Refrigeration Council Chair Jon Perry, center, leads a discussion at the HARDI Mid-Year Business Meeting. To his right is Talbot Gee, HARDI vice president, and to his left, is Oscar Lopez of J/B Industries.

OAK BROOK, Ill. - With a new strategic vision taking shape and the Annual Fall Conference nearing, wholesaler and supplier members of the Heating, Airconditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) gathered in a Chicago suburb in early June for the annual Mid-Year Business Meeting.

The day and a half of meetings came on the front end of the combined regional meetings of the Central and Great Lake regions.

“HARDI has been in the process of better defining what it has been doing and what it needs to do,” Talbot Gee, HARDI vice president, said during a meeting of the Refrigeration Systems Council, one of a dozen council and committee meetings that took place, many concurrently. In fact, topics throughout those meetings related to how each council and committee could adapt itself to the vision. At the same time, the committees and councils strategized regarding their roles at the Annual Fall Conference Oct. 23-26 in Houston.

Gee described the vision as encompassing benchmarking, advocacy, education, and networking. “The goal is to help councils and committees be more effective,” he said.


HARDI unveiled a new committee structure for achieving “a long list of extremely aggressive educational strategic objectives,” Gee said. The previous Education and Executive Development committees have been combined into a Professional Development & Training Committee with four subcommittees “that will advance new educational and online learning initiatives.” The new committee also debuted HARDI’s Distributed Learning Network (DLN), a web-based learning management system and course catalog.

Picking up on the education theme during the Refrigeration Council meeting, it was noted the council is considering giving more attention to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) and the development of best practices and guidelines for receiving recovered refrigerant and selecting refrigerant reclamation companies.

During the council meeting, Gee suggested that the topic of refrigerants is becoming so prevalent that perhaps the Refrigeration Council should incorporate the word “refrigerants” into its name.

A recurring theme of the council and committee meetings was creating subcommittees to explore components of topics in more detail. For example, the Refrigeration Council will explore, according to Chair Jon Perry of C.C. Dickson Co., Rock Hill, S.C., the establishment of refrigerant management, refrigeration equipment, and refrigerant subcommittees, the latter of which would be a joint venture with the HVAC System and Equipment Council. Perry noted, for example, the fairly new topic of reclamation.“We are trying to drive best practices. HARDI can get those members who have had success to talk about their experiences.”

Conversation in the Government Relations Committee is moderated by its chair, Karen Madonia.


The advocacy aspect was demonstrated in the Government Relations Committee. One comment summed up a key reason for stepping up advocacy on behalf of HARDI members. “We used to be not involved at all, and then we get regulated and that’s not good. That’s why we have this committee.”

A recent advocacy effort was the Congressional Fly-In. Chair Karen Madonia of Illco Inc., Aurora, Ill., noted that HARDI members went to Washington for 161 meetings with key legislators over an eight-hour period to discuss how existing and pending legislations and regulations affect HVACR distributors and their contractor customers.

This was the third year for the Fly-In. Gee said, “As relationships continue to grow, it is getting easier” to work with legislators and get the industry’s views communicated. He noted the effort is not based on personal feelings about certain elected officials, but on advocating what is best for the HVACR distributor and the industry as a whole.


An example of regulatory issues causing concern in the industry relates to green building legislations and the whole-building approaches. When Chair Tom Roberts of cfm Distributors of Kansas City, Mo., asked for key issues at the HVAC Systems & Equipment Council, whole-building performance headed the list.

Conversation during the council meeting focused on “what the whole-building performance and performance contracting movement is requiring of HVACR.” It proved not to be clear cut, with pros and cons discussed. Issues related to rebates, how systems are specified, and the role of HVAC contractors in the whole-building approach were addressed also.

Attendees at the HARDI Mid-Year Business Meeting gather at the conclusion to review reports from councils and committees that often met in concurrent sessions.


A session of the Distribution/Logistics Committee, moderated by Greg Toler of the Gustave A. Larson Co. of Peewaukee, Wis., dealt with the movement of product by truck. Topics involved dealing with damage, lead times and delivery times. A recurring topic was freight buying groups and preferred carrier status.

Toler noted one reason for the attention to transport is that it is becoming a more important aspect of wholesalers. “We are not going to our warehouses these days and looking at stacks and stacks of product. We have to move product quicker.”


And so it went over the two days. At a concluding luncheon all the council and committees had representatives give reports to all attendees. Among examples of topics:

• The increasing attention to geothermal and chilled-water technologies, as noted in the Hydronic Heating & Cooling Council.

• Trends in compensation noted by the Management Methods Committee, as well as expansion of financial benchmarking and economic forecasting tools for members.

• Insulation alternatives, cited by the Sheet Metal/Air Handling Products Committee.

• Expanded philanthropic activities, cited by the Impact Committee.

• Improved communications and relationships with vendors, as mentioned in the Controls Distributors Council.

• Promoting the competitive advantages of being part of HARDI for attracting new members, from the Membership Committee.

• Professional development, training and learning, highlighted by the Professional Development and Training Committee, which itself had a 3 ½-hour session facilitated by Mike Workman of Michael E. Workman Associates of College Station, Texas.

• In the context of the Supplier Members Committee report to attendees, special attention was given to the DLN which allows members access to a large number of training courses from various industry sources. It was also noted there is the pending introduction of a new Manufacturer Optimization economic forecasting tool slated for later in the summer and HARDI will participate, through the HARDI Foundation, in Texas A&M’s School of Industrial Distribution’s next research consortium, “Optimizing Distributor Growth and Market Share.”

Publication date: 10/11/2010