Deb LaVelle, Chair of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA), talks about the initiatives and advocacy efforts the organization undertakes on behalf of water companies, and why these missions are so vital in today’s environment.
Todd Schnick: We are coming to you live from Dallas, Texas. This is day four, the final day of AWWA ACE 2012 and Water Online Radio. I am your host Todd Schnick, joined by my friend and colleague Todd Youngblood. Todd, this has been a great run.
Todd Youngblood: It has. You said the final day and it just brings a tear to my eye.
Todd Schnick: We are really having a lot of fun.
Todd Youngblood: We are only going to get to do this in the morning. They are going to throw us out of here this afternoon.
Todd Schnick: I know. We get the boot, but we have a nice finale. We have with us Deb LaVelle, who is the Chair of WWEMA, the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association. Welcome to the show, Deb.
Deb: Thank you.
Todd Schnick: It is great to have you. Before we get started, why don’t you take a second and tell us about you and your background.
Deb: My background is 30 years in the water and wastewater industry. I started 35 years ago. It was in the area of wastewater and full product line, for a very old company called Wells Products.
Beyond that, I transferred into the screening industry and then most recently Aqua-Aerobic Systems. I had 25 years at Aqua-Aerobic Systems and currently am moving into another career at this time.
Todd Schnick: You are really here, principally, to talk about WWEMA. I do want to give you a quick second to talk about your consulting business [Bestt Consulting, LLC] that you have.
Deb: I am looking to give back to the industry, just as WWEMA is an association that is very good at providing services back. That is the type of consulting that I would like to do; give back my experience and help companies that are coming into the industry, as well as some that are looking for some efficiencies and that sort of stuff.
Todd Schnick: Outstanding. Tell us all about WWEMA. What is that all about?
Deb: WWEMA is a very exciting organization. It is 104 years old, and it has been the advocate for the water and wastewater treatment equipment manufacturers for that period of time. Over those years they have been able to do some very great things.
We are represented by about 85 companies at this point in time, or we represent 85 companies at this time. It is the caliber of companies that make up WWEMA that really makes a statement about what WWEMA brings to our industry.
WWEMA is very active and has great relationships with people on the Hill. We are involved in regulatory as well as legislative initiatives. The EPA is one of our partners that we work with. We get the ability to respond to a lot of the regulations. We utilize many of those contacts to feed back to our membership how and what is coming up.
Dawn Kristof Champney, who is the President of WWEMA, does a phenomenal job at being able to break down what is happening in the industry as it relates to what is happening on the Hill and bringing that to us so that we are aware of what is coming up.
An example is the ‘Buy American’ clause that came out in the AARA in the stimulus funding. We were very much aware of what was happening prior to it actually being released. That made a great impact on much of our business because we had known how to handle it when it came out. In addition to that we have councils where we teach.
We have many of the other organizations that we work with. We work with WEF, AWWA, and if there are things that we need to collaborate on – such as private activity bonds, which would certainly bring an infusion of funding into our industry – all of those types of things come out of WWEMA.
It is member-driven, and we continue to look for the caliber of companies that if you go to our website and take a look at who they are, we want to try to fill that out with water plants as well as wastewater plants and get all of that input. We do get those connections back when regulations are coming out.
That is a little bit about WWEMA, and we have two major events a year that are really great to go to and as a manufacturer for many years. One of the ones that is really critical to our company was the Washington Forum that is held every year in the spring.
That has a complete program put together that always has all of the regulators involved. We get to find out exactly where they are going that year and what regulations or legislation is on the Hill.
Todd Schnick: Holy cow! What a laundry list of services and initiatives. I am impressed. I have a question, but before that I want to acknowledge that you are the first woman Chair of WWEMA, so I congratulate you on your trailblazing efforts. That is quite an impressive achievement.
Deb, could you flip the perspective around a little bit. You talk very articulately about the things that WWEMA is doing and focused on. If I am a manufacturer or an executive in the water and wastewater industry, what kind of value can I expect to get from WWEMA?
Deb: It actually goes to the bottom line, and having been a Vice President of Sales and Marketing and being able to get a lot of the intelligence about – again, I will go back to the ‘Buy American’ stimulus funding – if we would not have had that information (although it did cost us many thousands of dollars) to make sure that we could come into compliance with the ‘Buy American’ clause that was there, if we wouldn’t have had that we would have lost a lot of money.
A lot of companies, I think, did lose a lot of money because they didn’t understand what it really meant. From that standpoint, that is a bottom line. Understanding when regulations are coming out or when ballast water regulations are ready to move on, that gives you a little heads up and you can start moving in that direction. Again, that goes to the bottom line.
Someone – as your publication is, where you can get those quick snippets – that is what WWEMA does. We give executives – which we have never had time to read long, drawn-out bills or pieces of legislation pieces – we put those together in a bulleted item and it makes it so much easier for us to make decisions quickly. That is imperative in this industry at this point, especially with the economy.
Todd Schnick: Deb, I hate to say it but we are out of time. Before I let you go, tell people how they can get in touch with you and where they can get information about WWEMA and, most importantly, where can they get information about becoming a member of WWEMA?
Deb: You can get information, as far as WWEMA goes, it is a website at www.WWEMA.org. I can be contacted on LinkedIn, and they can get my profile from my name Deb LaVelle.
Todd Schnick: Outstanding. Deb LaVelle, the Chair of WWEMA, the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association, it was great to have you. Thank you so much for joining us.
Deb: Thank you for the opportunity.
Todd Schnick: It was our pleasure. That wraps this segment. On behalf of our guest Deb LaVelle, my co-host Todd Youngblood, all of us at Water Online, I am Todd Schnick. And we will be right back with our next guest.