Industry Rep Meets With President Obama

May 11, 2009
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Alan Givens shakes hands with President Barack Obama on April 15, during a White House meeting with people who had recently taken advantage of the tax credit stimulus package. Givens is CEO of Parrish Services in Manassas, Va.


HVAC contractor Alan Givens was recently invited, in whirlwind fashion, to meet with President Obama at the White House. On April 10, Givens, the Virginia state president of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors (PHCC) Association received a phone call from Ike Casey, national PHCC executive director, asking if Givens could meet with the president on April 15, tax day in the United States - and an opportune day for the Obama administration to strut its stuff.

“Obviously, I accepted,” said Givens, CEO of Parrish Services Inc. in Manassas, Va. “I went through a vetting process on Monday, got the invitation on Tuesday, and on Wednesday I was shaking hands with the President of the United States.”

Givens was one of eight people who had been invited to talk with the president about how they had already begun to take advantage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that became law on Feb. 17.

The White House invited a variety of people to spend 45 minutes with the president talking about some of the tax incentives for new home purchases and job training, as well as other tax breaks. Each had a story to relate to the president about how the stimulus program had benefited them individually.

“I was the only business owner among the group,” said Givens.

Given’s business has had phenomenal success this year with a growth rate of 91 percent, and much of that is due to the tax credits available for geothermal sales.

“I’m growing business through geothermal sales and using the 30 percent tax credit under an uncapped program. Also, we have been able to take advantage of several state programs in Maryland, one of which offers $1,000/ton for geothermal, up to 3 tons. One county program offers a $5,000 property tax abatement; and, geo equipment in Maryland is not subject to sales tax.”

WEATHERIZATION HINTS FROM OBAMA

Givens believes that not enough contractors are taking advantage of the president’s recent stimulus package, and local or state programs that are right under their noses. The conversation with Obama gave him an additional idea to pursue.

Givens said, “When the president was first introduced to me, he said, ‘Oh, so you’re involved with the weatherization program?’ I said ‘No, I’m looking into it, but that’s not why I’m here.’ He encouraged me to check it out.”

“Though I don’t agree with every thing the president is doing, he seems very bright, and he brought to my attention something I had not yet explored. I looked into it in Virginia, and found we were simply not taking advantage of a very good program.

Nine people, primarily homeowners, met with President Obama to discuss economic conditions. Givens was the only one representing small business.

“Many HVAC contractors think weatherization is only about insulation. The weatherization program [in the state of Virginia] includes duct sealing, insulation, and replacing heating and air, and hot water systems.

“I was advised by the Housing and Urban Development department in Virginia that through weatherization program funding my customers can get grants for energy upgrades. A customer can be approved for funding with a home of any value, as long as their income is below a certain level, and the project is approved by a third-party organization, such as a charitable organization.”

Given’s company has already been installing donated used equipment through an involvement with several charitable organizations. “This helps because we already have the connections with the third parties, and now those same charitable organizations can approve my company’s customers for the weatherization funding,” said Givens.

While with the president, Givens learned about an opportunity for HVAC contractors to utilize the current Weatherization Assistance Program.

GIVENS' FINANCING HINTS

“How many people would pay for cell phones if they had to pay for 20 years of minutes in advance,” said Givens, “That is the way geothermal is perceived.”

Givens is expending a lot of effort trying to overcome the No. 1 barrier-keeping people from entering the geothermal market - upfront cost. The cost of purchasing renewable technologies is the primary barrier, given that most people worry about not being in the home long enough to recoup an obvious payback. Givens has found a way to offset this first cost, but he would have to move to California to take advantage of the current program.

The Berkley Plan was devised by the City of Berkley, Calif., as an energy efficiency municipal financing program to incent buyers to purchase solar power. Givens met with the City of Berkley and with its funding entity in Oakland, Calif. Here is what he found out.

“Under the Berkley Plan, a county or municipality will offer 100 percent financing for purchases such as solar power, if you hire one of their approved contractors. The municipality is offering the loan at 7.5 percent, and allows the customer to pay it back with interest over 20 years as part of property taxes. The financing is backed by the primary mortgage property taxes, the loan can be transferred to a subsequent buyer, and it is tax deductible. I can’t find anything wrong with this plan,” said Givens.

Givens said, “My business is up 85 percent as a result of using the available stimulus package. We have been hiring people the last few months rather than laying people off. If a plan such as the Berkley Plan could be offered nationwide to encompass all renewable energy solutions including geothermal, the HVACR business community could grow even more.”

In addition to a number of cities in California that have enacted the municipal financing, there is legislation pending in Virginia, Washington, and Texas; and Colorado has already passed a version of the law.

Givens suggests that every contractor should investigate the state programs that are available to them. “Get involved in your trade associations and see that language which would disallow programs like the Berkeley plan, don’t slow things down. We all need to help shape the legislation that is affecting our industry.”

For more information, go to the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy at www.dsireusa.org to find local programs, which may be of help to you in your community.

Publication date: 05/11/2009

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