One way to define newsmakers are those who make a lot of news. And that has certainly been the case for Talbot Gee and the Heating, Airconditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI).

The year began with Gee being named Executive Vice President and his predecessor Don Frendberg transitioning to Chairman of the association — a succession plan that began five years earlier when Gee joined the organization. Prior to that, Gee spent close to 10 years in trade association related work following graduation in 1997 with a degree in political science from Johns Hopkins University.

Early in his EVP tenure, Gee stressed the importance of HARDI becoming “a 24/7 consulting arm for our members” and helping members deal “with the profit margin crunch. How can a company grow services when margins are shrinking? The current situation is going to require distributors to be more scientific, data driven, and analytical.”

And as that was being done, HARDI also became involved in 2011 in a wide range of industry projects and initiatives, such as:

• Becoming a philanthropic partner for Homes For Our Troops, a non-profit organization that builds home for injured veterans.

• Entering into an agreement with National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) to promote programmable thermostats that have earned Energy Aware® certification.

• Running the annual Congressional Fly-In that brought 63 distributors and manufacturer members to Washington, D.C., for more than 170 private meetings with members of Congress and staffers.

• Forming a Center for Energy Efficiency Optimization (CEEO), a subsidiary of the HARDI Foundation, to research the role of wholesale distribution in energy-saving and renewable technologies.

• Joining with BNP Media, publisher of The NEWS, to launch a new publication for HARDI members.

• Holding a workshop on optimizing distributor growth and market share as part of an ongoing relationship with Texas A&M University.

• Proactively opposing labor rules that HARDI said restrict open lines of communications between employer and employee.

• Voicing opposition to Department of Energy rules establishing regional efficiency standards that HARDI said could negatively affect contractor credibility.

Gee said that the past year was a combination of proactive efforts of HARDI as well as reactive response to ever changing industry dynamics. “We want to be as proactive as possible, but with government, for example, we usually have to be reactive.”

But with all that activism, Gee said the most important aspect of the past year was putting an infrastructure in place at the headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, “to make sure we are optimizing our resources in terms of planning, processes, and staff.” This puts the organization in position to move ahead in 2012 to help members grow their businesses and “make sure success isn’t an accident.”

Richard Cook, president of Johnson Supply of Houston, and HARDI’s immediate past president, had a similar comment when he described the year as a time of “transition in leadership and the expansion of staff talent that will probably be the most important legacy over time.”

Current HARDI president Bud Mingledorff, chairman of the board for Mingledorff’s Inc., also referenced the services being offered through HARDI and the importance of members taking advantage of them. “We must become more analytical in our long-range planning, more dependent on the measurement tools available for our businesses, and more intent on staying focused.”

It is with that directive — plus a full plate of ongoing initiatives — that Gee and the HARDI team move into 2012.

SIDEBAR: 2011 NEWSmaker

Name: Talbot Gee

Title: Executive Vice President

Company: Heating, Airconditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI)

Location: Columbus, Ohio

Notable quote: “How can a company grow services when margins are shrinking? The current situation is going to require distributors to be more scientific, data driven, and analytical.”

Publication date: 12/19/2011