In 1991, the specialty chemicals industry was in a state of what can be described as chaos. Not in the sense that it was chaotic, it was simply unorganized. The industry was, and still is, under constant attack from the anti-pesticide movement and those attacks were focused on the industry suppliers.
It was time for some organization. The applicators — those who used specialty chemicals out in the field every day — were well organized through many associations in each of their sectors, but the companies that supplied them were not.
Through all this chaos, Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE) was born and the man picked to lead this organization from its infancy to successful advocacy group was E. Allen James.
Under James’ leadership, RISE grew from a small idea into a powerful opponent of the anti-pesticide movement with a $3 million annual budget. It is with great pleasure that we induct James into the Pest Management Professional (PMP) Hall of Fame, Class of 2010.
Immediately preceding his appointment to president of RISE, James served as president and CEO of the International Sanitary Supply Association.
“That association has, as part of its industry, a pesticide division,” James said. “We represented cleaning materials companies, and certain cleaning materials are pesticides. I had some familiarity with pesticides used in the industrial and institutional environment.”
Also in his favor was his background in agriculture.
“We used pesticides on the farm, so I had a broad understanding of pesticides,” James said. “As I applied for the position, I had a working knowledge of the industry and I believe that helped.”
Getting someone with a background in pesticides wasn’t the only requirement the newly formed association needed. RISE was starting from scratch and it needed someone who had experience building and leading at the same time. Again, James fit the description perfectly.
He already had served as president of two successful organizations, so the RISE board of directors gave him broad authority to construct the initial operating structure of its fledgling association.
“The opportunity to build an association was one that intrigued me,” James said. “My history with Delta Sigma Phi was one of rebuilding a strong organization from a period of when the organization was not very strong.”
James was successful in building the national college fraternity — to this day, Delta Sigma Phi awards its top undergraduate annually with the E. Allen James Leadership Award.
“I knew I could build an association, because rebuilding an association is much like starting from scratch,” James said. “That’s where I felt my strength was — in building from the ground up.”
When James started, RISE had no bylaws and no operating standards — he was truly starting from scratch.
“The board knew I had previous experience with all aspects of association work, so they really depended on me to put the structure of an association together, subject of course, to their approval,” he said.
Immediately after the first few months of putting the association together, James went into a strategic planning process. He brought in the board and some volunteers to look at what he and his team had put together, and to look ahead and plan for the needs of the industry.
James’ first hurdle seemed simple: Identify the companies within the industry. But it proved not to be the easiest of tasks.
“We knew the key companies and we knew of some companies that participated in different segments,” James said. “But no one person could name all the companies within the industry, because it’s so segmented.
One of the earliest challenges was to identify the players in the industry,” he recalled. “Then, once identified — and that’s a continuing process — there was an opportunity to recruit them into RISE.”
Once a company became a member, James needed to get its people involved in the association — a major challenge itself. James said RISE follows the 80-20 rule — 80 percent of the membership pay their dues and don’t participate in any other way; 20 percent pay their dues and provide volunteers to help.
“From that 20 percent, you have many key companies that provide a majority of volunteers and help to the association,” he said. “If we can get a company to attend an annual meeting, where they can witness all the things we’re doing first-hand, then we can begin to convince them they need to have volunteers involved as well.”
Since taking the helm in 1991, environmental extremists and local, state and federal governments and agencies have turned up the heat on RISE members. Thanks in large part to James, who retired in September 2010, RISE has five full-time staffers, an annual budget of nearly $3 million and more than 200 members that account for more than 90 percent of the nation’s specialty pesticide production.
The relationship between agriculture and specialty chemicals would not be as strong and as productive as it is if James had not been chosen to lead RISE.
“The opportunity existed to bring organization to what could be described as chaos,” James said. “This industry needs an association to do those things that individual companies cannot do by themselves.
“That’s what RISE has provided: A unity within the industry.”