PM Profile: Diversify, Educate, Learn
The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors-National Association will install Frank Maddalon, owner and founder of F.R. Maddalon Plumbing & Heating, Hamilton, N.J., as its new president during its Oct. 27-30 convention in Las Vegas.
Maddalon was zone director for New York and New Jersey from 1999 to 2001, then served as PHCC President Jo Rae Wagner’s secretary during the 2006-2007 term. In 2008, he was elected vice president and was president-elect in 2009. He has served on numerous committees focusing on apprenticeship, codes and vocational training through the SkillsUSA contests. He is a contractor founding member of PHCC’s Educational Foundation, and he also is a member of the PHCC political action committee.
Choosing the trades instead of college, Maddalon began his five-year apprenticeship after high school with Princeton, N.J.-based N.C. Jefferson, earning his Master’s Plumbing license in the late 1960s. He started his business in 1977 primarily to keep up with service and repair requests from family and friends. The company, which is a signatory with Local 9 in New Jersey, focuses on service and repair, as well as high-end remodeling projects in the affluent areas of Princeton and West Windsor, N.J.
PM: What are the biggest challenges facing PHCC members?
FM: The slowdown in the economy is a major challenge for all of us. But you have to learn to diversify to succeed; you just can’t say, “Well, this is what I’ve done for 20 years,” and let opportunity pass you by. We have to look into green technologies, such as solar and geothermal.
The labor shortage is a major issue. Studies today predict that by 2020, construction labor will be down 60 percent. To change that, we need to market ourselves to parents and high school guidance counselors. Also, we have to reach out to our returning service people. They’re coming back home and are going to need jobs.
Licensing and code issues have always been a challenge for members. Some states, such as New Jersey, have strong licensing laws while others have none. When working with the public’s health and safety, licensing puts us all on a level playing field.
In New Jersey, we use PHCC’s National Standard Plumbing Code. But plumbers nationwide are continually fighting local and state code bodies for stronger codes.
PM: How is PHCC helping members address these challenges and take advantage of opportunities in this economy?
FM: Through PHCC and the Educational Foundation, we offer webinars, online resources and contractor best-practice articles in our newsletter. Not only does PHCC provide training on green construction practices, our Green Task Force is developing a program for members to become involved in energy conservation.
We have to help our members move into other areas of work. You just can’t sit around doing what you always did; you’ll wither away with that mindset. Solar and all the green technologies are hot now. Or become a mini GC. At my company, we have a contractor’s license, so we can be the general contractor on full bath renovations. Don’t sit back and just be the plumber or the HVACR guy.
PM: What do you hope to accomplish as PHCC president? What are you passionate about in the industry?
FM: I’m passionate about apprenticeship training - training our young people to become part of our industry. I chaired the Apprenticeship Committee for 10 years. I co-chaired the SkillsUSA committee for six out of those 10 years. For our open-shop members, PHCC has developed a four-year plumbing apprenticeship program. We’re just finishing the fourth year on the HVACR apprenticeship program.
I want to increase our presence on Capitol Hill. Some members don’t understand how much those on Capitol Hill affect our businesses, from the largest member to the one-man shop.
Every president says this, but I want to increase our membership. The key is to market ourselves. We have to show the new and young contractors, even existing contractor members, what PHCC has to offer. Make them aware of our green initiatives, our work on legislative issues that impact our business and our educational programs.
PM: What legislative issues do you believe PHCC should be concentrating on?
FM: We’re doing everything we can through our legislative committee to move our agenda forward. We’re working on legislation for energy conservation and a WaterSense program that would offer rebates to consumers ($300 or $150) for certain WaterSense products installed in a home. One of the issues we have is, as the legislation is written, contractors would have to pay the homeowner the rebate and then get reimbursed by the federal government. Through our Government Relations Committee and our government relations director, we are proposing that contractors offer the rebate and the documentation needed, but homeowners would send in for the rebate and get reimbursed directly from the federal government.
Unfair utility competition and licensing are part of our legislative agenda, as well as reform of the inheritance tax. In the year 2011, the estate tax reverts back to the 2000 level - anything over $1 million would be taxed at 55 percent. One proposal PHCC is looking at would freeze the estate tax exemption at $3.5 million for individuals and $7 million for couples. The top rate would be frozen at 35 percent and the levels would be indexed for inflation.
To be more effective, PHCC needs more money in the PAC and more members attending Legislative Day to help advance our agenda. Legislators recognize PHCC; they do pay attention when 140 contractors and association staffers show up at the capitol and you see the PHCC logo everywhere. But we need more involvement from members.
PM: If you had only one message to give to your fellow contractors, what would it be?
FM: Hold the line. Things are going to get better; this country has pulled itself out of a lot worse. No one can outsource this business to India or China. People are always going to need plumbers and HVACR technicians.
Contractors who aren’t members should look into what PHCC has to offer. We’re a 128-year-old organization, the oldest trade association in the construction industry.
PM: When speaking with young people, how do you describe the benefits of being a member of PHCC?
FM: This is what I tell young contractors coming into the industry: You can’t do it alone. I didn’t think I needed PHCC when I opened my business. But Lester Perlstein [of Frank Perlstein & Son] dragged me to a meeting. I began to see what was being accomplished legislatively on the local and state levels, then later at the national level. How could I make that kind of impact on my own? I became a believer in PHCC. I wouldn’t have come this far without this association.
But if you join, become involved. Don’t just sit back and let the next guy do it.
In the weight room of a local football team I’m involved with, it says, “None of us alone are as strong as all of us together.” I truly believe that.