The American Lighting Association (ALA) is a trade association that represents the residential lighting industry, their members and customers, and works diligently to protect and advance the industry while promoting the sale and proper application of quality lighting products. It represents 1,500 leading lighting manufacturers, retailers, manufacturers’ representatives and designers across North America.
Director of Engineering and Technology Terry K. McGowan joined the association in 2001. He has more than 50 years of industry experience, and came onboard shortly after retiring from GE Lighting in Cleveland. He also runs his own lighting company, Lighting Ideas, Inc. “I went to one of their markets in Dallas and found out this is a surprising group,” he recalls. “It contains the manufacturers, the designers, the reps, as well as the lighting showrooms that have a very tight relationship with the residential lighting consumer.”
ALA is the authority
The association’s objectives deal with three main areas — public affairs, education and organization affairs — and are updated by an executive committee each year with input from members and staff. In knowing what goes on in lighting homes throughout North America, the ALA is the authority on the issue, McGowan says. “They’re the ones who know and know because of the vertical integration process.”
The ALA provides benefits that help their members focus on a number of significant areas to promote their interests, including increasing their market share, develop effective public relations programs to increase consumers’ awareness of lighting, and sell more products through the showroom channel of distribution. They also benefit from low-cost, convenient sales and design training opportunities, and encourage the continuing development and proper use of safe, energy-efficient products.
“There is still room for small manufacturers who have good ideas, and it is part of the job of the ALA to make sure those good ideas reach the marketplace,” he says. “We’re not just in business for the big retailers or big manufacturers, we’re really trying to represent and make sure that all of those people are at the table.”
Members also reap the benefits from the ALA’s close relationship with different levels of government through their government affairs program that handles international, federal and state/provincial governmental agencies, environmental groups and standard and code organizations that influence how lighting products are designed, manufactured and sold by its members. The association supports energy-efficiency standards for lighting products, including light bulbs and ceiling fans.
The ALA works closely with governmental organizations such as National Electrical Manufacturers Association, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ENERGY STAR, National Kitchen and Bath Association and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, among many others.
“There are a few others who are also worried about these technical issues, but residential lighting has turned in the past few years from a non-technical industry to one that is fast becoming very technical,” McGowan says, who is a lifelong member of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America.
They also monitor the actions of legislative and regulatory bodies, and represent the industry’s interests in negotiations to deal with ever-increasing legislation, McGowan says. “That’s one of the veins of our existence – how do we keep track of that, how do we minimize the cost burden, how do we educate our members, many of whom are not technical, and how to educate our members to be able to respond to those demands,” he explains.
The association’s drive to promote their members’ interest has led to a number of successes in influencing policies. A recent example was in California when the state revised their Title 24 bill, otherwise known as the Residential Energy Code. “We were fully involved with that. We made comments and we went to Sacramento and testified,” he says.
As part of that energy code, there is a new proposal that will mandate specifications for a new, high efficiency screw-in LED light bulb. California wants to increase the number of homes using energy-efficient lighting, and the association will be making recommendations to the state government on the required specifications.
“To them that means they want to take the existing the sockets everybody has in their homes and make them more energy-efficient,” he says. “But they’ve been unable to do that because the penetration rate of energy-efficient products in California, and throughout the U.S., is only 20 to 30 percent.”
Lighting for Tomorrow
The other key focus for The American Lighting Association is their educational training program. As members complete certain tasks, they earn advanced designation titles, including Lighting Associate (LA), Lighting Specialist (LS), Certified Lighting Manufacturers’ Representative (CLMR) and Certified Lighting Consultant (CLC).
The association also hosts an annual conference attended by approximately 500 of the residential lighting industry’s leaders. It is here they annually award winning lighting fixtures through a program called Lighting for Tomorrow. “We award them for energy efficiency, as well as appearance and representing the best of technology,” he says. “That conference also gives us a chance to get together and hear some really good speakers talk about what market conditions are and hear about new technology.”
Mobilize industry momentum
Going forward, The American Lighting Association has a short-term plan in place – Action Agenda – to chart a path for them and their members in 2013. The agenda is designed to provide the association with actionable, measurable steps to mobilize industry momentum.
Some of their goals include a continued effort in promoting the importance of lighting to consumers, fighting for members’ interests on federal, state and provincial levels, driving consumers to local lighting showrooms, providing unmatched networking and volunteering opportunities to ALA members, education through relevant lighting training and boosting association membership to gain a greater voice in the marketplace, among others.
“Taking these actions will enable the ALA to build co-operation among the membership and move the industry forward. Together, we will create momentum that is truly game-changing,” McGowan says.