Proposed merger between PIA and TAPS appears dead in the water – what next? - SNEWS

Proposed merger between PIA and TAPS appears dead in the water – what next?

The Trade Association of Paddlesports (TAPS) board has overwhelmingly voted to terminate the unification process with the Paddlesports Industry Association (PIA). The Oct. 27 result, shared with SNEWS® shortly after the decision, dashes the hopes of many paddlesports industry members who believed this time a unification effort might just pass muster.
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The Trade Association of Paddlesports (TAPS) board has overwhelmingly voted to terminate the unification process with the Paddlesports Industry Association (PIA). The Oct. 27 result, shared with SNEWS® shortly after the decision, dashes the hopes of many paddlesports industry members who believed this time a unification effort might just pass muster. SNEWS has learned that the PIA membership had voted on the merger last week and a majority of those who actually cast a ballot voted to accept the merger. Initially, it appeared a TAPS board vote could swing either way. In the end. though, the promise of all the good that a unified voice might be able to do was crushed under the weight of PIA’s existing debt and potential financial liabilities, ones that we were told TAPS board members were not willing to accept on behalf of its membership.

Thus ends yet another paddlesports attempt to unify with existing associations – TAPS and OIA in 2002, PIA and America Outdoors in 2003, PIA and TAPS in 2005, and PIA and TAPS in 2008. The decision now leaves PIA operating with a budget deficit for the foreseeable future and sans an executive director following the resignation of Matt Menashas last week. (Click here to read a Oct. 24, 2008 SNEWS story)

The financial health of both organizations seems to be in question:

• Though to date PIA has not released the results of an independent CPA audit of its financials, we do know the picture is not pretty. Insiders tell us that PIA has less than $30,000 in cash assets, and debts over $50,000, including several credit cards, one of which has an extremely high interest rate.

• TAPS looks only slightly better. That organization did release to SNEWS the CPA audit of its financials, which showed that while it has nearly $80,000 in cash assets and no liabilities, it is going to incur a loss in 2008 of $36,000 when comparing expenses with revenue for the year.

So what’s next? In our Sept. 11, 2008, editorial “Paddlesports associations seek to unite, but at what cost?” (click here to read that SNEWS article), we outlined what we felt needed to happen if the deal to merge both associations fell through for whatever reason. Forming a new association as we outlined is still one possibility to be sure, and is preferable over both entities trying to continue as independent associations. The paddlesports industry deserves and needs a unified voice.

But here’s the rub: After two days of speaking with members on both sides of the table following the “no” vote by the TAPS board on Oct. 27, as well as fielding a flurry of emails and calls from a broad spectrum of paddlesports industry constituents, it appears we are not much closer to achieving unity and cohesiveness than before – at least under the current MOU plan.

It is our understanding that Darren Bush, Landis Arnold, Tim Rosenhan and others (including Kenji Haroutunian, show director for Outdoor Retailer, and Frank Hugelmeyer, president of Outdoor Industry Association) have been engaged in earnest discussions even as we file this story to see how, if at all, a unification deal between TAPS and PIA can be resurrected. And, if it can’t, how to move forward to effectively establish a new association that will garner strong industry support, both in terms of membership commitment and financial backing.

One email we received from a paddlesports veteran who’s been lobbying for unification for some time stated, “The real question (that needs to be asked) is how we engage or force the industry to do what it needs to do – come to the table, cough up some cash, and donate some time and energy to make the damn thing happen.”

And that is a question that for now remains an open one. Answers anyone?

--Michael Hodgson

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