With nearly 50 years to its historical credit, the enthusiasm that continues to drive this well-organized PHCP-PVF association continues to prosper and accelerate its growth. Unfortunately, the almost accidental nature of its birth has never been told.
At the time of the merger of the Central Supply Association and the nationwide United Association of Distributors, Central Supply’s all-time great “boss,” Jim Peery, who engineered this “forced marriage,” appointed a planning commission to develop the elements that were available from the two giant distribution organizations. This provided me, as a planning committee member and the only non-distributor on this team, to come forth with suggestions. These revolved around two shortcomings of which I felt our PHCP industry had been guilty:
1. Industry manufacturers, even those most interested in the activities of the trade associations that worked exclusively within the PHCP distribution system, had no organization reflecting this common interest through meetings and idea exchange.
2. The independent sales reps, even those recognized as industry super stars, were pretty much regarded as outsiders. They were even accused of being opportunists, primarily driven to collect the universal 5 percent as payment for their contacts with potential buyers and specifiers.
I believed this characterization was generally unfair but realized that any definitive discussion of this subject would be considered untimely as so many distributor-oriented
issues needed to be discussed at the time of the 1970 development of the current national American Supply Association.
Out of those committee recommendations emerged AIM and its side arm, the Association of Independent Manufacturers’ Representatives. The latter was actually born by accident. Two industry agency representatives with whom I consulted were well-known national leaders; they convinced me that this was a good opportunity to give industry “legitimacy” to reps committed primarily, if not exclusively, to the PHCP-PVF industry.
The subsequent unified rep organization was officially born a few months later. It is my understanding that a 50-year celebration of AIM/R will be held in Washington in October 2020, in conjunction with the birth celebration of the American Supply Association.
The ultimate irony of the AIM/R organization that finally emerged saw it take off like a shot to become a highly attended organization, recognized by the entire PHCP industry. It is now considered the highly regarded official organization of relevant manufacturers and industry sales reps at large.
Meanwhile, the Association of Industry Manufacturers never got off the ground and was absorbed by the Plumbing Brass Institute a few years later.
Although constituted to honor PHCP industry manufacturers, who comprise the plumbing-heating-cooling-piping industry as a whole, these groups have been superseded by the outstanding individual buying groups that have become the backbone of the industry’s multibillion dollar multiplicity, representing specific industry sectors and segments, such as AD, Omni, WIT, Embassy Group, Equity, etc.
However, the industry’s manufacturer representatives have become an honored segment, representing a majority of manufacturers at this giant industry’s recognized buying levels but don’t employ professional sales organizations.
It’s safe to say that the reps are here to stay, after proving their mettle in the decades following the organization of AIM/R.
Imports Vs. U.S. Employment
While America’s increasing consumer demand has been satisfied by labor policies that allowed imports of all types to maintain consumption demand, the resultant unemployment and factory closures have been the price to pay for that policy.
In effect, this encompassed the world’s lowest prices, as long as they met the minimum needs of the fast-growing U.S. population, now exceeding 330 million; the third largest in the world, after China and India. This greatly satisfied the many giant conglomerates that retained production capabilities and minimum quality standards to meet or exceed what was considered acceptable to the Environmental Protection Agency, responsible only to Washington’s power structure, especially with price structures that satisfied the American consumer/voter.
During the period that started with the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993, driven by Vice President Al Gore, it’s no wonder that foreign goods out-stripped the requirements that had been provided by domestic production to satisfy consumer demand.
While minimal import tariffs were greatly outstripped by export tariffs, it’s easy to see how America’s trade deficit has reached an all-time high. This not only punished U.S. employment but made it increasingly difficult for independently owned U.S. businesses — the traditional key to America’s prosperity — to compete with global conglomerates.
While such U.S. policies have satisfied potential voters, they have made it increasingly difficult for American-owned private businesses further restrained by unfair estate taxes.
It may be satisfying to many economists that the U.S. GDP of near $20 trillion is tops in the world. This may be short-lived as China is coming on like gang busters. Beijing retains a much more self-serving domestic economic policy, protected by tariffs and updated modern infrastructures that relate to its own needs.
The economic policies that have weakened America for political reasons (such as ethanol, death taxes and all-time low protective tariffs) must be drastically changed to keep the U.S. deficit from spinning out of control, along with current policies that provide excessive U.S. support for such organizations as the United Nations, NATO, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The succession of U.S. presidents who controlled American policy since the Reagan years have relegated America’s domestic interest to secondary status. It will take a supreme effort by President Donald J. Trump to bring this nation back to an “America First” policy.