OPEI prepares members for future at 65th annual meeting

Members of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) gathered in Kohler, Wis., June 20-22 for their 65th annual meeting to discuss the challenges ahead for the outdoor power equipment industry and its potential for growth.

“With growing regulatory issues, potential economic upheaval ahead, and shifting attitudes about lawn care and landscaping, our industry and members are seeing new challenges, even as they face a period of growth and innovation,” said Dan Ariens, incoming chair of the OPEI board of directors. “The annual meeting is a key part of the industry’s preparation in handling those changes.”

At this year’s OPEI annual meeting, speakers provided both insight and advice on today’s unprecedented climate.

Ben Saunders, world record-breaking polar explorer, opened the event with his advice for “achieving the impossible.” Dr. Alan Beaulieu — award-winning economist and author of “Good Days Ahead!” — warned the audience of a potential 2030 global economic collapse and encouraged attendees to “prepare for it.” But he also noted that there is much opportunity ahead in the next 12 years.

Ann Marie Buerkle, acting chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), discussed the changing regulatory climate. She assured the audience of her commitment to “following the data” during decision-making around rules and regulations.

Mark Halperin, political pundit and managing editor of Bloomberg Politics & TV host, regaled the audience with stories of “Good Trump” and “Bad Trump,” and noted that the political climate remains in flux for now.

Other speakers included Margaret O’Gorman of the Wildlife Habitat Council, who encouraged the audience to remember “every act of conservation matters” and “it doesn’t take a lot of space to make a big difference.”

“If there was a theme at this meeting, it’d be this: prepare for a decade of ever-increasing uncertainty but don’t miss the opportunity around you,” said Kris Kiser, OPEI’s president and CEO. “Our lineup of speakers certainly gave the industry some serious food for thought.”

OPEI’s 2017-2018 officers and members of its board of directors were also elected during the annual meeting. They are as follows:

  • OPEI Chair: Daniel Ariens, chairman & CEO, Ariens Company
  • OPEI Vice Chair: Tom Cromwell, group president – power, Kohler Company
  • OPEI Secretary/Treasurer: Bjoern Fischer, president, Stihl Incorporated
  • Immediate Past Chair: Tim Merrett, vice president, global platform – Turf & Utility, Agriculture & Turf Division, Deere & Company

Rounding out OPEI’s board of directors will be as follows: Edward B. Cohen, vice president, government & industry relations, Honda North America, Inc.; Tim Dorsey, president, Echo Incorporated; Marc J. Dufour, president & CEO, Club Car, LLC; Tom Duncan, president and CEO, Positec Tool Corporation; Peter Hampton, president, Active Exhaust Corporation; Jean Hlay, president & COO, MTD Products Inc.; Jeff Hohler, president, Consumer Brands Division, Husqvarna Group; Paul Mullet, president & CEO, Excel Industries, Inc.; Rick Olson, president & COO, The Toro Company; Lee Sowell, president – outdoor products, Techtronic Industries Power Equipment; and Todd Teske, chairman, president & CEO, Briggs and Stratton Corporation.

The meeting was held at The American Club in Kohler, home to OPEI member Kohler Engines. Members were fortunate to meet Herb Kohler, chairman and CEO of Kohler Company, at the opening reception.

The premier sponsor for the OPEI annual meeting was TCF Inventory Finance. The Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau and Kentucky Venues sponsored the Welcome Reception and the Whistling Straits Reception and Dinner. The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) sponsored the OPEI Propane Golf Classic for attendees. Other sponsors included TD Retail Card Services, Wells Fargo, Gates and Husqvarna Group.