Much to the pleasant surprise of members who attended ARI's annual meeting at the Breakers Hotel, Martin Regalia, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's chief economist, did not rain on the trade association's golden anniversary parade. In truth, he only added to the festive mood, painting a bright economic future ahead.
"We have an economy that is growing and doing quite well in terms of GDP [gross domestic product]," said Regalia. "This economic recovery has been different from recoveries of the past. It has moved from an economy that wasn't creating jobs to one that is. When we saw the third quarter growth, we saw trade that is helping, not hurting, the economy. It is a tremendous achievement and it shows that the economy is more balanced and has more staying power."
Regalia noted the job situation is positive because the economy is growing more than 3 percent per quarter; he pointed out the growth rate was 7 percent in the third quarter.
"When it is above 3 percent growth, employers are optimistic and you create jobs," he said. "It is as simple as that."
Going through various charts and figures to prove his positive predictions, Regalia did note that consumer confidence has not necessarily bounced back fully - yet. But, the former financial economist for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation did not have much faith in such assessments, noting, "people really spent much all the way through this recession."
In regard to the growing housing market, he said it "helped blunt the effects of the decline in the stock market." He claimed the recession came as an aftermath to the tremendous buildup in production and spending prior to the "Y2K crisis." In his eyes, this created excess capacity in the computer sector.
"This economy is poised to take off," he predicted, offering that the inventory-to-sales ratio is at a record low. "There is demand for products, but we have little inventory to fill the demand."
In his estimation, the current unemployment worries will soon change to labor shortages in the next two years. He also stated that inflation has remained very low because of significant gains in productivity.
Not that Regalia was all sunshine. He was somewhat critical of Washington in two areas: surpluses and energy policies. In his estimation, politicians saw surpluses "and proceeded to spend them."
"This is wrong because surpluses are â€˜excess' taxes," he said.
In the end, though, he left ARI members with hope.
"This economy is beginning to cook and we are in for a very good run," he concluded.
Time CapsuleOutgoing 2003-2004 ARI Chairman Tom Bettcher actually set the festive pace before Regalia came onstage. The president and CEO of Copeland introduced a time capsule, which students from Meade County ATC, a high school in Brandenburg, Ky., assembled to commemorate ARI's 50th anniversary.
"Future generations, maybe at our one hundred year anniversary, will open it and will be intrigued with our technology - much as we look back at 1953 and the equipment of that era - and marvel at how far we have come," said Bettcher.
The capsule contained industry memorabilia that, as Bettcher put it, "will tell the story of how we improve the quality of life for people around the world." Among the items selected were:
"None of what ARI has accomplished over the years would be possible without the dedicated efforts of many volunteers," he said.
Bettcher introduced his own welcoming economic sign.
"It appears likely that ARI members are within reach of shipping 6.8 million central air conditioners and heat pumps, which would be a new record," he said. "There are now an estimated 65 million central air conditioners in the field. It is vital that we improve the way our equipment is serviced and installed."
He had a few glowing remarks concerning North American Technician Excellence (NATE), too.
"We now have more than 15,000 certified technicians," he reported. "Next year's goal is to administer 23,000 tests. We are well on our way to success with NATE and I want to thank all of the organizations represented here today for your wonderful support.
"This industry, through ARI's leadership, has invested millions of dollars to fund NATE initiatives and it is now clear that the program will be successful and will dramatically improve the industry."
New Chairman AboardNewly elected 2003-2004 chairman Dave Pannier also had plenty to say regarding NATE.
"NATE's 2004 goal is to sell and administer 23,000 certification tests - that's more than five times the activity generated in 2001," said the president of Trane Residential Systems. "Yet, we all know we have just scratched the surface. To be truly successful, NATE's mission is to certify hundreds of thousands of technicians over the coming years. Greater numbers will help in several ways.
"First, more competent and better-trained technicians will reduce the callbacks to contractors on installations and eliminate or greatly reduce callback corrections and associated costs. Second, homeowners and business owners appreciate first-class service and have high regard for certified technicians.
"Third, creation of a trusting relationship between the customer and the service technician or equipment installer will improve the overall image of our industry and create new business opportunities for manufacturers, contractors, and distributors - everyone in the sales and service chain. And, relationships based on trust will pay big dividends in the years ahead as we make steady progress on one of the industry's next big challenges - the production phaseout of R-22 equipment."
In addition to Pannier, Geraud Darnis, president of Carrier Corp., was elected first vice chairman. ARI officers elected by the board included Scott Boxer, president and COO, Service Experts Inc.; Ralph Coppola, president and CEO of Hill Phoenix; Steven Duerwachter, president of Baltimore Aircoil Co.; Ian Stewart Farwell, executive vice president and COO of Rheem Manufacturing; John Ferguson, president of International Division, Tecumseh Products Co.; David Huntley, president of Mammoth Inc.; David LaGrand, president and COO of Nordyne; John Reilly, president and CEO of National Refrigeration Products; and Robert Wilkins, president of Danfoss Inc. Voted treasurer was Debbie Hawkins, president of Superior Coils.
Harry Holmes, president and COO of Morrison Products, was elected by the membership as a director at large. Re-elected to that position were Boxer, Coppola, Farwell, LaGrand, Reilly, Wilkins, and Eric Evans, group vice president, Air Conditioning, Copeland Corp.
Special AwardsARI also handed out special awards to industry leaders. Receiving the 2003 Richard C. Schulze Distinguished Service Award for outstanding service to the industry were Glenn Hourahan, vice president of Research and Technology for the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA); David Huntley, president of Mammoth Inc.; and Arden Munson, from the Hussman Corp.
Mark Menzer, vice president of Engineering and Research for ARI, and Gerald Groff, a Fellow and Lifetime Member of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), were each awarded a Special Recognition Award for their involvement in the international success of the 2003 IIR International Congress of Refrigeration, held this year in Washington.
Meanwhile, James Bard, chairman of Bard Manufacturing Co., and William Dalton, vice president of engineering at Excel Comfort Systems, were awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to recognize people who have been leaders in the industry and have made a significant contribution to its advancement.
The meeting concluded with an elaborate dinner dance, complete with birthday cake and souvenir champagne glasses. Helping to celebrate the occasion were former presidents "Monk" Monger, Arnold Braswell, and Ted Rees.
Publication date: 12/15/2003