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OFA, The Association of Horticulture Professionals, and the American Nursery & Landscape Association launched their first joint event, Next Level, Jan. 31-Feb. 2 in Nashville, TN. The conference represents one of first steps toward the proposed consolidation between the two groups.

Next Level is an educational conference designed to help participants develop their business acumen and personal leadership skills. A volunteer advisory group of members from both groups worked with staff to develop the conference.

“This event is the beginning of great things to come for our organizations and our profession,” said Michael Geary, head of OFA, who on Jan. 1 assumed responsibilities as executive vice president of ANLA, and now serves as the chief staff executive of both organizations, with offices in Columbus, Ohio and Washington, DC After serving as ANLA’s executive vice president for 21 years, Bob Dolibois retired Dec. 31, 2012, according to an OFA news release.

Following one year of working together in a joint venture structure, the boards of directors for both organizations resolved at the end of last year to continue supporting the development of a comprehensive horticultural trade association, including the planned governance structure.

The plan is to launch the new horticultural trade association by Jan. 1, 2014, pending approval by members.