There is no doubt that the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) has a lot on its plate. At the national level, eyes are focused on sustainability, increasing energy efficiency, and supporting sustainability and environmentally friendly initiatives, which impact our day-to-day existence.
With the ACCA 2010 Conference & Indoor Air Expo just around the corner, Paul Stalknecht, president and CEO, ACCA, spoke with The NEWSregarding a portion of the palette of issues and concerns that the HVACR industry faces at the dawn of 2010, and expounds on how ACCA is addressing these concerns, as well as helping the organization’s contractor members to do business better, and, ultimately, experience growth and productivity.
As with seemingly every other business and organization trying to remain viable in this new decade, ACCA and its membership are feeling the pinch in terms of the economic recession that the country is lumbering through. Stalknecht said that ACCA is gearing up to address these issues head on in order to keep accomplishing the organization’s founding goals and objectives.
“It goes without saying that the current economic conditions have made everybody take a good, hard look in the mirror and conduct some thorough self evaluation,” Stalknecht said.
“Just as our contractor members have had to re-evaluate their business models and made adjustments as the marketplace has changed, we [ACCA] too have looked for ways to more efficiently and effectively meet our objectives.
“Simply put, we aim to help contractors do business better, and we are constantly introducing new products and initiatives and refining existing ones to help our members take their businesses to the next level,” Stalknecht said, indicating at the same time that ACCA continues to strengthen its core responsibility to advocate contractor issues on Capitol Hill.
SUSTAINABILITY GOALSStalknecht said ACCA fully realizes the importance that going green and incorporating energy efficiency policies plays in the advancement of the HVACR sector. “There’s no doubt that increasing energy efficiency will continue to be a priority for the Obama administration,” Stalknecht said.
“This presents an interesting opportunity for our members, and we’re making sure that ACCA is at the table with decision makers as these policies and proposals take shape.” Stalknecht said ACCA fights hard to have the HVACR contractors’ voices heard in Washington, D.C., as programs are explored and proposed.
“We keep our members posted on the current status and possible implications of such programs. And, if they’re enacted, we’re the first to the scene with clear and accurate information so members can get a jump on implementation.”
Stalknecht also said that ACCA’s technical staff plays an active role in monitoring and developing standards that support sustainability initiatives - not the least of which is ACCA’s Quality Installation/Quality Maintenance program. “It’s an age old message but one worth constant repeating,” Stalknecht said. “Equipment will not perform to the level outlined on the side of the box if it’s not installed properly.”
Stalknecht said that getting the industry trained in proper installation techniques is simply the best way to reach the energy efficiency goals we have as a country.
MORE EDUCATIONAL OFFERINGSStalknecht said that the way we learn as industry professionals is constantly changing. He said that ACCA recognizes that education can be effectively presented on numerous platforms - Web-based, networking events, live training - and that it is a blend of these delivery methods that often makes for a truly all-encompassing educational program.
“While our annual conference is truly the premier learning and educational event of the year, we’ve expanded our offerings in the past few years to accommodate more focused learning that happens on a regular basis through our online Comfort U Webinars, as well as targeted niche conferences that hone in on particular segments of the industry, like our Service Managers Forum, and Commercial Contracting Roundtable.”
Stalknecht said the bottom line is that ACCA remains dedicated to presenting education and networking opportunities requested specifically by contractors.
“We let our members tell us what they need to know, and then we develop solutions delivered in a variety of formats,” he said.
FUTURE OF HVACR IS NOT HVACRAccording to Stalknecht, ACCA believes that “the future of HVACR is not HVACR.” He went on to say that contractors who are going to be successful today and tomorrow are those who understand that homes and buildings are “whole systems” that need to be approached with a system vision.
“We are working with our most forward-thinking members to build an industry that is very different from the HVACR contracting industry in the past,” Stalknecht said. “One that looks beyond the box to the whole building, but then looks inside the building to the lives of those who dwell or work there.
“The impact of our industry on daily life in America is huge. It’s time we recognized this, and got everyone else to recognize this as well.”
Along with the call for accountability, Stalknecht said contractors simply must get themselves involved in the political process - not only at the national level, but on the state and local playing fields as well. “Our industry is made up of community-based businesses,” Stalknecht said, “but for too long, they believed that what happened in Washington, D.C., doesn’t really impact them in their local areas … 2009 proved that that was wrong, and 2010 is going to make it even more clear.”
“Contractors can’t rely on other people to get involved; they all need to get involved, support organizations like ACCA, and after they join ACCA, get involved in the process; participate in the grassroots efforts, and send us their e-mails and messages letting us know what they think,” he said.
“The contractor voice is important, and too many of them are sitting on the sidelines.”
FUNDAMENTAL CHANGESMuch of ACCA’s short-term organizational agenda continues to be shaped by the aggressive new presidential administration and Congress in Washington, D.C. Stalknecht also said that the goal is to minimize negative impacts and get sensible legislation and regulation in place that benefits not just contractors, but the entire country, through improved energy efficiency as well as a sustainable business climate.
“Long-term, we remain focused on work force development issues, and offering ways to help professional contractors differentiate themselves in the marketplace,” Stalknecht said. “In an industry where there are few, if any, barriers to entry, professional contractors need to step up to get codes written and enforced that ensure that HVACR systems are installed to a minimum quality standard.
“ACCA also wants to help contractors show to their customers that there is a difference between professional, quality contractors who care about their customers, communities, and employees and fly-by-night contractors who continue to leave a black mark on the industry…”
And while business these days isn’t always easy, ACCA members can focus on what they do best and let ACCA continue to “fight behind-the-scenes” to create the most positive environment for the HVACR industry that is possible.
“The world has changed, and it’s not going to change back,” Stalknecht said. “Contractors who understand this - who realize that right now is the best time to look at their entire operation, their entire business focus, and adopt fundamental changes to keep ahead of their customers - are in for an exciting ride.”