SILVER SPRING, MD -- The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) has created the Association of Fitness Industry Retailers & Manufacturers (AFIRM), a new trade association dedicated to developing benefits, products and services specifically for fitness industry manufacturers and retailers.

The new association will address fitness industry issues, help raise revenue and reduce expenses on behalf of its members, lobby Congress for pro-fitness legislation and develop research. AFIRM will disseminate information through educational events, publish a bi-weekly newsletter for its constituents and plans to launch its Web site on Feb. 1, 2010.

The main purpose of AFIRM, however, is to give manufacturers and retailers a voice in the industry.

"Virtually all segments of the fitness industry—except manufacturers and retailers—have their own associations for representation, unity and recognition,” SGMA President and CEO Tom Cove said in a press release. “AFIRM will enhance the business climate for manufacturers and retailers by bringing them together and working on their behalf.”

AFIRM’s executive director is Chuck Leve, who spent 27 years with the International Health, Racquet and Sportclub Association (IHRSA) before leaving in 2008.

“I’m thrilled to again be working with industry manufacturers, and I’m humbled by the confidence SGMA has shown in me. There’s much work to do, and I’m up for the challenge,” Leve said in the release. As IHRSA’s vice president of business development, Leve worked closely with suppliers in areas of membership, trade shows, publications and sponsorship.

“Fitness has always been a manufacturer-driven business on the institutional side, and a retailer-driven business on the consumer side,” he said. “The more these segments are able to work together, the better it will be for the entire industry.”

AFIRM’s membership base will go beyond manufacturers and retailers. Industry associations, publications and organizations will be invited to join, as will companies doing business with manufacturers and retailers.

“Manufacturers are the common denominator linking all sides of the fitness industry,” Cove said. “We intend to complement the groups that are already out there. A strong, viable, healthy manufacturing and retailing side of our business can only mean good things for all segments of the industry.”

Fitness-specific products and services will be the cornerstone of AFIRM’s membership offering, with the value-added ability to tap into SGMA’s world-renowned advocacy and research capabilities.