Kalamazoo, Mich. - The board members of the Kalamazoo Heating & Air Conditioning Association wanted to grab the attention of members. In the November edition of its newsletter, The Heat Exchanger, there was only one topic listed for the group's next meeting: Will the association be saved?

The short answer is yes; the group decided it will continue to exist. But the bigger question is why a group that once boasted more than 60 members has dwindled to a paid membership of less than 30 and a group of only about 12 who regularly attend monthly meetings. And for that, members don't have any hard answers.

"We just can't seem to get them out," said association President Gehry Gross.

At the November meeting (which despite several phone calls from concerned members, Gross said still wasn't well-attended) the board decided to cut back from meeting approximately 10 times a year to just getting together quarterly - and for the group's annual summer golf outing.

A 20-year member of the organization, Gross offered a few theories why the membership isn't as active as it once was. One reason, he said, is the hvac industry is changing, and younger people don't seem to see the need in getting together for dinner once a month and to discuss issues of concern to the industry. "A lot of guys think they already know what's going on," he said.

Attendance usually does rise when the group is able to host a guest speaker, Gross said, such as a member of the insurance industry or when the meeting focuses on a specific topic, such as indoor air quality (IAQ). However, it's harder to get speakers when they can't guarantee a large audience. "It's tough to get speakers in and then only have seven guys there," he said.

As for why the November meeting was still light on members, Gross admitted it might have partly been the board's fault - it coincided with the opening of deer-hunting season.