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Some 'Final Four' excitement of our own

April 10, 2000
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March Madness and Final Four excitement — does the sporting world get any better that this? This is the best, in my humble opinion.

Maybe we’re getting a little carried away with the college basketball theme. I know News editor Mark Skaer has written about it. But I want to add a different twist: Let’s make up the “Hvacr Final Four” and let you choose the hypothetical winner. Here are the players.

The Independents: This group contains the “veterans” of the tournament — teams that put up good numbers and have been doing so for years, resisting the temptation to bulk up their coffers with donations from wealthy alumni. The Independents are a bunch of guys who want to win on their own terms.

The starting lineup includes the likes of Excellence Alliance Inc., (EAI), a group of independent contractors who joined together to form a strong answer to the consolidators; Contractors 2000, with a resolve to get better through mix groups and idea sharing.

Let’s not forget “lesser known” and new stars such as AireServ Inc., Indoor Quality Air, and Affordable Indoor Comfort. If I’ve forgotten anybody, I’m sure I will be reminded.

The Consolidators: This group made a big splash on the scene a few years ago with the influx of Wall Street money and consequent acquisition-spending sprees — kind of like free agency for business owners. They believe in bulking up their bench and bringing in players constantly to keep the mix fresh.

Some of them have taken on a new look recently. For example, ARS is now playing on the ServiceMaster team and Service Experts is bringing the ball up court under the captaincy of Lennox Industries. Meanwhile, GroupMAC strengthened its bench by teaming up with Building One to form Encompass Services Corp. The last of the “original” consolidators, Comfort Systems USA, has been a little quiet during the stretch run.

A couple of the private “consolidators” have joined the fray. I put quotations around the word because one of them, R.S. Andrews, prefers to call itself a “company builder.” The other, Blue Dot Inc., provides good back court play.

The Utilities: This group likes to let its smaller players do the scoring. While the utilities provide the money and resources to make it to the championship game, it is their non-regulated subsidiaries that are taking the ball to the hole.

Some of their names are actually quite familiar in various regions around the country. For example, there is PSEG and KeySpan back in the Northeast, Michigan Consolidated in the Midwest, and Questar out West — big names with really tall reserves.

This team is looking to flex its muscles in the finals, after showing how fast they can get to the ball in the regionals.

The Manufacturers: This last group has been keeping a low profile recently. They’ve been winning games and keeping people guessing by amassing lots of reserve power. They seem to believe that by going to their own bench and not looking at a different recruiting class, they can win with people they depend on.

Teams like Trane have been pushing the team concept for years and another giant, Carrier, is busy bringing some dependable players into the front court, lead by some excellent ball distributors. Another familiar player, Lennox, has been looking north of the border for extra reserves and is probably the most visible name in the consolidation-acquisition market today.

Who will emerge on top?

Maybe the winner of hvacr’s Final Four will be a winner in theory only. Unless some hardcore statistics can back up the winning shot, it is unlikely that any of the four groups will be able to capture this fictional championship.

But if you were a betting person, who do you think has the best shot at winning? Take a look at my brackets with this column and pick your winners. But keep one thing in mind: Each group already is a winner.

I’ll let you know soon if we have a winner or not. My e-mail address and fax number are listed below. Pick your runner-up and winner — and go Spartans!

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