The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association will install David Dugger, president and CEO of Knoxville, Tenn.-based ShoffnerKalthoff Mechanical Electric Service, as its new president during PHCC’s annual convention Oct. 3-5 in Philadelphia. He started his mechanical construction career in 1971 as a sheet metal and piping apprentice while studying mechanical engineering at the University of Tennessee. His project management and estimating experience includes projects of varying size and complexity - health care, manufacturing, institutional, commercial office and mixed-use buildings.
Dugger is a strong supporter of the mechanical industry who served as state president and board member of the PHCC in Tennessee as well as on other national and local committees before his election to PHCC vice president in 2010.
Plumbing & Mechanical recently talked with Dugger about his upcoming PHCC presidency - what his priorities will be in 2013 and what PHCC will offer to its members to keep them competitive in a challenging economic recovery.
AdvocacyPHCC and its members are looking to the upcoming national, state and local elections in November to see how various pieces of legislation and regulatory issues will play out in the 113th Congress.
“From PHCC’s perspective, the 113th Congress will be all about change,” Dugger says. “Because of the reforms in Congress during the 112th Congress, the next Congress will differ in terms of how it spends money, how it determines levels of funding for federal agencies, how it determines which federal programs continue, how business and individuals are taxed.
“As a result of the upcoming elections, we expect turnover in Congress will be very high. Members are retiring, resigning and losing primaries at a record pace, so I would anticipate a great opportunity for us to have a tremendous impact on a new profile of Congress next year.”
PHCC will continue to pursue the small business agenda, he adds - estate tax repeal, lead paint rule reform, workforce guidelines for the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, tax credits and tax extenders and a myriad of regulatory issues. However, in order to be effective in its advocacy role, the association will focus on enhancing its strong national grassroots network system.
“Each Congress is different, and each Congress faces issues and concerns that are unique to the times,” Dugger explains. “The key to effective advocacy is to build an advocacy machine that can respond to situations - and take advantage of opportunities. We’re fortunate that PHCC-National Association has an effective, easy-to-use, grassroots advocacy system in place that members have used successfully - and in great numbers - to influence repeal of legislation that would have negatively impacted their businesses.
“Over the next few months we will concentrate on refining the foundation and processes of our grassroots network in order to mobilize the industry and have a strong collective voice at a moment’s notice.”
As a longtime participant in PHCC’s annual Legislative Conference, Dugger doesn’t understand why more members - and contractors outside PHCC - do not become involved with their legislators, whether federal, state or local.
“I don’t understand why anyone would not want to protect his business, his family or himself from harmful legislation and regulations that could literally, in some cases, put him out of business,” he says. “Imagine if the federal government passed a new regulation that would require you to hire three new people and purchase $25,000 in new equipment to handle new administrative requirements as you stood by and watched? Could your company absorb those additional expenses, or would you have to make some hard decisions about the future of your business?
“Politics is a process to ensure our unified voice is heard. It is important that we reach out to our legislators and let them know what we think of important issues being considered - not just at the federal level, but state and local as well. I know legislators want to hear from their constituents, and the more they here from us, the better chance we have of passing legislation that’s pro-business.
“The last few years have been rough, but there have been some significant successes on Capitol Hill - repeal of the 1099 form requirements and 3% tax on government construction contracts. Anyone who thinks their voice doesn’t make a difference is mistaken.”
EducationWhen Dugger made the decision to run for PHCC vice president, which would allow him to become national president, he had a list of objectives he wanted to accomplish in his presidency. He pared down the list because he knew he couldn’t complete them in one year. His focus - and his passion - became educating members on what PHCC offers to help them succeed.
“The uncertain economic situation continues to be the biggest challenge for our members,” he notes. “One thing I would like to do is continue to improve and offer more programs for our local members so they become more successful. We need to concentrate on providing them with the tools to become better contractors, better entrepreneurs.
“I’m really passionate about teaching and training. I think it’s critical for the future. Through teaching and training, you’re also able to preserve and protect our environment.”
He noted that the PHCC Educational Foundation’s semi-monthly free webinars on business management and technical topics are popular with members. This year the association launched new regular member mailings full of valuable business management tips such as understanding overhead costs, and risk management and safety issues. And PHCC expanded programs and services for its HVACR contractor members.
“In this evolved business environment, PHCC members can depend on a high level of education, training and advocacy, as well as a valuable network of contractors available to lend an ear and give advice,” Dugger says.
While the lack of skilled workers is not as prevalent an issue today as it was during the height of the construction boom, it will become more of an issue as the economy fully recovers and the construction industry is back in full swing. The PHCC National Auxiliary, in partnership with the Educational Foundation, will unveil its new career-recruitment video at CONNECT 2012. Aimed at junior high and high school students, parents and guidance counselors, the video showcases the many lucrative career paths found in the construction trades.
“The information the Educational Foundation is receiving indicates there will not be enough skilled workers to fill the needs of our industry in the future,” Dugger states. “We continue to encourage our members to prepare to build up their workforce as conditions improve though our apprenticeship programs. Companies that want to grow their own skilled workforce need to be taking on apprentices to have fully trained field employees in 2016.”
The foundation also is exploring new ways to offer education and training to the future workforce, which has different needs and preferences than previous generations, he says, in addition to online home study courses already offered to members.
Water and energy conservationAlthough economic conditions seem to be improving, contractors are still uncertain about the immediate future. Dugger says members have changed the way they manage their businesses - operations have been streamlined to become more efficient and companies have taken on new specialties to diversify their business opportunities. PHCC offers programs that allow companies to diversify into energy and water conservation.
“What plumbing and heating contractors do on a day-to-day basis makes an impact on water conservation and energy efficiency,” he explains. “PHCC members have many options to learn about these new opportunities for business - free webinars as well as CONNECT 2012 seminars. And PHCC is moving forward with a new Certified Water Auditor program, which is a great way to lead your market as a water conservation expert. We as a nation tend to take things for granted, especially our water, and I think it’s something that needs to be addressed.
“I urge members to take advantage of these programs - it’s another facet of the industry they can profit from. Make sure your customers and other contractors in your area know you have this new expertise; position your company as an expert in your area. Not only do we need to take advantage of these opportunities to educate ourselves, but also to educate our clients. I think the drought we’ve seen this year and the effect it will have in the future is a wake-up call for many people.”
Lastly, what advice does Dugger have for his fellow contractors?
“Invest in your people. I think the contractors who have invested time and resources in their people will be stronger and more profitable when the economy improves,” he notes. “Some companies worried about the economy are being conservative with their resources, but I think we need to be reinvesting in our employees.”