Let me come right out and say it: It’s good. Change can be awkward; change can even be scary. But this is good. It’s the right move at the right time for the right reasons. The proposed marriage of the American Nursery and Landscape Association and OFA – The Association of Horticulture Professionals is a match made in playing-your-strong-suit heaven.

Although behind-the-scenes talk of such a union has been going on for quite some time, the official step was taken at the OFA Short Course in July, when the governing bodies for both organizations voted to pursue the historic move of combining forces and creating one association. Each board was unanimous in its approval. That in itself is significant: It helps to start a marriage with the approval of all the in-laws.

Photo courtesy of ANLA
Bob Dolibois

Both execs – Bob Dolibois at ANLA and Michael Geary at OFA – are quick to point out that their boards approved the proposal based on positive member feedback. There will be outliers, of course; there’s one in every family, isn’t there? But the majority of association members see the value of moving forward with plans to take two influential organizations and make one. It’s the best of ANLA and the best of OFA that will create a powerful association. And that powerful association is the best way to represent the industry.

And let’s be clear: As both groups emphasize, this is really not a merger. One association is not swallowing, or purchasing, or acquiring the other. No hostile takeover here; actually, no takeover at all. Among other strengths, ANLA has political muscle and an outstanding presence in Washington. Among other strengths, OFA has a stellar trade show that, despite the trend, is growing both in size and influence. What each brings to the table will complement the other.

Michael Geary
Photo courtesy of OFA

Bob will retire at the end of this year, after nearly 22 years of exemplary leadership. Maybe I should say, “retire” – the industry’s in his veins. Michael will oversee operations for both associations, shuttling between Washington and Columbus until the newly formed organization is established, which may be as soon as next July. Legislative and regulatory staff and functions will continue to be based in D.C.; association management, trade show and communications staff and functions will continue to operate in Columbus. When the new entity is official, Michael will continue to lead.

If you visit www.onevoiceoneindustry.com, you’ll find a video of Bob and Michael discussing this at length. They can explain it much better than I can.

It’s a brave new world we’re facing; it’s a brave new industry. And this is a bold, brave move toward forming a new, singular organization that makes sense for everyone.

One voice, one industry, one really good idea.