The significance of the California Alarm Association’s (CAA) positive impact on installing security contractors was on fine display during its winter convention in San Francisco.
Held Dec. 10-12 at the Hilton San Francisco near Union Square, alarm company operators from throughout the western region were joined by manufacturers and other service providers for an intensive three days of networking, educational sessions, vendor exhibits, and a poignant life achievement tribute dinner honoring George DeMarco.
With more than 300 registered attendees and 65 exhibitors, Matt Westphal, CAA president, proclaimed during the general session the association had attracted its largest gathering ever.
I got a chance to catch up with Westphal, a third generation co-president of Pacheco, Calif.-based Bay Alarm, during the event to discuss his main objectives for the coming year. Hint: Matt is bound and determined to build an influential voice for the industry in the Golden State’s legislative processes — and dealers will be asked to play a vital part in that effort.
The big goal for 2010 is community outreach through police and local politicians, continuing to introduce ourselves and getting to know them,” Westphal said. “We are going to be proactive.”
The concept is a simple one, and it served as a frequent theme throughout the convention: Individual companies must actively interface with local politicians and others who are in charge of making rules and running municipal governments. The alarm industry will have little chance to influence issues affecting its businesses without first building meaningful relationships.
“We have been talking to our membership for years about getting involved with their mayors and supervisors because those are the people who can help us fix problems that we may be causing. We cause most of our own problems,” Westphal said.
Alarm company operators were also put on notice during the event that CAA will be making a concerted effort in raising funds to boost the coffers of its political action committee. Lobbying and other such efforts don’t come cheap.
Support for CAA’s industry endeavors arrived from well outside California as well. Richard Ginsburg, president and CEO of Lawrence, Kan.-based Protection One, was a featured panelist for an executive symposium that included Alex Dunn, COO of Utah’s APX Alarm, and Keith Jentoft, president of manufacturer RSI Videofied Technologies.
Following the symposium I asked Ginsburg why he was a vocal advocate, not to mention Pro One’s significant financial/sponsor support, of CAA.
“I don’t want to ride on the coattails of our peers and all the hard work they put into legislative matters and the many things they achieve for the better of the entire industry,” he said. “We’re a big company and we have to step up and contribute both time and money. It’s important to us that we don’t just take all the benefits and not help the cause.”
Among its beneficial work for the industry at large in California, Ginsburg highlighted the association’s victory in securing a blanket exemption earlier this year from a state senate bill that would have prevented automatic renewals for alarm contracts.
Here’s another example of the association hard at work in service of the alarm community. Jon Sargent, past president of CAA, told me significant progress is being made to revise a burdensome ordinance in Oakland that requires alarm companies to collect annual user permit fees and submit them to the city. The danger is such the ordinance could become precedent setting.
As public safety liaison for CAA and the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), Sargent has deliberated with officials to amend the city’s annual collection process. Sargent is a dogged advocate for the alarm industry; I’m hedging my bets he’ll be successful in Oakland. Stay tuned.
I want to alert you to an interview I had with APX’s Dunn. As many of you know, the behemoth Provo, Utah-based company has raised the ire of dealers across the nation because of its aggressive summer model program.
No doubt Dunn felt the heat of pointed glares from more than one convention attendee, but he made it crystal clear that APX wants to become a friend of the wider alarm community. Our discussion about the direction of the company and its efforts to be a positive force in the industry will be featured in a “Hot Seat” installment in the SSI’s January issue.