This month, the leadership of the two major industry associations announced their joint endorsement of each other's primary certification program, NARI's CR and the NAHB Remodelors Council's CGR (for details, see "NARI and NAHB Will Promote Respective Certifications"). Education is the primary function of both associations, but for years the presence of competing certifications has only added to the misinformation and confusion among consumers and professionals alike. A unified message is long overdue, and I support it fully.

What really matters, though, is what happens next. No longer housing's also-ran, the $200-billion-plus, rapidly growing remodeling industry is for the first time beginning to attract attention as a major component of the modern American economy. How the industry is perceived -- by consumers, government, and the markets, as well as by its own practitioners -- depends on its ability to present a consistent message and a unified image. What role the associations play in shaping that image and delivering that message depends, I think, on how quickly they can make other essential changes.

First, as important as this joint endorsement is, there are still two competing certification programs. For a joint endorsement to be effective, the value of both certifications must be perceived as equal. The next logical step is a single set of criteria for certification, plus reciprocity within each other's curricula that includes a consistent approach to business experience credit as well as requirements for continuing education.

Second, the associations need to collaborate, not compete, to increase membership. The one-man truck-and-ladder operations who need the associations most are turned off by the cost of membership and a sometimes complex and confusing chapter structure that makes it difficult to participate locally. It's doubly difficult in areas where both associations have a presence. While it's true that there are not enough barriers to entry into the remodeling business, association membership should not be one of them.

Finally, the associations must continually look for ways to eliminate any bureaucratic roadblocks that impede their ability to respond quickly and decisively to the needs of the industry. As volunteer-based organizations, the associations do a respectable job of responding to their memberships. But things are moving faster these days. If the associations are to keep pace with the rapidly changing modern marketplace, they'll have to become more nimble.

Once these hurdles are cleared, the benefits of a more unified public face for the industry are boundless. A lot depends on whether the rank and file membership can move beyond superficial differences and embrace the broader spirit this joint endorsement symbolizes.

I believe they must. I think they can. I hope they will.

Sal Alfano, Editor-in-Chief

Mark Robert Halper