A Year in Review with VSI President/CEO Kate Offringa
Amidst a slowing homebuilding and remodeling market in 2022, the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI) made tremendous strides in all areas of its mission. And VSI President/CEO Kate Offringa believes wholeheartedly that many of these major accomplishments are watersheds that will set the vinyl siding industry up for more success in the future. Here’s what she has to say about the progress in each of VSI’s pillars.
A Big Code Cycle and Product Certification Year
“I don’t know if Matt’s [VSI Vice President Matt Dobson] team has won so many proposals in one code wrap before. We introduced 20 code proposals for changes to the International Residential Code (IRC) and International Building Code (IBC) to improve vinyl siding installation practices in the field and remove needless restrictions on polypropylene siding; and we won 17 of them! We as an industry did this together, and it was an amazing year on the code development side,” Kate proclaimed.
By “Matt’s team,” Offringa is referring to the Code Development Work Group, which made an extensive list of advancements to the IRC and the IBC that will help improve product performance in the field and hence, product and industry perception. Kate credits the group’s big year to their proactive interface with VSI members, including great support from the Technical Committee, resulting in industry-wide input and overall success.
“And speaking of codes, we launched our newly upgraded VSI Product Certification Program, adding code compliance verification,” she noted. “We’ve had a program in place for years, but now we’re a one-stop shop for certification and code compliance. This adds so much value to the product certification program. A special congratulations to Sara Krompholz [Director, Technical and Product Certification] from the VSI team for all her hard work in making this dream a reality.”
“Publishing new EPDs was another major highlight for 2022,” Kate beamed. “The fact that we reconfigured them to make them a user-friendly, practical resource in the field that also allows us to tell our success stories is such a big win for our industry.”
Kate was especially pleased with the work of VSI’s Communications Director, Lisa Dunn, in steering this project.
“It was a total team effort with each member manufacturer and other industry players contributing ideas and details, and Lisa did a brilliant job of putting it all together. Transforming traditional, data-driven, tedious documents into highly compelling narratives is no easy task. Instead of data listings, we used the facts and science to demonstrate the superior qualities of our vinyl siding products,” she explained.
Vinyl Siding Recycling Coalition Transcends Pilot Program Into Model for Other Communities to Replicate
“We launched our Coalition in Northeast Ohio in 2021, and it was still a concept,” Kate explained. “In 2022, we witnessed more than 80,000 pounds of vinyl siding being diverted from the landfill and getting recycled because of our efforts. I believe the pilot program has been a success because we took time to pause, make the proper adjustments and have now developed an ideal working model.
“Looking ahead, we are moving from pilot to model program and want to start expanding into other markets. It’s satisfying to work on something so important that is making traction for our industry and the environment.”
Workforce Development Continues to Improve Productivity, Brought its Program Fully “In-House” and Added a New Team Member
“Our Workforce Development Program has already surpassed the total number of VSI-certified vinyl siding installers in 2021 by the end of Q3 2022,” Kate shared proudly. “Rob Balfanz [Senior Director, Workforce Development] projects that we will have 8,300 new VSI-certified installers by the end of this year. Compared to 6,571 in 2021, that’s a 26% increase in just one year. And we haven’t lost sight of the fact that we had only 1,586 in 2019 when Rob first joined the VSI team.”
Along with the growth of the training programs, Workforce Development has added a new member to the team – Operations Manager Alexander Brand (a Balfanz protégé), who played an integral role in moving the overall Workforce Development training program in-house. “We are now a one-stop shop for certifying installers,” Kate noted. “And we now have the capacity to train online, onsite, with junior colleges and trade schools, and with larger home builders.”
These significant gains for VSI’s Workforce Development Program – which now include a newly re-designed newsletter – reflect what she refers to as strong industry support.
“It shows a steadfast commitment from our Board of Directors to invest in this program and help it grow. Because of the support from our board and our members, we can operate our Workforce Development Program more efficiently and help grow the industry.”
Advocacy, Education and Outreach Gains More Ground in Key Areas
“Alex [Fernandez, VSI’s Director, Advocacy] was successful in persuading the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to grab the reins on a bill that we are pursuing in that state to eliminate local product bans. Having an influential ally like the Chamber taking the lead on this effort is an excellent strategy for convincing lawmakers on the negative social and economic impacts of these local prohibitions. Our advocacy efforts have also led to new bills being introduced in Indiana and Iowa, as well as the launch of our VSI Energy Efficiency Work Group to do a deeper dive into this area for our industry.”
Kate asserts that education and communications are essential components of VSI’s advocacy plan. And the addition of Brookklin Brown to the VSI team as Education Programs Manager gives the industry greater bandwidth to organize our conferences and educational events in person and online. “Having Brookklin on the team means we can do more events and cast a much wider net for our outreach and content dissemination.”
This expansion in education and communications has also extended to the VSI website.
“We developed and launched an FAQ section that makes for a more user-friendly educational experience,” she said. “We created content and new functionality for the site’s building code and product certification section. And since we have significantly increased traffic to vinylsiding.org thanks to our SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and social media strategies, we anticipate more repeat visitors to take advantage of these new features.”
Looking Forward to a Bright Future and Celebrating VSI’s Proud History
“As a seasoned trade association professional, I can say with confidence that if we achieved just 1-2 of these milestones in one year, we would have a right to feel good about our progress,” Kate said. “But to earn so many big wins across all sectors of our work in 2022 is a remarkable tribute to our team, our board and our industry.”
With 2022 winding down, she is excited to celebrate VSI’s 45th anniversary in 2023.
“It will be a big celebration. VSI Senior Director, Finance and Administration, Curtis Norman, has already been to Fort Lauderdale to tour the location for our Annual Meeting in April. He has worked hard this year helping Brookklin onboard the team and streamlining event planning with her now that we are fully back to in-person conferences. And after a landmark year in 2022, the celebration will be extra special knowing that we have so much momentum going into the future.”
Don Browne is a writer, entrepreneur and local legislator who believes that the power of words can change the world. He provides unique writing services for clients in the construction, health care, IT and hospitality sectors. He has a passion for small business and start-ups, as well as writing about Irish history, family and corporate biographies. As a homeowner and father of four who is passionate about community development, Don looks forward to writing more about the exciting possibilities of creating traditional neighborhoods and more sustainable communities using modern materials.