Swen Carlson, VP, Operations, Western Region, of VSP Optics Group, and chairman of The Vision Council’s Lab Division, talks about the benefits of membership.

Providing members with “value and voice” is Swen Carlson’s main objective as chairman of The Vision Council’s Lab Division.

“Fact is, there are still far too many in this country who don’t receive the eyecare services they deserve,” he said. “Likewise, there are far too many who don’t enjoy the value of all the products and services our members provide. We need to do more to make that happen; to grow the pie.”

Carlson, who first became a member when the Lab Division was the Optical Laboratories Association, told OLP he initially joined to help him grow professionally. And while he’s sure it did that, membership also caused him “to think more broadly about the challenges we all face in the industry and how we can work together to increase business and support for the good of all.”

The networking and learning that result can’t be understated, he added.

“Every survey conducted shows networking to be the number one benefit,” he said. “And they [The Vision Council] position members for success with government and regulatory affairs efforts, their work with ANSI and ISO standards and an unbelievable array of benefits, some of which are specific to The Lab Division.”

These benefits include marketing assistance, customer service training, workplace safety/compliance, plus a dispensing guide, a discount shipping program and the new Electronic Progressive Identifier Catalog, to name a few.

“I’m also really excited about the new Emerging Optical Leaders program, which identifies and develops the future leaders of our industry,” Carlson said. “This group is the industry’s future, and it is up to us to listen to them and mentor them for our collective future.”

As for providing a voice for members, Carlson explained that in his role as Lab Division chairman, he seeks to increase variety and diversity of voices.

“The first thing we did this year was to grow our division steering committee leadership by 50%, with strategic additions to bring more diversity in terms of company makeup, gender and age,” he explained. “I firmly believe that the more engaged, diverse perspectives, the better.”

Any lab can join The Lab Division, with cost dependent on the company’s sales. The Lab Division’s Lab Toolkit details these benefits, and interested companies can obtain a copy and a membership application from Steve Sutherlin, Lab Division liaison. (Visit

“Who wouldn’t want to be a member of the only organization that advocates so effectively on their behalf? It really is a ‘no-brainer’ investment for any organization that is involved in laboratory work in any form, from full service to uncut and finishing only,” Carlson said. “The organization has done so much for the industry just in the time I’ve been involved. The FDA would already be enforcing the Unique Device Identifier Act, which would have been a nightmare for labs, and we would have had to navigate California’s Proposition 65 with no assistance. We wouldn’t have all the national campaigns to grow the industry that The Vision Council has skillfully developed, and we wouldn’t have great trade shows that bring our industry together.”


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