Cooper Industries Inc., Houston, created a new distributor program to link five of the company's electrical products divisions more directly with distributors in the United States and Canada. Cooper Connection marks the first time the company has launched one distributor program that links all of its product groups.

Concurrent with the creation of the Cooper Connection, Cooper also announced that effective Jan. 1, 2001, it will no longer be a member of Affiliated Distributors (A-D), a buying/marketing group based in King of Prussia, Pa.

"We retain the highest respect and regard for the A-D executive team and organization and wish them the best," said Ralph Jackson, executive vice president of operations for Cooper Industries. "We just made a business decision that we thought it would be more effective for us to be able to put together our program and present it directly to the distributor. The A-D program is a little less direct than getting it straight from the manufacturer."

Cooper Connection will give distributors who market products from Cooper B-Line, Cooper Bussmann, Cooper Crouse-Hinds, Cooper Lighting and Cooper Wiring Devices additional support in the form of marketing and sales collaboration campaigns. Initially, the program will have one set of terms of sales across all the business units, according to Jackson. He wants to get to the point where Cooper Connection will have "a common footprint" for the company's customers, rather than having individual divisions with individual policies and different invoices or different remittance systems. The company will consider consolidating logistics operations, including possibly shipping products through a central distribution facility.

One feature that separates Cooper Connection from the company's past distributor programs is its ability to link with new Web-enabled collaboration tools such as a secure extranet linking the Cooper divisions with participating distributors.

Further details will be presented to distributor principals by Cooper account coordinators during the coming weeks. The program is expected to begin in 2001.