On the surface, serving as executive director of a nationwide college fraternity would hardly seem to prepare one for leadership of a major advocacy group in the pest management industry. But as president of one of the industry’s most proactive and progressive organizations, RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment), Allen James began his association career as executive director of Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity.
"After that, I accepted a position with the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA) in Chicago. This was my first introduction to a trade organization that represented corporations and not individuals. Many of the challenges were the same, such as working with a board of directors and communicating to a diverse audience, but other challenges were very different."
After his stint with ISSA, James was invited to Washington, D.C., to launch the advocacy group Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment. RISE is a national trade association representing manufacturers, formulators and distributors of specialty pesticides and fertilizers that are used to enhance and protect the urban environment.
"I came into work the first week to an office, a phone and a desk but no chair," he recalls of those early days. "I investigated the financial situation and learned we had $40,000 in the bank. Jay Vroom, president of CropLife, told me, ‘Well, you’ve got some seed money, but if you want to keep working you need to go out and attract members.’ It proved to be sound advice.
"I began an intense membership program. We started with 12 companies in February 1991 and by the fall we had nearly $500,000 in commitments and almost 50 members. Today, we have nearly 200 corporate members, 25 of which are basic manufacturers. About two-thirds of the members are in the pest control supply industry and the rest are in a variety of other businesses that provide services or materials to the industry."
James says he spent most of his first year at trade shows and in face-to-face meetings with potential members, establishing market relationships that would benefit both the pest control and "green" markets over time. It’s a strategy that has paid off handsomely, in large part because of James’ low-key, yet highly respected leadership abilities. Bob Rosenberg, NPMA Legislative Affairs Director, has worked with James for some time. "Allen’s major strength is in forging alliances and coalitions. His interpersonal skills command respect and make him, as well as RISE, a more effective organization."
Jay Vroom, president of CropLife, has worked with James for 12 years. (CropLife’s mission is to foster the interests of the public and CropLife member companies by promoting innovation and environmentally sound manufacture, distribution and use of crop protection and production technologies for safe, high-quality, affordable and abundant crops.) "None of the people who conceived of the idea of RISE were sure it actually could be done. However, it has been successful due to the leadership capabilities of Allen James. He is capable of charismatically building consensus across industries," Vroom says. "His most significant strength is his ability to get people of differing interests to quietly let down their guard and relate to each other. He has strong communication skills and is able to consistently deliver clear messages. And most important of all, Allen is a good listener.
"He also has a strong belief in and understanding of the science that underpins the products that are what this industry is about," Vroom says. "He has the unique ability to translate that into something that is meaningful to the various audiences that need to be reached."
One of those key audiences is the American public. "What we’re attempting to communicate is that pests are the problem and pest control products are the solution," James says. "Our mission is to provide a strong, unified voice for the specialty pesticide industry. We promote the safe and responsible use of all industry products. In addition, we communicate the value of industry products as pest management tools to enhance the quality of life and the environment for all Americans."
AN HONEST BROKER. Since its inception, RISE has opened and maintained productive lines of communication between industry and the media, government officials, regulatory agencies and other key market influencers. Of particular significance is the group’s excellent working relationship with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). RISE and EPA have worked together on a number of important issues, including IPM in schools, pesticide re-registration and the Consumer Labeling Initiative, an outreach campaign designed to convince the public to read and follow label directions.
In addition, RISE has teamed up with a number of industry associations, including an array of groups serving the pest management and fertilizer industries. For instance, an early alliance was formed with the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) that continues to this day. NPMA was one of the first applicator associations to partner with RISE and they’ve developed a good working relationship over time, working together on a variety of state and national issues, including a number of regulatory initiatives.
"It’s in our interest to have a strong working relationship with applicators and the associations that represent them," James explains. "So one of our goals is to maintain a strong working relationship with the NPMA. It’s mutually beneficial for all of our members."
James says such alliances are particularly important now since the battleground for the hearts and minds of consumers and public officials is moving from the federal level to the state and local level. "We’re seeing that the activists’ strategy is moving from the national stage to the local level. They have found, correctly, that it’s much easier to get negative legislation passed on the local or state level," James observes. "By working with NPMA we’ve been able to manage the state issues fairly well. It’s the local issues where the big damage is beginning to happen. It is difficult for NPMA, RISE or the state associations to manage local issues. Local laws or ordinances can pass in a week’s time because they don’t undergo the same rigorous public comment and approval process that happens at state and federal level."
THE FUTURE. James believes the future will be rich with challenges, not only on the regulatory front, but at the basic manufacturer level. While new product technology will continue to be developed, James believes the number of companies manufacturing those products will continue to shrink as a result of the high cost of new product development and the increasingly restrictive regulatory environment.
"I fear that over-regulation is going to have an adverse effect on the industry, as well as the long-term protection of public health," he says. "The ability to manage health threats is being undermined by overzealous regulation and the challenging economic environment currently being experienced by specialty manufacturers."
Long term, James believes the industry will rebound, but not overnight. "Over time new products will bring revolutionary technology to the industry. We’ll see fewer broad-spectrum products and more niche products. Focused products will enhance the applicator’s ability to do a good job," he says. "I think we’ll see genetically modified products becoming available, as well as new products for the public health market. The pest management industry will be right there with medical professionals in protecting the public’s health.
"I admire the NPMA for its recent public health initiatives, as well as for making the commitment to grow the market for professional pest control services through the Professional Pest Management Alliance (PPMA). There are plenty of pests to be controlled and lots of opportunity to do it. Despite our current challenges, I’m optimistic about the future of the pest management industry."
RISE Vision & Mission
Shortly after being formed in 1991, the Board of Directors of RISE set out to create a vision and mission for the organization. After much deliberation, the following vision/mission statement was created.
Because the need exists for a strong industry association to promote the use of valuable specialty pest management and plant health products, RISE will be recognized as the…
• Primary trade association representing the specialty pest management and plant health industry.
• Most influential association with capabilities to positively influence opinions and policies of target audiences.
• Association that most effectively communicates the benefits and value of industry products.
• Lead association in promoting industry stewardship.
RISE addresses critical needs to the specialty pest management and plant health industry to maintain availability of our members’ products and services by:
• Providing a strong unified voice for the specialty pesticide and plant health industry.
• Positively influencing opinions and policies of targeted audiences.
• Promoting the safe and responsible use of industry products as valuable tools to enhance the quality of life and the environment.
• Promoting industry stewardship.
Report: Pest Control Needed to Keep Low-Income Housing Safe
A report released by the National Association of African Americans in Housing (NOAAH) demonstrates the important role pesticides play in creating healthy, safe and decent surroundings. NOAAH is a non-profit organization dedicated to managing, building and improving low- and moderate-income housing.
This report, targeted to housing officials, policy makers, industry and the media, is part of the Healthy Homes Initiative, established by NOAAH in December 2001 to investigate environmental hazards in residential and other urban buildings. NOAAH Executive Director Kevin Marchman explains, “Too many of our children are put at risk every day in their own homes. These threats in housing can rob children of their health and cause permanent damage or even death in the most extreme cases.”
A task force, established to gather information and prepare recommendations for the Healthy Homes Initiative report, consisted of housing producers, regulators and financial experts from NOAAH’s membership of 140 organizations, as well as public and private sector leaders.
RISE was a founding member of the Healthy Homes Initiative task force.
“We have long recognized the significant threats pests, such as cockroaches, rats and other vermin, pose to the public and particularly to children living in low- and moderate-income housing,” says RISE President Allen James who serves on the task force. “Pesticides are an important part of an overall pest management strategy to keep these children safe.”
Just The Facts
ISE maintains three industry-related Web sites, www.pestfacts.org, www.schoolpestfacts.org and www.westnilevirusfacts.org, to communicate with PCOs and the public on a range of issues of importance to the specialty chemical industry.
The Pest Facts Web site contains a rich array of press releases and information that can be used by pest management professionals when communicating with the public. The School Pest Facts Web site features a wealth of information on pest management in schools, including common insect threats to children, recommended treatment protocols and how to communicate with parents about this important topic. And the West Nile virus Web site highlights the latest WNV headlines from around the country, as well as keeps a running tally of the number of human cases in the United States as reported by the CDC.