The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling-Contractors-National Association pumped life into its organization at its annual meeting by introducing an exclusive product line, raising dues to combat unfair utilities and forming a group for new construction contractors.

“This convention was by far the most forward-thinking annual meeting in recent memory,” said Mark Giebelhaus, the outgoing PHCC-National Association president. “The initiatives undertaken throughout the week will keep our 115–year–old association viable and progressive into the next millennium.”

The Philadelphia convention was highlighted by the introduction of PHCC’s exclusive Professional Product Line. The products will be produced by well-known manufacturers, and marketed with the PHCC logo.

As part of the deal, products will only be marketed and sold through PHCC — and not through home centers. The products will be available through plumbing contractors, regardless if they are members of the association.

“The product line means the industry will have a product the public can’t buy at a home center,” said Giebelhaus, who is on the product line committee. “Now we have a product with better features, benefits and warranties than anything the home center can offer, and it’s at a competitive price. It is battling the big-box syndrome.”

Giebelhaus believes that the product line is an excellent recruiting tool. In the case of Bradford White’s water heaters, non-members would only receive a 5–year warranty, while the 4,500 PHCC members would receive an extended 7–year warranty. As other manufacturers join, so will additional benefits.

The product line will market member contractors right to the public, as the campaign moves into its later stages. PHCC plans a national cable television campaign that will allow member contractors to put their company and phone number at the end of the commercial.

“We finally have a vehicle to get our message out to the public,” said Allen Inlow, CEO of the PHCC-National Association. “It ties in with recognition for the consumer — there is a level of respect, skill and expertise they’re dealing with.”

Inlow hopes to get the PHCC logo like the “Good Housekeeping” seal of approval.

Several other manufacturers are on the verge of joining the Professional Product Line, and are expected to announce in the next couple months.

Resolutions: Four of the five resolutions put to the members at the convention were passed, while one was tabled.

The PHCC-NA voted, almost unanimously, to raise annual member dues by $30 — to $315 per year — to make a fund solely to fight unfair utility competition. The restriction of funds will be from January 1998 – December 2000.

“There is a window of opportunity to fight unfair competition by utilities on a federal level,” Inlow said. “Instead of literally fighting door-to-door, we can have an impact on a federal law that will keep competition fair for the contractor.”

Giebelhaus said that PHCC will pool its funds with those from other organizations, like the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) and the United Association (UA).

“Our money alone will not make an impact,” Giebelhaus said. “But a coalition of trade associations will make an effect. Overall, this is an enormous step.”

In other passed resolutions, the PHCC voted to:

  • Allow industry associates to apply for membership on the national level, bypassing the state and local levels. The move will get the organization’s name and image out to more people.
  • Release summarized financial statements to any PHCC association, upon request.
  • Allow the membership at-large to vote for the vice president by absentee ballot. The ballot will be sent out on request.

The PHCC tabled a resolution that would have lowered dues for 55 percent of the members, and brought in an additional $500,000 in revenues.

Proposed by the Indiana association, the resolution would have created a sliding scale that would have let companies pay on the basis of size. The minimum annual dues would have been $200, sliding up to a maximum of $1,000 for larger members.

The rate would have been set at $50 per field employee, taken on the previous year’s employment.

According to Inlow, the proposal will be studied by a committee, and presented at next year’s Toronto convention in 1998.

New Group: Also announced at the convention, the PHCC will be forming the Construction Contractors Alliance (CCA). TheQSC-like group will target new construction and industrial contractors.

The response from the convention was overwhelming, Inlow said. He expects the first meeting to be held next spring in Dallas, Denver or Phoenix.