It was historic because it was the first Spring Meeting since the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) and the Gas Alliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) merged into AHRI in January. More than 530 member-company representatives and guests attended the event.
The meeting officially kicked off with keynote speaker and political analyst Charles Cook. Cook is widely regarded as one of the nation’s leading authorities on U.S. elections and political trends. Cook entertained the crowd with predictions on the upcoming presidential election and a look back at some political history.
However, the analyst got very serious when discussing the importance a group like AHRI has and the big responsibility of the members.
“Being politically involved, contributing to the PAC [political action committee], staying engaged - the thing is there are people who do not necessarily agree with where you are legislatively in terms of your issue policy, or people who don’t wish you well. You have got to look out for yourself and look out for your industry. And you have to stay fully engaged. You have invested your lives in this industry. With climate change and everything going on, there is going to be big, big issues and you have to have a seat at the table.”
The political talk was followed by the 2008 major issues briefing and need-to-know session. This was an opportunity to get everyone up to speed on the merger as AHRI President Steve Yurek gave attendees a rundown of the new organization.
“Through this merger, we created a dynamic, new association with a membership of over 370 manufacturers. Combined, our members represent approximately $27 billion worth of sales in North America, and that puts us in the top 15 percent of trade associations in the country. That strength is already paying dividends on Capitol Hill. We have 63 staff members, and we are in the process of hiring seven more,” Yurek said.
Also announced was the launch of the new www.ahrinet.org Website. It is geared to homeowners, contractors, and members.
“Our goal is to be the go-to source for consumers who want more information about our members’ products; contractors who want more information about how to properly size, match, and install our members’ equipment; and our members who want to know whether a similar company is also a member and where the next product section meeting is going to be held,” said Francis Dietz, the AHRI vice president of public affairs.
LEGISLATIVE UPDATEThe meat of the need-to-know session came when discussing the legislative update. While Don Davis, AHRI vice president of government affairs, touched on a lot of topics, he centered a lot on climate change.
“Climate change is the No. 1 public policy topic in Washington. Of course this issue is not new, it is just the intense media coverage. Al Gore and the associated media hype has sent Washington down the path to fixing the problem. So currently, there are a number of proposals that have significant impact on business,” Davis said.
He explained that in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has formed a special committee on climate change. Davis expects a legislative proposal this summer from the House that is going to include elements of cap-and-trade and recycling issues.
Also on Davis’ mind was the fact that both President George Bush and Sen. John McCain have both made major speeches on climate change recently.
“They talked of cap-and-trade programs, but I think more significantly they have talked about international agreements and mechanisms to achieve emissions reductions. This is actually a little different than the path they have taken in the past,” Davis said.
AHRI believes the next president will be making the final decision. “I don’t think in this session we are going to see any legislation passed. We will see a lot of debate and a lot of discussion. I do think the House will release its proposal this summer and the Senate will continue to debate. But, ultimately, it will be the next administration that decides how the United States will respond to climate change. Most likely, I think it will be during the State of the Union address in 2009,” Davis said.
“Importantly though, these proposals that we are discussing now will be the basis for how we move forward and what that proposed program is.”
The first AHRI Annual Meeting is scheduled for Nov. 16-18 at the La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif. For more information, visit www.ahrinet.org.
Sidebar: Award for Distinguished ServiceTwo industry leaders were saluted with AHRI’s 2008 Distinguished Service Award at AHRI’s Spring Meeting: Ronald Massa, retired executive vice president, A.O. Smith Corp., and David Lewis, retired vice president of government and international affairs, Lennox International. The award celebrates outstanding commitment and dedication to the industries served by AHRI and its members.
“Without the stellar contributions of Ron Massa and Dave Lewis, our industry would not be as strong, vibrant, and successful as it is today,” remarked AHRI Chairman C. David Myers in presenting the awards.
Massa served the industry in leadership roles with GAMA’s Water Heater Division and nine years on the GAMA board of directors. He was GAMA chairman of the board during 2003-2004, after serving as director-at-large, second vice chairman, and then first vice chairman. As GAMA chairman, Massa skillfully finalized the merger of the Hydronics Institute and GAMA and oversaw the modernization of GAMA’s certification programs.
As chairman of the Water Heater Division, he led industry efforts to revise the federal efficiency standards for water heaters and strengthen compliance within the water heater certification program.
An active ARI and GAMA member, Lewis served as chairman of GAMA’s Industrial Forced-Air Heating Division, chairman of GAMA’s Furnace Division, and chairman of GAMA’s Government Affairs Committee. Lewis simultaneously served with distinction for ARI as chairman of the Unitary Small Equipment Section and as a member of Government Affairs, International, and Unitary Regulatory committees.