Bob Rosenberg wanted to be a college professor. When he was 30 years old, he was still a full-time student with multiple degrees — one undergraduate and two graduate. He hated writing, so he never finished his doctoral program. But academia’s loss was pest management’s gain — and has been for the past quarter century.
For his extensive legislative and regulatory work in defense of the industry, the National Pest Management Association’s (NPMA’s) executive vice president and CEO is among six industry veterans being inducted into the Pest Management Professional (PMP) Hall of Fame in 2013.
“I’m honored,” Rosenberg said. “This means a lot to me. I hope some of the legislative and regulatory contributions I’ve made have helped move the industry forward. We’ve made significant strides representing the industry and take pride in what we’ve done. Hopefully, it’s contributed to the industry’s success.”
Rosenberg is responsible for public policy, event management, fundraising, grassroots efforts, professional relationships and administration. He has helped the association create opportunities and establish relationships — including with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — through which it can provide information that will help protect pest management professionals (PMPs) from overreaching regulations that could adversely impact their ability to protect public health and property. Examples include the recent green pest management progression and when the West Nile virus (WNV) first hit home in 1999.
“PMPs did very little mosquito control when WNV hit,” Rosenberg said. “Most municipalities weren’t doing mosquito control any longer. That changed with our involvement. An example of the association’s proactive approach, we developed and articulated successful business models for PMPs to offer mosquito control.”
The bed bug craze is another example of how the industry became involved. By the time bed bugs reemerged, many PMPs had lost the knowledge and tools to deal with them.
“All kinds of practices were going on,” Rosenberg said. “We created a bed bug task force that included PMPs, lawyers, state and federal officials, and researchers. We wrapped our arms around the issue and established best management practices, which weren’t prescriptive. We also created boundaries for what is acceptable and what isn’t.
“We held more than 20 meetings throughout the country to educate people inside and outside the industry. Bed bugs didn’t stop being a problem, PMPs just learned how to better manage them.”
Throughout the years, Rosenberg has seen the industry evolve to become more educated and sophisticated. The industry has experienced rapid change since the early 1990s — including, for example, the loss of entire classes of chemistry (chlorinated hydrocarbons, carbamates and organophosphates).
“The industry struggled with these losses, but found its way forward,” he said, adding there are many other products in the queue waiting to take chlordane’s place.
Rosenberg predicts the industry won’t see the same number of newer, safer and more-effective pesticides coming into the market that it has in the past. Because of government scrutiny, products and their uses will continue to be lost.
“Still, we pride ourselves on our relationships with the EPA and state associations,” Rosenberg said. “We stand our ground when we think we’re right; but it’s a respectful relationship.”
A Better Association
Aside from overarching industry issues, Rosenberg has been working to improve the effectiveness of the NPMA, specifically what it needs to do and be. He’s steering a process to improve infrastructure, such as launching a new database, website, logo and tagline, as well as changing some bylaws — all to be implemented at PestWorld 2013.
“We’re operating on old-school technology. We need to operate more efficiently,” he said.
That means members will have more control of their relationships with the association. For example, they’ll be able to update their professional information anytime by themselves online instead of relaying that information over the phone to an NPMA staffer, who then updates the member database manually.
One thing Rosenberg is not overly focused on is NPMA’s number of members. He says there are about 19,000 structural pest management businesses in the U.S., and 7,500 are NPMA members. About one-third of the pest management companies in the U.S. do nearly 90 percent of the pest management work, Rosenberg said, and most of those major service providers are NPMA members.
Rosenberg couldn’t be happier about the association’s staff, adding there’s never been a more talented group of people working there.
“I try to get out of their way and let them do their jobs,” he said. “I try to create an environment where everyone can contribute and enjoy being here.”
Rosenberg, who grew up in Miami and has an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago and Florida State University, answered a want ad for his first NPMA job. His previous NPMA roles included senior vice president, director of government affairs and manager of state government affairs. He has served on numerous committees, including the Pesticide Policy Coalition steering committee, IPM voice steering committee, RISE issues committee and the EPA advisory committee. Industry mentors include Norman Goldenberg, Michael Katz and Bob Russell.
Since joining the association in 1989, Rosenberg has developed a clear, contagious love of the professional pest management industry and its people.
“I feel like I can’t give enough back,” Rosenberg said.