More than 900 plumbing, heating and cooling contractors raced into Indianapolis for PHCC’s annual CONNECT conference. This year’s attendees were met with powerful keynote presentations, thought provoking educational sessions, several networking opportunities as well as a front row seat to the Plumbing and HVAC Apprentice Contests.
“PHCC has become part of our lifestyle,” says Rick Whitaker, president of Durham, North Carolina-based Brown Brothers Plumbing & Heating Co.
Brown Brothers has been PHCC members since 1993, and family vacations have always been centered around PHCC show locations, Whitaker notes.
“CONNECT is a great way to get to know your competitor — and become friends with them,” he continues. “We get to know our vendors and suppliers and see the new products. It’s all about that direct face-to-face with the manufacturer, rather than a sales person in a region.”
Jeff Heger, president, NixCo Plumbing in Mason, Ohio, joined PHCC in 2000 when he was getting ready to purchase the company from his father.
“At that point we had licenses, and I needed CEU hours so I thought PHCC would be a great place to earn those and, at the same time, start meeting other people in the industry because I was just that kid coming up,” Heger says. “I got to meet so many people, and then eventually, they asked me to be on the board. I always need to be learning. I had my license, but at the same time, I went from the field to the office really young. I was doing the business side of things at a young age. And we need to keep all that other stuff up to date.”
Heger also joined Quality Service Contractors (QSC), an enhanced service group of PHCC, around 2007.
“At the time, everything was changing and we wanted to bump up our service department,” he says. “We’ve gone from one truck to six. They’ve helped me become a very good service contractor.”
During the conference, Jonathan Moyer, president of Cocalico Plumbing & Heating in Denver, Pennsylvania, was named the next president of PHCC.
“There’s a lot of good education sessions going on, but one of the best things about PHCC and CONNECT is the networking and getting to know people in the industry from all across the country,” Moyer says. “I’ve made a lot of friends in this industry that I never would have made without being part of PHCC.”
Moyer plans to continue to build upon PHCC’s five-year strategic plan during his presidency.
“Part of that plan that’s a real concern is protecting the professionalism of our industry,” he notes. “There’s been a lot of attacks on licensing and stuff. So it’s really important that we continue to look out for and protect the professionalism within this industry.”
In addition to contractor attendees, CONNECT 2019 also attracted industry manufacturers and contractor service providers.
“Plumbing and HVAC manufacturers must understand the needs of and challenges faced by their customers, particularly the contractors who recommend, specify and install their equipment,” says Bruce Carnevale, president and CEO, Bradford White Corp. “CONNECT gives us the opportunity to hear PHCC member concerns first hand and identify ways in which we can do more to help them grow their businesses.”
Carnevale notes that this year’s CONNECT was quite telling in terms of how high-tech the industry is going — and it goes well beyond the products contractors install.
“When you walked through the Technology Showcase, there was an abundance of technology presented to help contractors train, communicate and manage their businesses,” he says. “Those who embrace these technological advancements will be best positioned to serve future generations of plumbing and HVAC customers.”
Richard Trethewey of the popular PBS series “This Old House,” had PHCC CONNECT attendees laughing and groaning during his opening keynote presentation. After concluding its 40th season in May, Emmy-winning “This Old House,” is the longest running building-related show in television history.
Trethewey spoke on how contractors can help customers understand what is happening in their plumbing and heating systems by eliminating the technical talk. He also discussed the labor shortage and the need to recruit more young people into the field.
“Nobody knows how to do anything these days — nobody knows how to fix anything,” Trethewey notes during his presentation. “There’s no college loan for trade schools — it drives me crazy.”
“This Old House” added a segment called “Generation Next” in order to broadcast an outreach to the public about the need for more people in the trades, Trethewey notes. The show is working with Mike Rowe and his foundation on the initiative.
“I’ve been honored to represent this industry to the public,” Trethewey says. “I feel so lucky. I’ve been given the greatest classroom in the world to teach people how to do it right and how to hire the right people.”
Connor Lokar of ITR Economics gave the closing keynote address during the show. Lokar addressed the current economic climate, and where it is heading in the future.
“The consumer is slowing down and that is hyper relevant to you, to your industry and to this country,” Lokar says. “When you look at the U.S., we are a consumer-dominated and driven economy. We are relying on U.S. consumers purchasing goods and services in this country to drive our economy forward. When I look at Canada, Mexico, Germany and China, they are reliant of foreign consumers on exports to drive their economies. The United States’ overall exports of goods account to just 8% of our GDP. That doesn’t mean we don’t export goods, we export more on a dollar base than anyone on Earth, except for China. But as a percentage of our economy, that is not what we depend on. The consumer, their health, and more importantly, their willingness to spend is what drives this economy forward, and what we see is they are slowing down.”
Lokar notes that historically, when the U.S. flirts with 1.5% inflation industrial retail sales rate and below, it becomes a serious economic situation for the country, and right now, the core growth rate for retail sales is 1.4%.
“Things are going to get a little bit worse before they get better — it’s going to be scary,” he says. “Our friends in the mainstream media are going to do everything they can to hype this and turn it into a boogie man. Yes, things are slowing down, but it’s not the end of the world.”
CONNECT 2019 was an opportunity for PHCC to celebrate the very best contractors, apprentices, auxiliary members, association executives and students.
James Steinle, owner of Atomic Plumbing Heating and Electrical Corp. in Virginia Beach, Virginia, was presented the Col. George D. Scott Award.
“Jim has made a significant impact on the industry and on dozens of kids who entered the trade due to his passion for the industry,” said Susan Milhoan, executive director of PHCC of Virginia. “He is a self-effacing and tireless proponent of the trades, and we are so fortunate – and proud – to have him among our members.”
Together with Delta Faucet, PHCC presented the Apprentice of the Year Award to Eduardo Flores of Los Angeles. Flores is a second-year apprentice at PHCC Los Angeles who has always had passion and dedication for the industry. After attending university, he made the decision to return to his true calling.
“I grew up in the industry and loved the work,” Flores said in a nomination form submitted by his instructor. “I went to college and decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do in life. [What I want to do] is to be in the field.”
PHCC also recognized the Plumbing Apprentice Contest winners during its awards luncheon. Christopher Redfern of Staunton, Illinois, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 553, was awarded first place. Coming in second place was Mark Morcos of Bushkill, Pennsylvania, Eastwick College of HoHoKus Trade School. The third place winner was Carter Hagen of Davenport, Iowa, UA Local 25.
Additionally, Laura Ciriello-Benedict of Ciriello Plumbing, Beech Grove, Indiana, was named PHCC/Delta Plumbing Contractor of the Year; Castro Valley, California-based Frank Bonetti Plumbing received the Federated Insurance “Safety First!” Contractor of the Year Award; and Ken Midgett of Lehigh Career and Technical Institute in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania was named Plumbing Instructor of the Year.
PHCC CONNECT 2020 will be held Sept. 30 – Oct. 2, in Dallas. For more information, visit www.phccweb.org.