The Whalen Co. recently announced the promotion of Craig Wanner to president and CEO. Wanner’s father, Ronald Wanner, began working at Whalen in 1968, became CEO in 1995, and continued in that position until his retirement in 2005. The NEWS recently sat down with Craig Wanner to discuss his goals at Whalen and his view of the HVAC industry.
The NEWS: Congratulations on the new gig.
Wanner: Thank you very much.
The NEWS: “How does it feel to be running the show at Whalen?”
Wanner: “It feels great. It’s definitely an exciting time here. We have a lot of plans coming together for the next three to five years. Now, it’s just a matter of putting the plan together and taking action on it. Fortunately, I have a great team around me and everyone is focused on getting it done.”
The NEWS: “What goals do you hope to accomplish in the position?”
Wanner: “First and foremost, my goal is to leave the company better than when I got it. Certainly, we see a great opportunity to capture more market share in the fan coil and heat pump sectors. But, to do this, we have to expand our manufacturing capabilities to produce more and grow our engineering capabilities while continuing our sales and marketing strategies. It is a lot of work, but we are excited to get moving on it. We hope to double the company within the next three to four years. It is a very aggressive goal, but we see this as a good opportunity.”
The NEWS: “Did you see this opportunity when looking at the market, your company, or both?”
Wanner: “Kind of both. Since the beginning of the company, we have focused on the vertical stack market. As we grow, we are finding other markets in which we can expand. We certainly have plans to branch out into other market segments on the new construction sector but will also keep a close eye on the aftermarket segment, as well. Whalen supports all our products back to the beginning of the company, and with our current installation base, we have many opportunities to increase our business.”
The NEWS: “Your father started at Whalen in 1968 and became CEO in 1995 until his retirement in 2005. Was there ever any doubt that you would be working for the company?”
Wanner: “Never a doubt in my mind. I love this place and always wanted to work here. When I go out into the shop, I have memories of walking around with my dad and thinking this is where I want to be.”
The NEWS: “Let’s talk about the HVAC industry as a whole. The industry has seen gradual growth the past few years. Is that the case in 2016? What are you seeing this year?”
Wanner: “We are having a very good year. We have projects going on across all of our markets in North America. We see a lot of development in new construction and renovation, and it is almost equal, which is unique. Some areas of the country are booming in new construction while others are strictly renovation work. It has been a very good year, and we look for that to continue.”
The NEWS: “Obviously, you folks play in the commercial space and since you have aggressive company goals, I assume you believe the commercial market will continue its steady growth as you look three to five years down the road.”
Wanner: “Yes, we definitely see good potential. Mixed-use buildings seems to be the new driving force in big cities. We are seeing people move from the suburbs back to the cities. The developers are looking for land, which is not readily available. Instead of going out they are going up. That is great for us in the vertical stack market. Go vertical.”
The NEWS: “This is a crazy political season. Which presidential candidate should the industry be hoping gets elected, or do you feel that will not have much of an impact on the industry?”
Wanner: “Do you really want to ask me that question? But to be honest, if the executive office and congress are won by separate parties, I think it remains as is and not much is going to change. But, if either party wins both, I think all bets would be off. I do think both parties see energy efficiency and sensible building standards as the way to go, so that is a positive. It is just a matter of if they will cooperate and work together to get something done. That is the biggest concern for the industry. The current level of uncertainty makes it difficult to plan and move forward.”
The NEWS: “Speaking of government, do you see the amount of industry regulation as a good thing or does it give you some concerns?”
Wanner: “I think it is a positive thing. I think when government starts regulating energy standards, it requires manufacturers to constantly develop new products to remain competitive, and this forces competition amongst us, which is always great for innovation. The only problem is it becomes difficult when they do not give manufacturers enough time to react. More advanced notice would be beneficial.”
The NEWS: “You guys are in the geothermal market. Do you see the tax credits being extended beyond 2016?”
Wanner: “We are hopeful. If they’re not extended, it would be a shame. Geothermal heating and cooling has quite an impact on overall energy usage. It should be pushed rather than be allowed to expire. If solar and wind are extended, there is no reason geothermal should not be right there with them. To pick and choose winners and losers does not make sense.”
The NEWS: “In regards to this job and the industry, what issue or issues keep you up at night?”
Wanner: “To be honest, I think it is the consolidation of the suppliers in the industry. It is becoming difficult for us to source new components or try to reduce cost when there are fewer and fewer companies to work with. That is tough. As far as this job, I do sleep well at night. We have great employees here at Whalen, our representation is fantastic, and we have solid relationships with our customers, so all that equals sweet dreams for me.”
Publication date: 10/31/2016