When I got my start in the industry there was no social media. There were no cell phones. The industry news was garnered through chapter meetings, newsletters, and the vendor network. Those in sales traveled the area, shared conversations, agronomic information, and jobs open or opening soon. I saw vendors as a critical tool to remain connected. Thanks to social media, information travels faster than an agronomic materials supplier during Pythium season. Does that make our vendors or the vendor network any less valuable? Beyond supplying materials, what is the value of our vendors in the industry now?
The entire golf industry seems more reliant on a collective approach for success. The days of the golf professionals, food and beverage, superintendents, and those who sell products and supplies to those professions operating in silos exclusive of each other are gone. No one succeeds unless we all succeed together. Same goes for the related associations, local or national. More than ever, collaboration is taking place between sectors in our industry. The successful groups have members willing to step up and volunteer their time for the benefit of the whole group with our valued vendors right there leading the charge.
I think about many of our partners giving their associations much needed financial support, but more importantly holding seats on chapter boards and serving our superintendent associations through various additional capacities. I sat down with two such valuable vendors at the NERTF Conference and Show in Providence and asked them why they undertake these additional efforts, and what value they and their companies see from such endeavors.
This topic came to me last May, as I had a conversation with Gilberto (Gil) Perez, Account Specialist for Dunning Industries, at National Golf Day (NGD) in Washington D.C. I caught up with Perez this year at the NERTF Conference and Show to ask about NGD involvement:
“As a company, we sat down and asked is this of any value to us, for us to go and be a part of National Golf Day? We said yes. Why, because we are supporting our customers, and we are supporting a great cause, which is what keeps our doors open.”
Both Perez and Division Manager Neil Lajeunesse attended the community service event and legislative visits at the nation’s capital.
“What a valuable experience it was and will continue to be. Not only personally, but professionally. When you leave there, you feel like you’ve done something for the betterment of the industry”
When asked why a focus on government affairs, Perez simply states, “it opens up eyes. It lets everybody realize that golf course superintendents aren’t the devil. Everybody needs to know how responsible we are in everything that we do. I say we, I’m not a superintendent, but as an industry we do things in a responsible manner.”
“It about supporting the industry that supports us.”
At the local level Rhode Island government affairs guru Pat Hogan, sales manager for Sodco, is on top of his game. When asked why he is involved with government affairs, Hogan cited the availability of time.
“Superintendents really don’t have the time. As a vendor, I’ve got a little more time to go and promote what they do, to tell legislators about the Green Certification program and being stewards of the land.”
Hogan found his way into the government affairs realm first through necessity, serving in that capacity as he proceeded through the board ranks of the Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association. Those skills found purchase as he became more involved with the Rhode Island GCSA.
“There used to be a time where you had to go to the state house and into the basement to find out what bills for pesticide or other regulations like that had been submitted. Now they’re online, but superintendents didn’t have the time to go to the state house and search through filing cabinets to find bills that would affect them.”
Sodco is a 526-acre farm that takes environmental efforts very seriously. “It’s up to us to make sure that land can be passed down generation to generation. Hopefully we’re passing it down to the next generation better than we went into it.”
When asked if he enjoyed his volunteer efforts in government affairs, Hogan quickly replied, “Yes, I do!”
These are just two examples of the many vendors in our region that volunteer their time for the betterment of our industry. The regulatory landscape in Maine would look much different without the dogged effort of Jesse O’Brien of Down East Turf Farm. Chuck Bramhall, Harrell’s, also advocates so well for our industry in a difficult regulatory area on Cape Cod.
It’s no different outside of the government affairs realm. Successful association newsletters thanks to the hard work of Heather Garvin, Chas. C. Hart Seed, in Connecticut, Barrie Robertson, Foster Materials, in New Hampshire and the always entertaining content provided by Kevin Collins at Ocean Organics. Local event calendars would look so much different without the coordination assistance of Chris Cowan, Atlantic Golf & Turf in Vermont, and Brian Goudey, Syngenta, with the Northeastern GCSAA. Region wide events such as the MetGCSA Team Championship and Nor’Easter Ski Day only happen thanks in large part to the efforts of Andy Drohen, Koch Industries. I’m leaving out so many valued industry professionals, but you get the picture.
If I had the time and opportunity to speak with every vendor working hard to make our industry better, my guess is I would hear much of the same feedback. I’m supporting the industry that supports me, and I enjoy what I do. I challenge you, the non-vendors in our industry, to take a moment to thank your partners for all that they do. Without the efforts of our valued vendors the landscape of our golf course maintenance industry would look drastically different, and not for the better.