The Federation of Societies for Coatings Technology (FSCT) and the National Paint and Coatings Association (NPCA) are two U.S.-based organizations with a long track record serving the North American coatings industry.
The NPCA is a voluntary, nonprofit trade association established more than a century ago that represents 350 paint and coatings manufacturers, raw materials suppliers and distributors. NPCA's primary role is to serve as an ally and advocate on legislative, regulatory and judicial issues at the federal, state and local levels.
An important objective of NPCA is to serve the information needs of its members, the general public and the media through its Industry Outreach Program, which includes proactive public and media outreach, publications dissemination and other educational efforts.
Founded in 1922, the FSCT has been working for more than 80 years to achieve its primary goal of meeting the educational needs of the coatings industry. As the development of coatings science took hold in the early 20th century, production personnel needed to know more about the many changes occurring in manufacturing techniques, raw materials and application requirements. To answer this need for information, production managers in manufacturing centers began to meet to discuss common problems. As these "production clubs" grew in size and number, members recognized the importance of coordinating activities and disseminating the rapidly growing amount of technical information.
In 1922, the leaders of several clubs met to discuss their common concerns, evolving over the years to become the Federation of Societies for Coatings Technology. The FSCT has grown to become an international organization, with 26 constituent societies (22 in the U.S., two in Canada, and one each in Great Britain and Mexico), as well as members in more than 45 countries.
For many years the two organizations have worked alongside one another with NPCA serving the industry's legislative, regulatory and judicial issues, and the FSCT serving its technical information and education needs. Over the years when the FSCT held its International Coatings Exposition (ICE), North America's largest exhibition dedicated to the coatings industry, NPCA would often hold its annual meeting in conjunction with the exposition.
While the mission of both organizations has been to serve the coatings industry, their organizational structure is very different. NPCA's membership is composed of companies while the FSCT accepts members on an individual basis.
Over the past year, a rift has opened between the two organizations due primarily to failed merger discussions initiated on behalf of NPCA. FSCT viewed the proposed merger as an acquisition and rejected, prompting NPCA to partner with German-based Vincentz Network, organizer of the European Coatings Show, and announce the launch of the American Coatings Show.
Coatings World caught up with Joseph Pontoski, FSCT's executive director, and NPCA president Andrew Doyle, and discussed these developments and other issues.
COATINGS WORLD:What led to merger discussions between NPCA and FSCT, and ultimately its rejection?
JOSEPH PONTOSKI:The idea of a merger between our two organizations has come up several times over the years. While we both serve the coatings industry, our missions are in fact very different. The NPCA's role has been as a national advocate on legislative issues, and the FSCT's has been directed towards the technical education and professional development of individuals globally. The FSCT board of directors' primary responsibility has been to ensure that the mission of the FSCT is fulfilled, that we continue to be the source for personal and professional development of individuals throughout the industry. NPCA's offer to acquire the FSCT and the timeline that they required for agreement would not have allowed the board to adequately discuss the issues with the membership, who ultimately would be deciding this question. This is why the board responded that it felt some form of immediate collaboration or alliance would be a preferable path forward. In fact, in order to demonstrate the FSCT's desire to work more closely and effectively with NPCA, the FSCT board offered a full partnership on the ICE show.
Andrew Doyle:Over the last several months, and in fact for many years, NPCA has worked diligently to bring about a combination of the FSCT and NPCA which best serves both organizations and reflects the rapid and significant changes that are taking place in our industry. It has been our longstanding belief that a merger of the FSCT and NPCA would allow us to leverage the significant resources of each organization, as well as be more responsive to the needs of the industry at large.
In our discussions with the FSCT, we cited several reasons for a merger including:
• The industry is consolidating and the NPCA and FSCT should do the same;
• The industry's resources are finite and companies are less willing to support multiple organizations;
• ICE is in need of significant improvement and if changes are not made immediately, a new event not associated with either NPCA or FSCT will take its place;
• FSCT would have the opportunity to grow under a merger with NPCA;
• FSCT technology and science programs would continue under a merger;
• Local associations and societies are merging successfully, and the national associations should do the same;
• A merger would not affect the mission of the FSCT-advancing scientific knowledge and technical education would remain a priority after the merger;
• Local societies and paint and coatings associations would have a direct link into the merged organization.
For these reasons, we saw great potential in merging the two organizations. We were disappointed in FSCT's decision to reject our proposal.
COATINGS WORLD:What are the opinions/attitudes about the recent developments among your members?
PONTOSKI:Since FSCT has over 4,000 members, it is no surprise that there are varying viewpoints and opinions. Most, however, have expressed a tremendous concern that these recent developments will affect our ability to serve the needs of the members and the industry and that it will have an impact not only at the national level but at the local FSCT society level as well. Many have expressed that perhaps the value that the FSCT brings to the industry has not been communicated or demonstrated to the organizational leaders involved with the NPCA. Some have also been surprised by the timing and swiftness between the time that NPCA reported that they would pursue an alternate course of action in July to the time they announced that they were developing a competing show in 2008. They feel that both organizations play important yet separate roles and that the recent developments may jeopardize our ability to accomplish our mission and may create divisions among segments of the industry.
DOYLE:There has been a tremendous show of support from members of the industry for our new conference and exhibition, the American Coatings Show. This new venture has been discussed widely among NPCA's membership, and they have responded very favorably and with a clear vote. Major coatings manufacturers and suppliers alike have already confirmed their endorsements.
What has the reaction been from the international coatings community?
PONTOSKI:The reaction from most has been confusion as well as disappointment. They are confused as to how an additional coatings show will provide value for their limited resources. They are disappointed that these organizations are not able to find a way to serve the needs of the industry by working together more closely. Most recognize that the FSCT is the technical arm of the industry, which provides benefits to individuals around the world, and through the ICE show they are able to give back to industry.
DOYLE:We've partnered with Vincentz Network-organizer of the highly successful European Coatings Show-to produce the American Coatings Show. Vincentz has been flooded with congratulations from the international coatings community. Many individuals and companies are eager to see the American Coatings Show emerge as the new world-class event in North America. Our choice of a globally successful partner is widely seen as a logical and convincing approach. Our combined international reach is unrivalled, and this is evident in the feedback we have received from leading European suppliers who are eager to exhibit at the show. Clearly, there is a widespread feeling of enthusiasm.
COATINGS WORLD:How has the working relationship between FSCT and NPCA been affected by these recent developments?
PONTOSKI:The FSCT was sincere in its desire to collaborate and work with the NPCA. It continues to feel that this is ultimately in the best interests of our respective membership. In addition to our offer to partner on ICE, we have invited NPCA to participate in our upcoming program on REACH as well as an educational program planned for next year addressing all aspects of regulations affecting coatings companies. At this time, they have not expressed an interest in working together outside the confines of a full acquisition.
DOYLE:Since rejection of the merger, NPCA and FSCT have not explored options for working together.
COATINGS WORLD:Is there room for two shows in the U.S. coatings market?
PONTOSKI:The exhibitor and attendee community have said they want the ICE show to be held every other year in Chicago. That is exactly what we intend to do. ICE will be held in Chicago in 2008, 2010 and 2012. In addition, we will make every effort to increase the value of the show by trying to work with other groups that service different aspects of the industry. Given the tremendous amount of competition that currently exists, it is extremely doubtful that there is room for two shows, particularly if they intend to serve the same audience. ICE is recognized around the world as the premier event in North America, where the top scientific minds gather. It has been the place where all aspects of the industry come together and it will continue to be that place.
DOYLE:That is a question that the industry will answer. We believe that both exhibitors and visitors will evaluate the available options and then decide how and where to invest their valuable resources.
COATINGS WORLD:Is there any opportunity for a synergy to exist between ACS and ICE?
PONTOSKI:The FSCT has and will continue to reach out to allied organizations in order to increase the value for everyone participating in ICE. In order for synergies to exist, the combined effect would need to be greater than what the events provide individually. ICE has a long and proven track record and we would certainly entertain any discussion in terms of synergies if it would increase the value that the show provides.
DOYLE:Synergy between NPCA and FSCT events would have been an obvious benefit had the merger been successful. Now we are focusing our efforts on creating synergy between the American Coatings Show and the European Coatings Show.
COATINGS WORLD:What educational conference opportunities will your show offer?
PONTOSKI:ICE and the FSCT have always been at the forefront of providing educational opportunities that address the technological advancements in our industry. Through its dedicated volunteers and members, ICE is able to attract renowned speakers from around the globe for its technical conferences and informative short courses. It is only through innovation and advances in technology that the North American industry will be able to meet the constant pressures faced by competing in a global marketplace. ICE will continue to expand and grow its FutureCoat! conference covering all aspects of coatings and providing access to the information that will drive the industry forward.
DOYLE:The American Coatings Conference will provide a truly world-class forum for the leading scientific minds in the industry. For this event, we will attract top-notch coatings chemists from academia and industry, from North America and from overseas, leveraging the global reach of our partner. Vincentz Network's experienced staff of chemists and media managers has a proven track record of attracting record numbers to a program of exceptional value. The American Coatings Show will guarantee the highest quality program, directly related to the needs of the industry.
COATINGS WORLD:What makes your show unique?
PONTOSKI:The ICE show has a long history and tradition and is recognized around the globe. For more than 75 years it has attracted coatings scientists and professionals from more than 67 countries and is the largest coatings exhibition in North America. Because it is organized and managed by the not-for-profit FSCT, it is a show that directly benefits the industry it serves, as the revenues it generates are reinvested back through the development of educational programs, publications and scholarships. In fact, because of the ICE show, the FSCT has been able to contribute over $1,000,000 towards scholarships through the Coatings Industry Education Foundation that bring in young, new talent into the coatings industry. Our goal is to maximize the value we bring to the industry and our members, and ICE allows us to achieve that objective.
The partnership between NPCA and Vincentz will allow us to co-brand and market the American Coatings Show and European Coatings Show together, offer unique opportunities for companies attending and exhibiting at both events, and create a transatlantic scientific exchange. Ultimately, the industry will benefit from alternating spring shows in the U.S. and Europe. We believe this will allow for better long-term business planning by all industry participants.
What are your expectations in terms of show attendance?
PONTOSKI:Chicago has always been the ICE show's best venue and typically attracts more than 8,000 registrants from more than 67 countries. Because of its central location and ease of access, many attendees are able to visit the show and effectively use their time and money. As we institute some new enhancements to the show and work more closely with the exhibitors and other show organizers, we hope to increase this number dramatically in the coming years.
DOYLE:Given the level of support expressed by our members and the proven track record of our partner, Vincentz, we are confident that the American Coatings Show will be well attended.
COATINGS WORLD:What are your predictions for 2008 and beyond?
PONTOSKI:My predictions for 2008 are that the FSCT will continue to reach out to its membership and the industry in an effort to provide value for the dollars they are investing. We will continue to focus on our mission of technical advancement and professional development. It is only through the skills and knowledge of their employees that companies will be able to meet the challenges ahead and organizations such as the FSCT will continue to provide the forum and information access to enhance these skills.
DOYLE:We have listened to the industry and turned their detailed demands into a comprehensive business model. The American Coatings Show will be custom-tailored to meet these demands, and we will continuously invest in expanding and upgrading this event in the interest of the industry.
Through our partnership with Vincentz and the European Coatings Show, I am confident that the American Coatings Show will be the premier event in North America, providing exceptional value in 2008 and beyond.