The venerable Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Information Bureau (PHCIB), founded in 1919 to be the consumer public relations arm of the industry, quietly closed its doorson Dec. 31, 2000.

PHCIB was founded as an all-industry organization, with membership encompassing all levels of the industry, including manufacturers, wholesalers, contractors, reps, trade associations, the trade press, and the UA, the industry's labor union. All segments were represented on the organization's Board of Directors.

The primary mission of the Bureau throughout its 81 years of existence was to reach the nation's homeowner consumers with positive messages about the industry's services and products, with emphasis on the importance of installation by professional PHC contractors. It did so in most years via massive amounts of free publicity in the nation's daily and community newspapers, through consumer magazine articles, on radio and television and in its most recent years, via its Web site.

In its last year, the Bureau president was Dennis Broderick, senior vice president of sales, of In-Sink-Erator and its chairman was John Heilstedt, executive vice president of sales and marketing of Elkay.

PHCIB for the past year and a half was under the management of the Communications Division of the American Supply Association, with Patti Wilson of the organization serving as its executive director.

For 20 years prior to that, PHCIB was under the management of Marketing Support, Inc., with David L. Weiner serving as its executive director. Weiner resigned that position in April 1999 and served on the committee that found PHCIB a new home with ASA.

"It's really a sad day to see the end of PHCIB," Broderick said. "We tried until the end to find a revitalized niche for the organization, considering all the consolidation that has taken place in the industry, but were unable to do so."

John Heilstedt said, "We could have carried on, but it was obvious that the industry was losing interest in having one consumer voice serve its interests."

Inge Calderone, executive vice president of ASA, added: "We did everything we possibly could to find a direction for the bureau in this very changed industry, but it became quickly apparent that the end was in sight."

Calderone pointed out that the current inventory of the Bureau promotional materials will be made available to state PHC contractor associations to pass on to their members.

There is approximately $5,000 remaining in cash reserves and this will be donated equally to the PHCC-NA Educational Foundation and the ASA Educational Foundation, as donations from PHCIB.

The Bureau files, some of which go back to the 1920s, will be stored by Marketing Support, Inc.

Morrie Beschloss, now an industry consultant, and previously president of a consortium of several large valve companies, who helped save the bureau from near death in 1978, said: "One of the proudest moments in my long career in the PHCP industry was my eight-year chairmanship (1972-1980) of PHCIB. Although the remarkable history of the Bureau has now come to an end, it will always be remembered as the only industry institution that brought all sections together for the common good."

Sam Bloom, a retired PHC contractor and past president of PHCC-NA and PHCIB and member of the Bureau since the early 1960s, said the following about the Bureau's demise: "The industry should miss PHCIB since it encompassed every phase associated with the industry. I will miss the giants of the industry that served as officers and Board members over the many years."

Jim Olsztynski, editorial director of Plumbing & Mechanical, and who was also the official PHCIB historian, having written a book covering the history of the Bureau in 1994 on its then 75th anniversary, commented: "The passing of the Bureau is a sad day, but not unexpected and emblematic of our changing times. The Bureau did a splendid job over the years drawing the public's attention to the importance of good plumbing in their lives. All of us who remain a part of the plumbing industry should resolve to keep spreading that message at every opportunity."

Bureau History

The Bureau was founded in 1919 at a convention of the National Association of Master Plumbers (NAMP), the prior name of PHCC-NA, with William J. Woolley, a former master plumber, as it's first executive director. The name of the organization at that time was the Trade Extension Bureau.

In 1928, the bureau name was changed to the Plumbing & Heating Industries Bureau (PHIB) and had a budget of almost $500,000 and a staff of 65.

Over a period of two years, the Bureau spent tens of thousands of dollars for consumer advertising in the Saturday Evening Post, urging consumers to modernize their bathrooms, take a Saturday night bath, and upgrade to hydronic heating systems. The 12 ads developed for this campaign were reproduced by the bureau in the mid-1990s and sold in packets suitable for framing to all levels of the industry.

In 1932, Norman J. Radder reported that the bureau had generated some 64,000 column inches of free newspaper exposure and had contractors giving speeches before 242 local clubs and organizations.

The depression hit the bureau hard and by the end of the 1930s, the bureau operated under Radder with a staff of three and an annual budget of approximately $20,000.

During World War II, with no products to promote, the Bureau focused on a theme of "Take Care of What You Have," a patriotic call to conserve fuel and keep mechanical equipment in good working order, so as not to detract from the war effort.

In the early 1950s, the bureau focused on "Modernization," specifically bathroom remodeling.

In 1957, the bureau was reorganized by an all-industry committee and given its current name, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Information Bureau, with an annual budget of $150,000. Membership, sales training, and industry promotion were the focus, and by 1959, the organization had 1,300 business organization members.

In the mid-1960's, Jim Purnell, became executive director and for several years, focused on industry publicity and the development of the "WATERight Home" program which encouraged homebuilders to build new homes with extra bathrooms, large capacity water supply piping, adequately sized water heaters, a laundry area, etc. The program was launched with grate fanfare, with a prototype home in Dubuque, Iowa and a handful of other markets. However, the program proved unsustainable. The bureau's budget at the time was approximately $70,000.

This era of the bureau came to a close on June 18, 1978, when Jim Purnell suffered a fatal heart attack in the bureau's booth at the NAPHCC Convention and Exposition in Las Vegas.

In the early 1990s, new programs were introduced, along with the revitalization of the "Selling Fundamentals Program," in which some 5,000 contractor personnel were reached with educational programs relating to promotion, sales, and selling up.

By the mid-1990s, the bureau, through a series of committees and under the oversight of Bill Hargette, reorganized itself with a primary focus as the publicity arm of the industry, leaving marketing and training to PHCC-NA. The bureau transferred all of its training and marketing programs to PHCC-NA.

In 1997 the bureau tried its hand at radio, underwritting the "Home Ranger Show," featuring PHC contractor and past PHCIB president, Roger Peugot, which ultimately was syndicated in some 40 markets. It also published a book, entitled "The Home Ranger Helps You Figure It Out," which had distribution in the major book store chains and online at In addition, the bureau launched an inclusive Web site aimed at offering information to consumers.

At the time of the bureau's transfer to ASA, the focus was primarily on publicity, both to consumers and the trade, industry education programs and enhancing the bureau's Web site, which included nationwide contractor and wholesaler showroom listings and a facility for answering consumer questions about their plumbing and heating needs.