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The day consisted of attendees mostly milling around and participating in pre-assigned roundtable discussions. The classroom was open for inspection and the lab was turned into a lunchtime chow line of roasted pig and all the necessary trimmings befitting a grand opening celebration.
Though the day was certainly special for all the attendees - some meeting face to face for the first time after years of communicating via www.oiltechtalk.com - the real story here is that of an odd partnership that grew from a mutual desire for education.
The Dream BeginsMercurio has been a traveling trainer for nearly 10 years, specializing in oil and hydronic boiler training since branching out from his beginnings as an oil technician with Leighow Oil. He worked his way up from a service technician to service manager. As with most service managers, Mercurio found himself spending a large amount of time training employees.
That suited him just fine; he soon found that he had a certain knack for helping people learn. He also found that it was a two-way street - the more he taught, the more he learned himself. This prompted him to develop a Web site that would provide a learning exchange where oil technicians could communicate with each other, share their experiences, and thereby teach each other about their common trade.
That's how www.oiltechtalk.com was born.
Mercurio recounted the early days when just a few people visited the site. "I remember when we were having about 150 hits per month."
Things have changed, Mercurio stated. "Today, we have over a half million hits per month. People from all around the world visit the site. We even average six hits per month from Malaysia. The most interesting thing is that we can track our visitors, and we know that those people from Malaysia are consistently visiting the Web site."
In 2001, Mercurio started his own consultant training company, not coincidentally called Oil Tech Talk. One of his most frequent students was Scott Lutz, owner of G. Scott Lutz Htg. & A/C, Hamburg. Lutz had a desire to learn everything he possibly could about his craft and found Mercurio to be a very talented trainer.
Lutz is a remarkable character in his own right. He has an unassuming openness about his personality that draws others toward him. His half-moon smile is almost always stretched across the space between his ears.
Lutz had been looking for a new place to live after spending a while in a motel and then renting a room from a homeowner. When he realized that he was almost paying a full mortgage payment for what he was paying in rent, Lutz decided to buy a house. He found the perfect location and a beautiful log home property on Hex Highway in rural Hamburg, not far from where he was born.
"I found it!" said Lutz when he called Mercurio. Not having a clue as to what Scott was so excited about, Mercurio said, "That's great. Scott, what did you find?" "A training center!" announced Lutz.
When Mercurio made his first drive down the country road, he expected to find an old barn next to a quaint farmhouse to house the new training center that Lutz had envisioned.
Lutz sprang out of the car gesturing to the new house and asked, "What do you think?"
Mercurio was shocked when he realized what was happening.
Jump ahead 15 months later to June 24, 2005, and Lutz has nearly completed the transformation of the adjacent two-car garage and great room above it into a classroom and working lab.
Donations of equipment have flowed in from Honeywell, Field Controls, EFM, R. W. Beckett, and other manufacturers who were well aware of Mercurio's training expertise. In fact, he is a regular trainer for R.W. Beckett and is often called upon by manufacturer reps and distributors to conduct training classes.
Open For BusinessThe first training class in the new center was held in May 2005. The familiar motto of the movie, "Field Of Dreams" - "If you build it, they will come" - was echoed in Hamburg. by hopeful fuel oil aficionados. They expect that the class will be the first of many.
Mike Santoro, of Boro Fuel Oil, Brooklyn, N.Y., and a member of the education committee of the National Association of Oil Heating Service Managers (NAOHSM) summed up the reason with this comment: "Education is a journey, not a destination." Santoro believes that if people in the industry would just take the time to read and go to meetings, they would help themselves tremendously.
Asked why he came from so far for just a one-day event in a rural town in Eastern Pennsylvania, Jack Gustafson, of Glennallen, Alaska, said, "I've been communicating with a lot of these people for about a year via the Internet. I wanted to put names and faces together, and learn more about this business."
As a testament to the importance of the Internet to the industry, Gustafson found that many products have not been available to him through his local distributors. He has begun to bypass those local obstacles and started to order online from wherever he deems necessary.
Had it not been for www.oiltechtalk.com and the dreams of two men by the names of Lutz and Mercurio, it's likely that Brooklyn Mike and Alaska Jack would never have met a guy named "Steamhead" from Baltimore. The three even got to talk about oil burning boilers between second helpings of roasted pig.
For more information on fuel oil training schedules at the Oil Tech Talk Training Center, contact Alan Mercurio, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.oiltechtalk.com.
Publication date: 07/11/2005