The beginning of 2003 coincided with the beginning of a new association - the Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI). HARDI is the result of the consolidation of the Northamerican Heating, Refrigeration & Airconditioning Wholesalers (NHRAW) and the Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Wholesalers International (ARWI).

In separate, simultaneous meetings in early October 2002, members of ARWI and NHRAW voted in favor of consolidation, effective January 3 of this year. The new association is headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, and it recently held its first-ever winter meeting this month in San Francisco.

The vote approving the consolidation was the result of a year-long effort to draw on the strengths of both organizations and mold them into a new association that looks to be, as one representative put it, "the single voice of the wholesale-distribution for the HVACR industry."

"This is truly a momentous occasion for our two organizations and our industry," noted then NHRAW president James Truesdell, of Brauer Supply Co. in St. Louis, Mo. "We are obviously pleased with the overwhelming - virtually unanimous - support in favor of consolidation from the members of both organizations."

The 2003 AHR Expo was a record-setter in attendance and the number of exhibitors present. The expo also set records for the number of foreign exhibitors, the number of first-time exhibitors, and the amount of exhibit space consumed. (Photo by Dave Wilks.)
The new association represents over 450 wholesale companies, including 17 international companies, plus over 300 manufacturing associations and nearly 140 manufacturer representatives. HARDI said its members represent 80 percent of the dollar value of the HVACR products sold through distribution.

The association's motto is "Uniting World Class Distribution," and that goal is one of several objectives of HARDI, as pointed out in a News interview earlier this year with then HARDI president Douglas Young of the Behler-Young Co. in Grand Rapids, Mich.

"There is only one association you have to touch base with, instead of two," said Young. "I think this is going to help the industry."

Looking back, January 2003 was a very good month. The 2003 Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo), held in Chicago at the end of the month, was a record-setter in both attendance and in exhibitors present. More than 58,000 HVACR professionals (over 38,000 registered visitors and 20,000 exhibitor personnel) from 117 countries filled the aisles of McCormick Place. The number of 2003 registered visitors broke the old record of 36,881 established at the 1995 show in Chicago. Likewise, the 1,877 listed exhibitors broke the old record of 1,771 established at the 2001 show in Atlanta.

In fact, the expo broke another record: consumed exhibit space. At more than 400,000 square feet, it topped 1999's numbers. New all-time records were also established for the number of foreign exhibitors (254) and the number of first-time exhibitors (259).

Naturally, Clay Stevens, the show's manager and president of International Exposition Company (IEC), was pleased with the results, as were co-sponsors ARI and ASHRAE.

"The 2003 AHR Expo has set new records in square footage occupied by exhibits, total number of exhibiting companies, and total registered visitors in very challenging economic times," said Stevens. "This can be taken as a clear indication of the importance of the HVACR industry in our global economy and the essential role played by the AHR Expo in our industry's growth and development."

Though no official records are kept on this statistic, the 2003 version may have showcased more new products than any other. In the program directory published by show management, 652 exhibitors indicated they were displaying a new product.

Publication date: 12/29/2003