Surprise guest entertainment from Vocal Trash, a five-piece, all recycled instruments band rocked the opening session at the Air Conditioning Contractors of America 41st Annual Conference.

FORT WORTH, Texas - Those who attended the 41st annual Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, were pleasantly surprised in the Lone Star state. With talk of an economy on the downturn, one might have expected a lower turnout at the typically well-attended ACCA national convention.

However, according to Kevin Holland, the association’s vice president, “Even before the beginning of the event, we knew that pre-registrations were over the top - it was a record year for attendance.”

What may have been most satisfying for conference goers was the positive buzz around the show. Certainly, many contractors admitted to hunkering down a bit with a tougher economy as they implement austerity measures in their businesses, but the general sense was one of optimism for the HVACR industry. Larry Taylor of AirRite A/C in the host city said, “We are putting more effort into our core business right now. We are making sure we take very good care of our primary customers.”

Held in conjunction with the ACCA Conference was the Indoor Air Expo, co-sponsored by ACCA and the Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA), which also held its 12th annual meeting at the same time. Over 2,300 people attended this year’s expo, which contained nearly 300 booths.


In his opening remarks, outgoing chairman Ray Isaac of Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning told the audience that ACCA has turned it up this year, all year long. “In a year when many associations saw their memberships decline, ACCA had its sixth straight year of membership growth, and we are already on track to grow even more in 2009,” he said.

ACCA also released its 2008 Report to Members, which included a number of accomplishments - from legislative victories to expanded training programs to the development of new standards and a widening acceptance of ACCA’s Quality Installation and Quality Maintenance programs.

Throughout the event, ACCA expressed gratitude to its Platinum Elite sponsors, whose extraordinary support of the conference helps make all of ACCA’s work possible year-round. Returning as Platinum Elite sponsors this year were York, Carrier, Lennox, and Rheem. New Platinum Elite sponsors this year were Federated Insurance andThe NEWS.

There were more than 25 educational sessions at the conference focused on successful contracting management, marketing, and quality contracting. ACCA’s workshop schedule is unique in the industry in that its topics are developed based on a comprehensive survey of members, and this year’s workshops received the highest ratings ever.

Special meetings for contractors also included “I’ve Got an Idea!,” ACCA’s classic rapid-fire idea generating session; and a Contractor Town Hall Meeting, focused this year on discussing ACCA’s ongoing reaction to a newly-activist White House and Congress.

Paul Stalknecht, president and CEO of ACCA, gets caught in the crossfire of the Passing Zone, an unusual keynote presentation to close out the annual meeting. The Passing Zone taught everyone careful lessons about partnership and teamwork.

At the opening general session, following a surprise visit from the band Vocal Trash (which brought the audience to their feet with their unique trashcan-thumping music), Eric Chester kept the audience rapt with his explanation of how the new generation of workers are different from the generations that came before - and he offered specific strategies for recruiting, managing, and retaining them.

Three awards were presented at this year’s conference: Apollo Heating and Cooling of Cincinnati won the 2009 ACCA Award for Excellence in Residential Contracting; Harrington Engineering of Old Saybrook, Conn., won the 2009 ACCA Award for Excellence in Commercial Contracting; and Amanda Jones, executive director of the ACCA Greater Houston Chapter, won the 2009 ACCA Spirit of Federation Award.

At the chairman’s banquet, Isaac passed the baton to 2009-2010 ACCA Chairman Stan Johnson, president of Stan’s Heating and Air Conditioning in Austin, Texas. Johnson praised his predecessor for his extraordinary leadership, and then spoke to the challenges that contractors are facing in this very different world.

“My goal as chairman will be, that at the dawn of this new administration, we will position ACCA so that we are able to protect our members’ interests and help this industry thrive for the next four years,” he said. “It sounds simple, but it’s going to be hard. And I need your help; each and every one of you.”

Johnson outlined an aggressive vision of working to fight for contractor interests and maintain ACCA’s “seat at the table” in the halls of Washington.

“Over the next year, you’re going to be hearing even more from me and from ACCA,” he said. “We won’t just be telling you things, we’ll be asking you things. The wonder of technology means that we never have to guess what you think. You can tell us.”

After three jam-packed days of learning, the conference ended with what Johnson described as “the craziest keynote presentation we’ve ever had” - the Passing Zone, a performing duo that drew raves and applause for their unique demonstration of teamwork and how it can work in the real world.

The 42nd Annual ACCA Conference, “The Big Picture,” will be held March 7-9, 2010 in Tampa, Florida.

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Publication date:04/13/2009