Ron Van Gelderen
Only once in a great while does someone come along to make profound differences in the way the floor covering industry conducts business. Across a wide spectrum of important industry issues, Ron VanGelderen has distinguished himself as one of these rare individuals.

On Dec. 31, VanGelderen retired from the post of president and chief operating officer of the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), a position he has held since October 1980. For two decades, arguably the most challenging in the industry's history, he provided leadership and direction in a multitude of areas.

The old adage about "the right man, in the right place, at the right time" aptly describes VanGelderen. It was during his tenure that the industry faced a host of issues that it never had to grapple with before. The changing times also demanded that the industry look at new ways of doing things, and work on launching creative new programs. VanGelderen rose to the occasion time after time. He was a master problem-solver who established himself as a major force in the industry and led it through a period of robust growth.

Certainly, one of the most critical issues faced by the industry during VanGelderen's tenure dealt with Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and the Indoor Environment. The resulting tumult brought the industry to the brink of disaster as the media, unscrupulous accusers, junk scientists, health zealots, environmental attorneys, and the like fired salvo after salvo at the industry.

But the industry had its own champion in VanGelderen, who acted as spokesperson and chief negotiator for the industry in the Carpet Policy Dialogue with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the 18 other organizations dealing with carpet's impact on the indoor environment. He brought the industry together to defend its position. He established a legal network for IAQ issues by coordinating industry legal services. In the resulting class-action lawsuits and plaintiff initiatives, all cases were decided in favor the industry.

Under his leadership, the indoor air quality issue was largely neutralized through the institution of extensive product testing programs for carpet, cushion, adhesives, and carpet installation. All in all, this industry response made IAQ a non-issue and is regarded by EPA to be a model program.

VanGelderen has long focused a strong effort on addressing consumers' IAQ concerns through education, and on establishing an industry testing program to reduce indoor air pollution and ensure that carpet, cushion and adhesives are environmentally friendly.

Understandably, not everyone agreed with VanGelderen on all points. But with few exceptions, all respected him. He handled a tough job with knowledge, class, dignity, and friendly persuasion. He is and always will be a consummate professional.

Ron VanGelderen was indeed the right man, in the right place, at the right time. The industry is fortunate to have had him during the era of its greatest need.

VanGelderen's key accomplishments on behalf of CRI and the floor covering industry

  • Created the Industry Issues Council consisting of representatives of associations, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, installers, contractors, and cleaners. It meets regularly for the purposes of communication and resolution of industrywide issues.

  • Architect of the Floor Covering Consumer Credit Association (FC/CCA) FLEX program, the floor covering credit organization that makes it possible for retailers to offer customers financing terms on their floor covering purchases.

  • Organized the Floor Covering Installation Contractors Association (FCICA) and introduced the concept of standards for floor covering installation.

  • Developed international trade missions in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Commerce to help mills do business in foreign markets.

  • Generated the means for numerous carpet mills and associates to establish a national ad campaign for carpet.

  • Initiated creation of the Seal of Approval program, which generated greater industry awareness of the need to improve consumer satisfaction through the use of installation standards. Today, it is creating a better image for the industry, improving consumers' buying and installation experiences, and reducing claims.

  • Initiated a consumer information department with a toll-free telephone number to assist consumers who have questions about carpet.

  • Expanded the scope of industry statistics gathering as the industry evolved.

  • Resolved the BHT issue with the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Worked closely with the Carpet Cushion Council to make BHT a non-issue.

  • Encouraged CRI to be a central information source on recycling for the industry, including developing a carpet components identification label.

  • Worked to prevent onerous specifications by joining forces with such organizations as the American Institute of Architects, Construction Specifiers Institute, schools, and the federal government. The result is two commercial carpet Specification Guidelines for all commercial carpet, and for carpet in schools and day care centers.