SAN ANTONIO — Education was at the forefront as Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) members gathered in San Antonio for the organization’s annual conference.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

On the first day, HARDI’s chief economist Alan Beaulieu laid out the economic landscape for those in attendance. He pointed out the slow and steady growth the U.S. economy has enjoyed the past five years and projected this growth will continue over the next several years. He attributed the growth to numerous items, including rising employment, banks lending, and non-residential construction improving.

“You should have big goals in front of you or else you’re going to look back and say you squandered the opportunity,” Beaulieu said. “This is the time to move forward.”

Beaulieu recommended business owners borrow money and invest in their businesses.

He also acknowledged a growing economy will create some problems for businesses that have not necessarily existed in the recent past. A healthier job market will cause labor rates to rise, squeezing margins for HVACR distributors and opening the door to employees leaving for more lucrative opportunities. Beaulieu suggested business owners combat this by looking into compensation increases for their most valuable employees.

The economist also provided some bad news. He listed China’s debt problems, the psychological effects of high unemployment, and Europe’s slowing economy as concerns. Beaulieu also predicted what he termed a “second Great Depression,” which he believes will occur around 2030.

A Generational Pivot

The last day of the conference was highlighted by political media personality Tucker Carlson, who entertained HARDI attendees with his take on Washington and projections for future presidential hopefuls.

Carlson said the country is in the middle of a generational pivot.

“We are at one of those moments in history where an awful lot is happening at once,” he said.

“I am completely convinced that high school seniors who graduated in 2008 will have very little in common, in their assumptions, with high school seniors who graduated in 2009. So much has changed about the way young people see the country. Their core assumptions about democracy, capitalism, science, and everything, are all very, very different and all very unclear at this point. The bottom line is that … there is a ton of turmoil just beneath the surface,” he added, indicating more change is to come as that generation matures.

Carlson also pointed out the importance of surrounding yourself with honest people. “The higher up on the corporate ladder you ascend, the fewer who are going to tell you the truth. The more powerful you become, the more people suck up to you — and all your jokes are funny; and you’ve always lost 10 pounds; and all your ideas are brilliant, sir, brilliant,” he said.

Carlson, who has supported Libertarian viewpoints in the past, shared his disdain for Americans’ growing economic dependence on the government. “We need the Libertarians in the Republican party to be outspoken about how it’s embarrassing to take handouts,” he said. “I think we need a Libertarian spirit informing our economic decisions.”

Conference attendees also heard from Robert Stephens, who is the founder and former CEO of The Geek Squad.

“The HARDI annual conference this year was certainly one of the best in terms of providing informed perspectives on many different aspects of our business, and we’re excited about incorporating much of what we learned into our business,” said Layne Miller, CEO, Geary Pacific.

Awards, Appointments

The conference also included the swearing in of new HARDI president Bill Bergamini.

As president, Bergamini plans to emphasize traditional business skills and strengthen relationships and partnerships.

“Technology and innovation are big keys to success. I don’t deny that. We need to work with our customers to find the best ways technology can streamline our businesses and make us both more efficient. That being said, we first need to be sure we have a strong foundation in traditional business skills, soft skills, and relationship building. That’s the core. When that foundation is solid, then we build technology on top of it.

“Over the next year, I want to make sure HARDI members strengthen their foundations and apply technology in the most effective way, and never lose sight of how important business relationships are,” he said.

HARDI named three champions for their outstanding contributions to specific HARDI pillars during the conference: Steve Porter, Johnstone Supply, in recognition of the Advocacy pillar; Minnesota Air for the Benchmarking pillar; and Century A/C Supply and Behler-Young for the Education pillar.

HARDI also recognized Steve Hassebrock, CEO, American Metals Supply Co. Inc., with the Outstanding Dedication Award. The distinction acknowledges a member who has provided years of continuous leadership and service to HARDI and the HVACR distribution industry.

“I’ve dedicated a lot to HARDI because I believe in the association and understand its instrumental value in strengthening HVAC distribution,” Hassebrock said. “I’m so honored and humbled that my colleagues in the industry have given me this recognition, and I want to sincerely thank them for that.”

HARDI also honored seven of its members with Key Member Awards. The awards recognize members who have strengthened the association by encouraging at least one new distributor member to join in the past year. This year’s recipients include Brian Cobble of G.W. Berkheimer Co. Inc.; outgoing HARDI president Royce Henderson of Charles D. Jones and Co.; Dick Foster of ZoneFirst; Tim Chilen of Kasco; Ted Heneka of G.W. Berkheimer Co. Inc.; Lance Benefield of Arkema; and Greg Monti of MA-Line.

Publication date: 3/2/2015

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