Calling the launch of ISH North America "a vision that had become a reality," Roland Bleinroth, president of Messe Frankfurt Inc., credited a number of people for helping to bring the ISH concept to North America during a press conference on the opening day of ISH North America, Oct. 31-Nov. 2, in Toronto.

"It was an idea that we started to pursue further with our customers, exhibitors, attendees and many people from the press," Bleinroth said. "And eventually it led to what you see outside of these doors now."

Bleinroth complimented the three partners co-producing the show: the American Supply Association (ASA), Canadian Institute of Plumbing & Heating (CIPH) and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors--National Association (PHCC).

"It takes a great team to achieve something great," he said. "This has proven to be a great team and a great partnership; we've put something on the map that many claimed wasn't possible to do in North America."

Show organizers report that 10,735 attendees packed the aisles of the National Trade Centre at Exhibition Place during the three-day event. More than 50 percent of attendees were from the United States, and more than 40 nations outside of North America added a welcome international flavor. Nearly 475 companies exhibiting their latest products and services used almost 110,000 square feet of net exhibition space. Approximately 23 percent of all ex-hibitors were Canadian-based companies. U.S.-based companies accounted for almost 72percent while 5 percent of exhibitors were non-North American manufacturers.

While Bleinroth admitted that ISH North America had not debuted on the same level and magnitude as the ISH show held in Frankfurt, he said it was the idea of creating an integrated approach that makes it unique. The event encompassed several market segments, including kitchen and bath, plumbing and PVF, and heating and air-conditioning.

"We have significant participation from Italy, Germany, Turkey, China, Canada and the U.S., which has the largest with 225," Bleinroth explained.

The event also included 52 seminars and educational workshops. Many of them were sold out before the doors opened.

Looking ahead, Bleinroth unveiled some details about next year's ISH show, which will be held in the newly constructed Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas Oct. 1-3. Without being specific, he said the idea is to fold in more smaller, independently operated trade shows into ISH North America by next year.

"That is part of our vision, which has not been fully completed yet," Bleinroth said. "We're discussing opportunities at this time. Our expectations for Las Vegas is that it will be larger and even better attended than Toronto. It makes more sense for everybody involved to have an integrated event."

Show Highlights

Keynote AddressISH North America featured a special keynote address from well-known plumbing and radiant heating contractor Rich Trethewey. The future of the plumbing, heating and cooling industry depends on exposing today's young people to the trades, Trethewey said, in a standing-room-only address Nov. 1.

At a time when baby boomers are looking to upgrade their homes, there is a severe shortage of skilled workers in the trades.

"Heating and cooling services are one of the fastest-growing areas today," he said. "Many baby boomers have incredible accumulated wealth and they're looking for convenience and comfort. But we don't have the people we need to provide the service."

And that's because the industry isn't attracting young people to the skilled trades. There was a time when vocational and technical schools were the "dumping grounds" of North America, he said; kids wanted high-profile, big money jobs like those in computer programming.

"We lost a generation of people moving into this industry," he explained. "We need to sell the industry to these kids. People don't decide on their career when they are very young; they only know what they don't want to do."

He cited an exhibit currently at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. -- "Celebration of the Building Arts" -- where families can give kids a hands-on experience with construction.

Lack of skilled labor will result in a change to the industry, Trethewey noted. He sees using a manifold approach to everything, a more plug-and-work approach to accommodate the skill levels of future plumbing and heating contractors. He also sees service trucks equipped with Web cams so employees out on the job who run into problems can get direction from a seasoned pro back at the office.

PHCC Convention:Both PHCC and ASA held their annual conventions in conjunction with ISH North America.

With membership a major goal of his presidency, PHCC president Bill Trombly discussed the association's continuing campaign to increase membership to 6,000 members by 2005.

"We have set new incentives to bring in membership and many states have taken advantage of what we have to offer," Trombly said at the PHCC Convention Oct. 30. "We at national will credit a state $100 for every new member they get that pays a full year's dues."

PHCC vice president Steve Carder, who has also served as membership committee chairman since 1999, said the association is beginning to see an upturn in membership. "I appreciate what PHCC has done for me and for Carder Plumbing. I want the thousands of contractors who are not here today to learn what I have learned."

One way PHCC is increasing what it does for members is in the area of government relations. Mark Giebelhaus, chairman of the association's Legislative Committee, reported on how his group has renewed its emphasis on working on Capitol Hill.

"A survey conducted by the PHCC Education Foundation determined that more than 90 percent of PHCC members believe their biggest need from the national office is representation of the industry before Congress and federal agencies," he said.

To help fill that need, this year's convention name badges included a "PAC man" sticker to help increase contributions for lobbying activities. As an added incentive, PHCC held a drawing for a free registration to next year's convention for those who filled out the special PAC forms. To further raise money, the committee held its first annual PAC silent auction.

As a result of lobbying activity, PHCC is determined that no law or regulation that affects the industry is put forward without the input of PHCC members. With that in mind, Giebelhaus announced the development of a special scoring system -- a database of all federal legislators identifying where they voted on issues relevant to our industry.

Finally, participants were encouraged to fill out a government relations survey questionnaire in order to help the committee rank its legislative/regulatory priorities.

In other membership-related news, Mike Kastner, head of the Professional Product Line, announced that American Body Co. has joined the list of products specially marketed for the trade.

James Driscoll, chairman of the PHCC Educational Foundation, said the "Managing PHC Projects" course will debut both an essentials and an advanced version of the intensive four-day class. The seminar will also be held in various locations around the country.

ASA Activities:The American Supply Association's annual meeting held in Toronto beginning Oct. 29 carried the theme "Supply Chain Management." For the first time in its history, ASA geared its convention program to its channel of distribution, including the 200-plus vendor companies -- manufacturers, manufacturers rep firms, service suppliers and others -- that are members of ASA.

One of the major events of this year's annual meeting was the "Supply Chain Summit" Oct. 30, at which various speakers, including manufacturers and wholesalers, discussed how the industry can move forward.

Robert Machaby, senior vice president/vendor development at Hughes Supply, said that prior to entering into electronic data interchange arrangements with vendors, Hughes discovered that 40 percent of all purchase orders it issued contained a mistake, and it cost about $70 to fix each of those errors.

"We went from having EDI with fewer vendors than you can count on one hand to more than 500 of our top vendors," he said. "Today about $1 billion of our volume is done through EDI."

The industry has to change its perspective about information technology, said Rex Martin, chairman/president/CEO of NIBCO.

"We used to view information technology as a cost of doing business and we did everything we could to reduce that cost," Martin said. "Five to seven years ago we changed our approach, saying information technology is something we need to invest in to improve productivity. Since then we have reduced our inventory by $40 million and improved our fill-rate, from 88 percent to 95 percent," he said.

Award Winners Announced At PHCC

Various awards were presented during several PHCC functions.

Bradford White Corp. held its annual scholarship breakfast Oct. 31, handing out awards to 34 recipients. The top winner of the morning was Lindsey Bienvenu with the $3,000 Ginny Carlson Award. Bienvenu is from Louisiana and intends to study neo-natal nursing at Louisiana State University.

Winners of the Bradford White Industry Awards were Bradley White from Indiana, who received $1,500 to attend the Milwaukee School of Engineering and major in mechanical contracting/engineering; Scott Robertson from Washington, who received $1,300 to attend Cal Poly University and major in mechanical engineering; and John Rajnicek from Wisconsin, who received $700 to study plumbing at Waukesha County Technical College.

The American Standard Award for $1,500 was given to Sarah Jackson of Florida; she will pursue a career in the medical field at the University of North Florida.

Winners of $500 were: Amanda Abbott (Ind.); Ben Angeli (N.J.); Kelly Bergman (Ohio); Jesse Bouwens (Neb.); Rebecca Cowart (Ind.); Daniel Cullen (N.J.); Monique Davis (Mont.); Nicole deFur (Conn.); Peter Frei (Minn.); Brooke Gagne (N.H.); Jaclyn Gormley (N.J.); Stacey Heidler (Md.); Bradley Juszak (Ill.); Melanie Kegerise (Pa.); Angela McVey (N.C.); Sallie Moore (N.C.); Jason Nickle (Del.); Ryan Olson (Minn.); Michael Quigley (N.J.); Colleen Rencher (N.Y.); Thomas Roglieri (N.J.); Victoria Sabat (Mo.); Jessica Shuman (Ohio); Stephen Simmons (Ky.); James Smith (N.C.); Justin Smith (Ind.); Melissa Stultz (Md.); Courtney Tipping (Mass.); and Adam Wendholt (Ind.).

In related news, the PHCC Scholarship Committee also announced a number of scholarships the day before the breakfast. The following students will receive up to $12,000 over the next four years: Jason Kopke, sponsored by Afton Inc., Spring, Texas, was awarded the Charles F. Hiley Sr. Scholarship; John Mike D'Agostino, sponsored by Tatro Plumbing Co., Garden City, Kan.; and Lane Burt, sponsored by Mechanical Contractors Inc., Charlotte, N.C.

The following students enrolled in a two-year community college, technical college or trade school will each receive up to $3,000 over two years: James B. Danielson, sponsored by Rapids Plumbing and Heating Inc., Grand Rapids, Minn.; and Kyle Fancher, sponsored by Rudy Gasper Plumbing, Binghamton, N.Y.

Finally, the following students will each receive $2,500 over two semesters: Joseph L. Parks, sponsored by Goyette Mechanical Co. Flint, Mich.; and Bradley White, sponsored by Repairs Inc., South Bend, Ind.

In addition to scholarships, the PHCC recognized various winners of the association's 2002 membership contest:

o The Missouri PHCC with a retention rate of 98 percent won the best retention rate for a state with less than 100 members. For a state with more than 100 members, the New York PHCC won with a retention rate of 91 percent.

o The Connecticut PHCC took top honors with the largest percentage of new members, posting 27 percent growth in new members.

o The Texas PHCC won the prize for most new members with 38.

Finally, the NAPHCC Auxiliary named Linda Bienvenu its Member of the Year at the PHCC closing banquet Nov. 2. Also, at the Auxiliary's In-Sink-Erator Luncheon Oct. 30, the group recognized the following:

o Dorothy Clem of the PHCC of Illinois won the 3-D Award, a new "Hall of Fame" award.

o The PHCC of Baton Rouge, Louisiana Auxiliary won the Image Award.

o The PHCC of Delaware Auxiliary won the Recruitment Award.