were also a topic of discussion. E. Kears Pollock, NPCA chairman, used his time on stage during the opening session to address the suits and the lawyers involved, as well as certain media outlets.
"Lead is an issue that we have no need to be afraid of. We have been a responsible industry," Mr. Pollock said. "We have been years ahead of the government," he said regarding lead reduction and efforts-both financial and physical-to minimize and eliminate the risk associated with lead exposure.
With the industry's "more than a half century" of efforts in this area, Mr. Pollock asked why the paint business is still facing lawsuits. His answer was clear: "Cynicism, politics, greed and money-hungry lawyers." Mr. Pollock also added that some sensationalist-type media outlets are guilty of fueling the fire and perpetuating misinformation about the issue.
"Truth will overcome misrepresentation," Mr. Pollock said. Despite victories in cases in Maryland, "it would be naïve to think that our troubles were over," Mr. Pollock warned. He addressed "third-party" groups that were also attaching themselves to the situation, such as the NAACP, which had previously stated that it would consider filing suit against the paint industry regarding lead and inner city and minority children.
Mr. Pollock said the situation with the NAACP presented an opportunity to educate and show that the industry has not tried to keep the lead issue a secret and that it has acted responsibly. NPCA was scheduled to meet with NAACP president Kweisi Mfume to discuss "mutual goals" to reduce lead exposure and constructive ways that the industry has and continues to reduce risks, according to Mr. Pollock.
Mr. Pollock contends lead should be viewed as a societal issue. "To resolve the matter thoroughly, it needs to viewed as a societal issue...This commitment makes the primary beneficiaries the residents and owners of remediated properties," he said.
"We as an industry have acknowledged the problem for half a century. There is this (idea) that we have tried to keep it a secret. We have not. As we have learned more, we have dealt with it more, and in positive ways," he added.
NPCA's leadership conference also presented attendees with speakers covering a wide range of business-related subjects, including globalization, managing different generations at work and industry consolidation at the supplier level and its affect on paint manufacturers.
Five industry members were presented with Industry Statesman awards during the annual meeting. The award is given by NPCA in recognition and appreciation of a person's long and devoted service to the paint and coatings industry. This year's honorees were Douglas W. Huemme of Lilly Industries, Kears Pollock, Louis F Savelli of DuPont Performance Coatings, Lois Shestack of Rohm and Haas and Robert A. Simmons of TruServ Corp. Five members were presented with NPCA Industry Achievement awards. They were: William W. Allanch, Akzo Nobel's government marketing manager of marine coatings; Larry J. Culver, chairman of NPCA's management information committee U.S. Paint and Coatings Market Analysis 2000-2005 subcommittee; Eastman Chemical's Eric D. DeLoach, John S. Milgram who leads NPCA's owner/manager steering committee; and John S. Tanner Ameron International's government sales specialist.
NPCA must select its keynote speaker months in advance of its meeting. This year, the selected speaker became an even more appropriate presenter in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, DC.
That man was James Bradley, The New York Times best selling author of "Flags of our Fathers," a book that chronicles the men who raised the American flag following the battle for Iwo Jima. The flag raising was captured on film and is the most reproduced photograph in history.
Mr. Bradley, whose father was one of the six men who raised the flag talked about the battle, the young men, what the victory meant to the U.S. then and how we can use it as an inspiration in our own lives.
"They were six nice young boys," Mr. Bradley said. "They did the impossible and they did it well."
This year, NPCA presented its highest honor, The George Baugh Heckel award, to Laurel H. Jamison, president and COO, Rudd Company. "Colleagues, employees and NPCA staff who know and work with Laurel speak glowingly of such qualities as talent, leadership, determination and tenacity and willingness to give the fullest measure to every project," said E. Kears Pollock,
Ms. Jamison has been actively involved in NPCA on a national and local level, serving on and chairing numerous committees, including the one that created and guided NPCA's Coatings Care program since its inception. Her dedication to the industry is remarkable, considering she came into the paint business on somewhat of a whim. After graduating from the University of Michigan, enlisting in the U.S. Army and serving her country as a nurse in Viet Nam, Ms. Jamison returned to the U.S. While contemplating what career path she might embark on next, Ms. Jamison took a part-time sales job with the home decorating center of a paint and wallpaper manufacturing company before becoming Rudd's president and COO.
In accepting her award, Ms. Jamison joked, "I always thought that his went to old guys-no offense. I don't consider myself as an old guy. I see so much knowledge and experience out there," she said of those in attendance at the awards presentation. "I think I'm at the very front end of the learning curve."