As adept as the American Lighting Assn.  (ALA) has become at navigating the legislative landscape of Washington, D.C., I’m glad that the organization has stopped short of mirroring the modus operandi of today’s partisan politics. After returning from the 2013 ALA Conference in Austin, TX, we were all subjected to the circus of the temporary government shutdown. After playing fast and loose with our country’s financial future, incumbents in Congress are fortunate that this is an off-year election.
In contrast, I have often been struck by ALA members’ openness to share with one another for the greater good. The way ceiling fan companies rallied together against proposed design restrictions is a great example of how competitors can make the most effective collaborators. Two individuals from different companies — David Turner from Hunter Fan and David Gatto from Westinghouse — were even jointly recognized with Pillar of the Industry Awards for their work in drafting the industry’s collective response. And representatives from other fan manufacturers were openly vocal about how well-deserved those honors were.
Volunteer service on ALA committees is also generously given by members of the group. This year’s Residential Lighting Industry Leadership Award winner Clark Linstone  of Pacific Coast Lighting , who has chaired the ALA Government Affairs Committee and is about to assume leadership of the association at large as Chair, knows all too well that trips to meet with government officials on behalf of the industry are not subsidized. The companies where committee participants spend their day jobs recognize the value of this investment in time, talent and dollars, even though these efforts stand to benefit their fiercest business rivals as much as their own bottom line.
While ALA has always encouraged an atmosphere where idea exchanges could take place, facilitating networking and emphasizing teamwork for our trade, I have observed that the recession provided an added “stimulus package” that relaxed a lot of remaining barriers. With everyone hurting to varying degrees and needing help, it wasn’t a sign of weakness to let your guard down to others experiencing the same. It was a show of strength to band together to find solutions to common problems.
Profitability isn’t proprietary, and when we work in tandem to increase overall lighting sales, there will be more than enough pie to go around. ALA provides an important support system and a safe zone for real progress to happen. And that reward far outweighs the risk that anything we say or do may be used against us