The transition from 2021 to 2022 has been an especially meaningful one for the Association of Materials Protection and Performance (AMPP). Having officially launched at the start of last year as a merger of NACE International and SSPC: The Society for Protective Coatings, 2021 became the final year for many legacy events such as SSPC’s annual Coatings+ conference. That show wrapped up in Phoenix, Ariz., in the second half of December 2021.
Today, in 2022, AMPP is moving forward as one combined organization, headlined by the first-ever AMPP Annual Conference + Expo in March. That show is designed to bring attendees the best of both NACE’s annual CORROSION conference and SSPC’s Coatings+.
Bob Chalker, CEO of AMPP, sat down with CoatingsPro Magazine shortly after the conclusion of Coatings+ for an exclusive interview as part of the magazine’s 20th anniversary podcast series. While our conversation with Chalker encompassed a wide range of association, industry, and magazine topics, we’re focusing here on priorities for the upcoming AMPP Annual Conference + Expo and us at CoatingsPro. Read on for a Q&A transcript of those portions, and listen to the complete episode with Chalker, titled “AMPP’s Bob Chalker Sees Evolution, Growth in Coatings Industry,” at www.coatingspromag.com/podcasts.
Q: Now that we’re in 2022, this [merger] is fully launched. AMPP is AMPP, and we go forward in March with the first annual conference. It’s not really a transition anymore. AMPP is what it is, at this point.
But I’m sure you’ve heard the past two years, as this process has gotten closer to the conclusion, a certain degree of people — especially within the contractor community — that are hesitant to fully buy in because they’re not sure if they’ll be represented to the extent they were before. How do you respond when those people relay their concerns to you? How do you convince them that this is in their best interest, and that AMPP is going to properly represent the contractor community?
A: Another great question, and thanks for not pulling any punches. I [personally] can’t convince anybody of anything. Only the experiences that they have can convince them. What I can ask them to do is to have an open mind.
Now, there’s some things I can share. First of all, it’s really, really important to recognize that the legacy NACE organization did have significant coatings activity and influence. There’s some data that I saw — it’s a couple years old, but it would still be accurate at the time of the merger — where as much as 70 percent of our membership worked in the coatings industry. We had education, we have events and conferences that were geared around coatings, we have coating standards, we have CoatingsPro and other publications.
So, coatings was a big part of both organizations. Obviously 100 percent of SSPC, but it was a big part of NACE as well. As a result, nobody’s going to be turning their back on the coatings industry. When we get to the AMPP Conference + Exhibition in March, you’re going to see a huge coatings representation.
In fact, one of the things I’m a little bit more concerned about is making sure that we are serving members and attendees who are not in the coatings industry but work in other parts of our industry. We want to make sure they feel represented. That’s a risk as well. So, we have a balance to play. We have a very diverse membership group, and we need to make sure we’re serving them all as well as possible.
One of the things we did at Coatings+ was a lot of listening — and also a lot of communicating. We did town halls where I sat and met with members, allowed them to ask their questions and air their grievances, and I did my best to answer them. I took notes and got a lot of input. But we also had a lot of other… I’ll call them listening-post sessions, where we brought members and attendees in and allowed them to share with us what it is they want from AMPP in the future. What are they excited about? What are they concerned about? What don’t they like so far? What are they happy with? We did that so that we can make the adjustments that we need to make.
We really do want to hear from the members, and that’s how we’re going to get better. I think we demonstrated that at Coatings+, and we’ll be doing it again at the AMPP conference. And it’s not just through conferences. I’ve started to travel, visiting members in their areas and locales, and in small groups. We’ve got other member leaders who are doing that.
This is the members’ organization. What I would ask is that if you’ve got a concern, let us know. You can send me an email. My email address is public; it’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know. We want to hear. We want to hear both the good and the difficult things, or what I call constructive criticism. This is the members’ organization. They can make it what they want it to be, but we’re not going to get better if we’re not communicating. So rather than air a grievance with coworkers or other members, let us know what you’re thinking. And we’ll do our best to do something with it.
Q: For us at CoatingsPro, one of the new things about the AMPP world is that we’re now a member magazine. What opportunities do you see for CoatingsPro from the merger, and specifically how the new organization and its platform could help?
Honestly, we’ve already seen some of that. First of all, let me talk about the merger and how that’s affected us. Bringing these two organizations together, we now have a very large member and customer base, and a very diverse base. We represent the industry, and that industry has people with all kinds of different jobs, and ones that serve the industry in different ways. It goes from contractors, applicators, and blasters to businesspeople. People who are maybe more geared to the marketing side, or the sales side, or finance and administration, to engineers, scientists, and academics and people on the research side. We have the government.
Frankly, we have this broad base of members that we need to serve. And if we’re going to do that well, we have to have a very diverse offering of products, programs, and services to meet their needs. In the publications, that’s one of the areas where the acquisition of CoatingsPro, but also other moves that we’ve made — we’ve started to fill out that portfolio.
I think there’s more to do. I know over the years we’ve experimented with special editions, or special publications or inserts, and now podcasts and things that move us into some different spaces. I think that really is where we need to continue to go. But we have to recognize that with that diversity, the membership now, we have to have a diverse product offering. So it makes sense, and it fits there.
I think it really has helped expand the reach. Very early on in our discussions about the merger, with the leadership from both NACE and SSPC, one of the benefits we recognized was that by coming together, we could be the voice of this industry. And by voice, we’re talking about not only to the industry itself and the people within the industry but also outside the industry. To governments and to the media, [and] to businesses and decision makers who are making decisions every day about how they’re going to maintain their assets, and how they’re going to design and build those assets.
We had a unique opportunity to be a single voice. I really think CoatingsPro fits that well. My hope is that the magazine continues to have its impact, and in its multiple forms. It’s not just the print form. It’s really the brand of CoatingsPro. In multiple ways, we will be able to use that to help communicate. Obviously, we can use it internally to the industry, that’s a big part of what we do. But also externally, to those people who need to know about asset protection, asset design, maintenance, and how they can protect those assets that they own, and make good decisions.
So I see it as sort of a two-way street. Yes, we’re talking to ourselves. Technical articles and stories about great successes, and frankly, failures or mistakes that are made, those are always important to learn from. But it’s also about helping people understand why it’s necessary to do the work that we do.