Outdoor Power Equipment Institute Helps Prepare Members for Challenging Times

With shifting attitudes about lawn care and landscaping, the outdoor power equipment industry is seeing new challenges.

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Members of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) gathered in Kohler, Wisconsin, in late June for its annual meeting to discuss the challenges ahead for the outdoor power equipment industry and also 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, a 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 chairperson 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.

Political pundit, managing editor of Bloomberg Politics and TV host Mark Halperin 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 that “every act of conservation matters” and that “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. Our lineup of speakers certainly gave the industry some serious food for thought,” said Kris Kiser, OPEI’s CEO and president.

The OPEI’s 2017/2018 officers and members of its Board of Directors were also elected during the annual meeting. They are:

  • OPEI chair Daniel Ariens, chairman & CEO of Ariens Company.
  • OPEI vice chair Tom Cromwell, group president of power, Kohler Company.
  • OPEI secretary/treasurer Bjoern Fischer, president of STIHL Inc.
  • Immediate past chair Tim Merrett, vice president of global platform – turf, utility and agriculture division, Deere & Company.

The other members of the OPEI Board of Directors are: Edward B. Cohen, vice president of government and industry relations, Honda North America Inc.; Tim Dorsey, president, Echo Incorporated; Marc J. Dufour, president and CEO, Club Car LLC; Tom Duncan, president and CEO, Positec Tool Corporation; Peter Hampton, president, Active Exhaust Corporation; Jean Hlay, president and COO, MTD Products Inc.; Jeff Hohler, president of the consumer brands division, Husqvarna Group; Paul Mullet, president and CEO, Excel Industries Inc.; Rick Olson, president and COO, The Toro Company; Lee Sowell, president of outdoor products, Techtronic Industries Power Equipment; and Todd Teske, chairman, president and CEO, Briggs & Stratton Corp.

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

Next year, OPEI will hold its annual meeting at Playa Largo Resort & Spa in Key Largo, Florida.