The American Lighting Association  (ALA) hosted its 2012 Annual Conference at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch  in Scottsdale, AZ, Sept. 9-11. The event drew 545 guests to enjoy the amenities and learn about new industry developments and opportunities. This year’s Conference also hosted 51 first-time attendees, in addition to 34 new companies that were sponsored to participate.
Tony Davidson, Chair of ALA and President of Kichler Lighting , addressed ALA members at the opening breakfast and stressed the importance of Conference.
“While here, we are allowed to take a step away and look at what we can improve away from home,” Davidson said. “Showrooms and reps especially have a great opportunity to meet each other here and talk about what’s working and what’s not. I don’t know of any greater investment in your business.”
Davidson also stressed the impact that new members can have on the organization, saying that as a new member, you can’t underestimate what you can contribute. As of January 2012, ALA has signed up 121 new members, and expects to have 25 more by the end of the year.
ALA President Dick Upton delivered good news in his lunchtime address: the organization is on target with its action plan, its finances are positive and its membership is dynamic, with a 92 to 93 percent retention rate (compared to 87 percent for an average association). ALA’s Political Action Committee (ALA-PAC)  has raised $60,000 so far in this election cycle, exceeding its goal of $43,000, and is winning or positively impacting many industry issues in the United States and Canada. But perhaps even more significant than the association’s progress, he said the industry also appears to be recovering from its economic challenges.
“Over the past year, I’ve been hearing that business is getting better,” Upton said. “Showrooms are adding different types of merchandise and opening second locations, and many in the industry are being proactive to make their businesses better.”
ALA is also being proactive in making its business better. Vice President of Communications Larry Lauck announced some exciting news about the organization’s Bi-National Advertising and Public Relations program as relates to ALA’s partnership with Meredith Corp., the publisher of the popular Lighting special interest publication for consumers. New for 2013 will be the “Lighting Idea Center,” a mobile-enabled reader service tool to help drive qualified leads, and dedicated lighting segments on the nationally syndicated “Better ” TV show that will promote ALA and Lighting magazine.
Lauck also implored members to consider increasing their investment in the Bi-National Advertising program from 0.15 percent of sales revenue to 0.2 percent next year and 0.25 percent the following year. Zia Eftekhar, CEO of Philips Professional Luminaires North America , strongly agreed with this suggestion. This will enable the lighting industry to seize opportunities as the economy rebounds, Eftekar said, defending against commoditization and expanding the overall size of the marketplace with a “strong collective voice.”
During Conference, ALA members attended seminars with topics including “Selling a Lighting Package,” “The LED Revolution,” “California’s New Lighting Regulations,” and, an attendee favorite, “Lighting for Senior Living.”
In the latter session, a panel including Naomi J. Miller, Senior Lighting Engineer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, Eunice Noell-Waggoner, President, Center of Design for an Aging Society, and Fred Oberkircher, Emeritus Associate Professor at Texas Christian University, discussed seniors’ need for three times more light, the role LEDs could play if a light source in the home is obscured, and the importance of portable lighting solutions.
To close out Conference, ALA members who have contributed greatly to the organization were honored. David Director of Connecticut Lighting Centers  received Residential Lighting’s Industry Leadership Award; Richard Alan of Richard Alan & Assoc., Ron Milam of Lighting Emporium Inc . and Joey Sadofsky of Alico Industries  each received the Pillar of the Industry Award; and Kalco founder and Varaluz Chairman Harry Kallick was inducted into ALA’s Lighting Hall of Fame.
Next year’s ALA Conference will take place near Austin, TX, at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa , Sept. 22-24, 2013. For more information, e-mail ALA Director of Conferences Beth Bentley or stop by ALA’s booth by the Trade Mart third floor escalators during January’s Dallas Market .