Few HVAC organizations have had a better year than Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI). Carrying the torch for HARDI was Talbot Gee, CEO, whose dedication to HARDI’s members, the association, and the industry as a whole, landed him in the headlines as a 2014 NEWSMaker.

Regional Standards Settlement

In January 2013, a joint motion settlement between the American Public Gas Association (APGA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) vacated and remanded the nonweatherized gas furnace portion of the rule, thus eliminating the 2013 implementation date. The settlement left the 2015 implementation date for the air conditioner portion of the standard intact.

While many in the industry rejoiced the decision, hoping to put the issue behind them and move on as quickly as possible, HARDI leaders voiced displeasure, calling the ruling incomplete. Gee and the HARDI team questioned, “If the court found the nonweatherized rule invalid, why wouldn’t the same principle apply for the air conditioner portion?”

HARDI filed a motion to substitute itself as the petitioner in place of APGA, seeking justice across the entire standard. HARDI’s action upset many in the industry, as it would certainly prolong the case’s uncertainty and jeopardize the definitive resolution the APGA-DOE mediation provided.

Regardless, HARDI stuck to its guns, and, in the end, it paid off.

On March 11, 2014, the parties in the case filed a joint settlement to vacate the furnace efficiency standard and restart the rulemaking process. While the 2015 air conditioner implementation date remains, the industry was granted an 18-month sell-through period for existing air conditioning equipment, which will help many overcome stranded inventory. Additionally, the DOE agreed to take a comprehensive look at its direct final rule process in hopes of avoiding similar circumstances going forward.

“First, we need to give credit to the APGA, which filed the initial petition. But, when the APGA decided to settle on just a portion of the standard, we felt we had no choice but to carry on,” said Gee. “It was important for HARDI and its leadership to look beyond what might be possible in the short run and focus on what is right and just in the long run. Our challenge was rooted in the defense of good, sound policy making and opposition to a precedent being set of reckless, lawless governance. Second, the entire industry needs to know we never would have been successful without the dedication of our leadership; the incredible skill and work of Jon Melchi, our director of government affairs; and Steve Porter, vice president of product management, Johnstone Supply, and co-chair of our government affairs committee.”

While Gee and HARDI continue to celebrate their legal victory, they recognize the battle may have just begun. “We are by no means out of the woods yet — as I believe AHRI [Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute] would attest these days with so many of the new proposed standards for other products. I think it was important to all regulated industries that a clear message was sent to the DOE and the DOJ [Department of Justice] that they cannot simply ignore the law or the positions of the regulated entities.”

A Growing Organization

Even with the legal victories, Gee is perhaps proudest of the association’s continuing expansion.

“In just the second year of our Focus Conference format, we tripled distributor engagement by keying in on four key areas of growth for tomorrow’s most successful distributors: strategic leadership, operations and logistics, marketing and sales, and purchasing optimization. We were also able to support all of this with further expansion of our market research and statistical programs providing our members with some of the most in-depth industry analyses and forecasts available.

“HARDI’s also committed to the growth of manufacturers who choose wholesale distribution as a cornerstone of their go-to-market strategy,” continued Gee. “We completed a detailed, objective supply chain scorecard this year and continued to research — through our research foundation — how distributors contribute to demand creation for the products they sell. Finally, and perhaps most notably, HARDI led the formation and founding of a new venture that created groundbreaking business intelligence software called the Distributor Performance Dashboards for distributors in any line of trade. We believe all of these efforts combine to make a smarter, more efficient, and effective HVACR supply chain that will adapt faster to the needs of tomorrow’s customers.”

While Gee and HARDI’s leaders remain committed to keeping the government on the straight and narrow, his passion remains HARDI’s growing role within the industry.

“Our board encourages this growth and constantly challenges staff to look into the future, which our economists believe holds significant promise over the next couple of years. We will be working on strategies to further improve operational efficiencies and the development of new and existing talent within our distributor companies so they can take full advantage of new growth opportunities with limited resources.

“Professional development — and making that integral to companies’ strategic plans — is one of the biggest opportunities we see for our members today,” he added. “I believe we’ve built, and will continue to grow, world-class resources to position our engaged members far ahead of their competition.”

Emily Saving, director, education and research foundation, HARDI, called Gee’s pride and commitment unmistakable.

“Talbot leads with a contagious passion and strategic vision that inspires the entire HARDI staff to work intelligently, enthusiastically, and with a sense of continuous innovation,” said Saving. “Talbot’s leadership has been invaluable to everyone here at HARDI as we work toward the goal of providing all the resources we can to making our members stronger.”

Publication date: 12/22/2014

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