Glancing Back: Wave of the Future

July 10, 2001
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A Snowball’s Chance

In 1939, there were still skeptics who questioned the power of electric refrigeration. Clyde Weidner, a confectioner in St. Louis, MO, was not one of those people. He had faith in his ice cream freezer, and wanted to show skeptical customers what electric refrigeration was capable of.

As reported in the July 19, 1939 News, one January day, as the snow blanketed the city, those inside the confectionery turned to the topic of modern refrigeration. Members of the crowd made jibes while Weidner resolutely defended his new ice cream refrigeration equipment. To quiet the doubting Thomases, Weidner said he’d make a bet with anyone who cared to take the wager that he could make snowballs from the drifts and display them intact the next Fourth of July. A roar of laughter greeted the pronouncement.

When the Fourth of July arrived, the temperature reached 100º F. Weidner dipped into one of the wells of his freezer and emerged with the four snowballs, unmistakably the same ones that had been gathered back on that cold January day.


What Happened?

The directors of Fail Management Institute, Hugh Rice and Steve Darnell, made several predictions on construction trends for the 1990s; these appeared in the July 16, 1990 edition of The News.

One prediction centered on the construction industry and media speculation on this sector’s impending labor shortage. Rice and Darnell asserted that this problem would not materialize. What labor shortages would occur would be handled through acquisitions and joint ventures, they said. Training would continue to grow, but was seen as a longer-term solution.

In reality, the labor shortage did occur in the construction industry, including the hvacr field. In an article by Greg Mazurkiewicz in the December 18, 2000 News, William Rodgers III, chief economist, U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) gave an address on the labor shortage in the construction industry. “Instead of a worker shortage, we think there’s a labor shortage,” he said. Over the next five years, he stated that “We [the DOL] are projecting that the demand for skills will continue to grow.” Rodgers stated that the DOL suggests creating educational and training opportunities and “removing barriers that prohibit participation.”

Rice and Darnell also predicted that a record number of U.S. construction company owners would soon pass typical retirement age, so the number of firms changing hands would increase dramatically. Because so many of these owners would turn to selling their businesses to a third party, the price paid by third parties would go down from what was already a low level.

While a lot of hvacr contractor owners have gotten out of the business or are looking to do so relatively soon, due to the rise in consolidation and other factors, the average price paid for a contracting firm may have stayed the same or risen rather than going down.

Publication date: 07/16/2001

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