North Carolina Pumper Group

As new technologies, changes in regulations and economic pressures alter the liquid waste pumping industry, a business owner who has the right people in his or her corner can be considered very fortunate. In many states and regions, trade associations and groups—with their knowledge, experience and range of services—are the exact right people that septage management firms and septic tank pumpers count on for answers and help.

One such trade organization is the North Carolina Pumper Group (NCPG). Based in Oriental, which is on the North Carolina coast east of New Bern, NCPG works on behalf of its members and the pumping industry across the state and in Washington, D.C. NCPG’s people are its executive director, S. Henri McClees, Esq., and her husband, the group’s lobbyist and chief educator, Joseph D. McClees.

Advocacy and Support
Joe McClees says, “The first question anybody has before they write the check for their annual dues is, ‘what can you do for me?’” He has a ready answer, “We give them all the services they need to help them succeed.”

McClees is a political science professor and professional lobbyist. His wife and business partner, Henri (a family name), is a lawyer. Between them, they’ve got it all covered. “I enjoy helping people solve problems, and so does my wife,” he says. They offer members legal assistance, as well as clarification and guidance on regulations and business issues, anytime—day or night.

And then there are Joe’s ties to the state legislature. In 2005, for example, McClees lobbied to change the fuel tax rebate system in North Carolina to favor pumpers, which now provides them with a rebate to cover the portion of the fuel that powers the vacuum motor. “I’m in business development,” he says, “I analyze the problem and try to get them from A to B. The state requires them to go to one little business class, but I sit down with them and give them customized, individualized answers.”

Educational Seminars
North Carolina has 450 to 475 pumper businesses. “And we do the education for about 250 of those in five seminars in five different locations every year,” McClees says, “on the coast, in the state capital at Raleigh, in the Piedmont region, in the foothills and in the mountains.”

By statute, the state requires all pumpers to complete a four-hour seminar every year. “It’s an industry-driven requirement,” says McClees, “The industry got together and decided what we wanted.” One hour of the seminar covers new regulations and other rule changes and is presented by state personnel. “We bring in the people who made the changes to explain it,” McClees notes, “The remaining three hours are for owners and their businesses on topics apropos for business-oriented training.”

McClees emphasizes that morning and afternoon sessions are presented in a friendly, non-competitive, shared learning manner to meet the needs of those who are attending. He insists that every seminar must be exciting, dynamic and engaging, and that each one offers practical solutions to the real problems the group’s members face. The seminar includes a full lunch with barbecue and fried chicken in the Southern tradition, and afterwards is the three-hour mandatory annual training for land-application site operators who land-apply septage.

“I had a new guy come in last June who wrote me a note saying this was like a family get-together,” McClees explains, “Everybody got to ask questions and hear the answers, and at the end of the day we all had lunch together, and we all went home, but he said, ‘I felt like I took something home with me.’”

Members of NCPG and their employees can attend any and all of the seminars at no charge, and NCPG also offers free members-only workshops. Non-members are invited to attend the seminars for $100 per person – a bargain for the training provided by state regulators and leaders in business and industry. “Every seminar is different, and if you’re a member you can attend all five. It’s not unusual for people to come to several seminars.”

McClees has been working to make the group’s members more computer literate, in order to teach them how computers can save them money. He wants them to be more involved in the new technologies that can make short work of many tasks or enable them to use different kinds of public relations to increase their business volume.

For more about North Carolina Pumper Group call 252.249.1097 or visit www.ncpumpergroup.org.

Joseph D. McClees and S. Henri McClees, Esq., also offer guidance to those who want to start a trade organization: www.McCleesConsulting.com

Story by Anne Biggs

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