The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association is the fitness industry's only global trade association representing over 10,000 for profit health and fitness facilities and over 600 supplier companies in 75 countries.

 

 



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Tuesday
Feb162016

IHRSA Advocacy Provides The Protection We Need

Insurance protects the things we hold dear: our homes, our health, our automobiles, our lives, and our livelihoods. For health club operators, the ultimate “insurance,” perhaps, is IHRSA’s public policy team.

Helen Durkin, JD, IHRSA’s executive vice president of global public policy, and her group of “agents” are constantly on the lookout for impending problems, such as tax-exempt competition, burdensome restrictions on member contracts, and taxing health club memberships. Their mission: to protect IHRSA members and their businesses at the local, state, and federal levels.

The threats they address are often so inconspicuous that, if it weren’t for the team’s prompt and efficient responses, you might not be aware how many there are, and how dangerous they are. The 2015 record for Durkin’s crew is an astonishing 13 wins.

Recently, I spoke with Jim Worthington, the owner and president of the Newtown Athletic Club (NAC), in Newtown, PA, about a risk he’s faced. A proposal has been placed on the legislative docket to impose a sales tax on all of the health clubs in that state. If enacted, it would cost Worthington’s business more than $1 million a year.

Recognizing the danger, Worthington and Linda Mitchell, NAC’s director of public and community relations, did what any IHRSA member can and should do: They called on Durkin and her team, who immediately joined forces with them and their allies. Working with the support of local lobbyists retained by IHRSA, the group has petitioned state representatives aggressively.

The objective: to prevent passage of a law that would tax the public’s pursuit of healthy lifestyles.

“A monumental effort had to be mounted, and would have been impossible without the IHRSA team,” says Mitchell. “In order to help produce over 13,000 messages to state legislators in just one week, we had to not only engage our members and employees, but join IHRSA in reaching other clubs throughout the state. IHRSA staff and their lobbyist in Harrisburg supplied the strategy and technological resources, as well as minute-by-minute feedback in real time. It was a great example of marketing and communications at its best.”

The fate of this particular proposal remained uncertain when this column was written, so the industry’s vigilance and opposition remain both real and strong.

As an IHRSA member, I know that my investment in the association goes a long way—toward the annual convention and trade show, industry research, and CBI … and, importantly, to support IHRSA’s public policy team. They provide the insurance we can’t afford to live without.

To learn more, visit ihrsa.org/industry-defense.

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