The resignation of Randy Chilton, Coinstar Inc. (Bellevue, WA), as president of the National Bulk Vendors Association will test the trade group. Announced last month during the NBVA's executive board meeting in Las Vegas, his resignation follows Coinstar's exit from the bulk vending and amusement industries in early October with the sale of its amusement and vending assets to the National Entertainment Network.
Chilton, who guided NBVA through a recent transformation, will remain president until a replacement can be found. The search is being led by a nominating committee chaired by Dan Case of Tejas Distributors (Round Rock, TX) and a past NBVA president. The committee includes David Dilbert of Smiles Candy Corp. (New Hyde Park, NY); John Honeycutt, Great Dane Cranes (Clearfield, UT); Don Goletz, Vendo-O-Matic (Rockville, MD); Steve Schechner, Capital Vending & Distribution (Florence, AL); Jim Hinton, Oak Manufacturing; and Jim Turnquist, National Entertainment Network (Louisville, CO).
(The committee has appointed Bernard Schwarzli, Beaver Machine Corp., as the association's interim president.)
"I'm still president today, but in the interest of the association I informed them that it would make sense to put the wheels in motion to find a replacement," Chilton said. "I thought about staying on until the NBVA convention, but it is not fair to my employers since they are no longer in that line of business. I'm under no pressure to resign, but I thought a 30 to 45 day transition was a good idea to put a new president in place."
Chilton, who assumed NBVA presidency last year, presided over one of the association's most tumultuous and transformative years. In guiding the group through a significant reorganization, Chilton oversaw the move from its longtime Chicago-based office to Scottsdale, AZ, the hiring of a full-time staffer and a successful lobbying campaign to protect the industry against the Consumer Product Safety Commission's safety guidelines.
"The thing I'm most proud of is making the transition from a Chicago-based organization to a standalone organization," Chilton said. "That meant finding and setting up a new office, staffing the office and finding new legal representation. It meant changing every administrative facet of the organization."
Chilton credits association members with the success of the transition. "It's less about ‘Randy Chilton' and more about people who stepped up to a do a lot of work. For instance, the executive committee used to meet once or twice a year, but in the last year we must have met 30 times."
AN ASSOCIATION REBORN
The association's transformation, according to NBVA members, began last fall with a major restructuring aimed at boosting membership ranks and encouraging their active participation. Chief among changes was appointment of a new administrative post that oversees membership relations and assists NBVA committees on general oversight of the trade group, along with aiding members on legislative issues and planning the NBVA's annual trade show.
Although the changes were viewed with skepticism by some NBVA members, proof of what the organization's officers called the "new NBVA" was found at the annual trade show and convention in April. While attendance was down, the drop was not as significant as gloomy pre-show estimates and was largely attributed to an overall weak economy.
"We were told it would never work, but we put on the show and today we're in a far better financial position than we were," Chilton said. "Our financial position I won't say is bright, but it's better. Two years ago the association was in serious jeopardy."
Even operators who didn't attend the annual spring meet were soon aware of a new level of association member engagement. Programs like the Young Bulk Vendors group and proactive strategies to fight CPSC regulations have been attracting interest and boosting membership. A redesigned website and regularly broadcasted bulletins to membership have improved communication. Many of the new members joining or re-joining the NBVA are small operators, Chilton noted.
One notable factor in attracting these new members has been NBVA's leadership role in fighting certain provisions contained in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Most recently, those efforts culminated with the CPSC providing a highly positive regulatory interpretation of the CPSIA's Section 103(a) that mandated impractical labeling requirements. Handed down on July 22, just weeks before the Aug. 14 enactment, the CPSC's ruling specifically exempted the bulk vending industry from the labeling of each item.
"Our small industry is being recognized," said Chilton. "We have a voice in Washington, and that's a first."
The ruling, a positive development and victory for NBVA, was the product of months of hard work by association members and the law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. Those efforts included everything from meeting with policymakers on Capitol Hill to testifying before the CPSC during public hearings.
MORE TO DO
Among the goals the NBVA has set for itself is to strengthen the Section 103(a) labeling interpretation through a statutory exemption by Congress. Without such a binding and definitive exemption, future CPSC officials, state law makers or the federal courts could reverse or rule against the policy without warning. To continue the fight, the NBVA has retained the Mintz, Levin law firm. However, as Chilton pointed out, these legislative battles are not inexpensive. So far, money raised through industry donations has been nothing short of impressive, with association members contributing anywhere from $50 or $100 to several thousand dollars.
The association has raised over $100,000 to date, and both suppliers and operators have rallied to the cause. "We've raised a lot of money, but we're still $40,000 short of our fundraising goal," said Chilton. "So, the NBVA has to push there. It's time to make things happen right now."
The NBVA's new General Fund Task Force is looking at all aspects of income generation, including the possibility of dues restructuring. It is also in the midst of planning next year's annual convention. Set for April 8 through 10, the show and meeting moves from Las Vegas to Kissimmee, FL.
Chilton and other association officials are cautiously optimistic about the future. Even as the group's efforts continue to attract new members and chalk up victories in the "win column," Chilton and other members of the organization's leadership view their work as far from finished. "We've come so far, but we still have so far to go," said Chilton. "And now we have the momentum."
"The NBVA is not out of the woods, if this were a football game, we need to go a hundred yards and we've gone about 80, but those last 20 yards are important," said Chilton. "Informally, I'll help any way I can. While I do not have a professional interest, I certainly have a personal interest."