Newly elected ACCA chairman Greg Leisgang and his wife, Karen, share a dance at the closing event. (Photos courtesy of ACCA.)
AUSTIN, Texas - The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), a nationwide organization of HVACR contracting businesses, wrapped up its best attended and most highly praised annual conference ever last month.

The 2005 ACCA Conference & Indoor Air Expo was held March 9-12 in Austin, attracting over 1,600 people throughout the four-day period.

Contractors from across the country crowded into jam-packed workshop sessions, a sold-out trade show floor that was 33 percent larger than the previous one, and general sessions that featured state-of-the-art lighting, fiery production, and rousing keynote speakers.

"After last year's record-breaking conference in New Orleans, we knew we had a lot to live up to," said Paul T. Stalknecht, ACCA president and chief executive officer.

"However, the feedback from this year's event has been outstanding, and it looks like our members helped us create an even more exciting success than we had anticipated."

This year's conference featured an extensive number of high-quality educational workshops. Classes were divided into six distinct training tracks: residential contracting, commercial contracting, business issues, legal issues, technical applications, and best practices.

Skip Snyder discussed the association’s accomplishments during his farewell address as ACCA chairman.

Stalknecht, Snyder ‘Feel The Fire'

On March 10, the fire was ignited for the attendees at the opening session of the conference. In his opening remarks, Stalknecht commented on the fuel that drives good contractors to become great contractors and the passion that makes great contractors even better.

"Contractors return to the ACCA conference again and again because it's here that they reignite that fire in the belly - the energy and enthusiasm that inspired them to start their business in the first place," he said.

Stalknecht spoke about the successes of the previous year, including a 10-percent growth in contractor membership and the fact that more new members joined ACCA in 2004 than ever before. He also noted that ACCA received the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute's Meritorious Service Award, the first organization to be so honored.

Stalknecht also spoke about this year's comprehensive report to the ACCA board of directors on ACCA activities, and encouraged all members to download it at He quoted member Aaron York, owner of Aaron York's Quality A/C (Indianapolis) and a consultant to The News, who had told him after reading the report, "This should be required reading for every contractor in America."

At the opening session, Stalknecht announced the launch of two new programs by ACCA. The first is the ACCA Business Management Institute, an all-new series of high-quality training programs designed by contractors, for contractors.

"From accounting management to employee management, from sales training to contract negotiation ... from business valuation to business delivery ... the ACCA Business Management Institute will offer you, at whatever stage you are in, the nuts and bolts you need to run a more successful business," he said.

Second, he announced ACCA Insurance Services, with its first product - "comprehensive environmental insurance with mold coverage specifically developed for members through ACCA's partnership with the Fedeli Group. "

"Offering extensive training and risk management programs, the ACCA Insurance Services environmental program with mold coverage is the first in the HVACR industry," Stalknecht said.

In his presentation, Skip Snyder, the outgoing chairman, spoke about some of the accomplishments he witnessed as ACCA's chairman this year. He lauded the launch of the new mentor program, the development of the all-new "abridged edition of Manual J8, and the nationwide effort to service and install heating systems to the needy and elderly."

"I've never been so proud as when ACCA and our chapters put together the first nationwide Heat the Country program last fall," Snyder said.

Although he said there were many great accomplishments over the past year, Snyder assured the audience that by "working together, there will be even greater accomplishments in our future."

Following the opening remarks, attendees were treated to a presentation by the founder of, Terrell Jones, who had the audience buzzing for the remainder of the conference with his presentation on the role of online marketing to reach modern consumers.

While the ACCA conference has become well-known the last few years for introducing innovative new speakers to the HVACR industry, no other speaker has drawn such high interest and praise from speakers as this year's opening keynote, according to an ACCA spokesperson.

Manufacturer CEOs Engage In Lively Forum

At a special Industry Leadership Breakfast, several manufacturer CEOs participated in a free-wheeling forum on substantive matters, particularly related to the introduction of 13 SEER and refrigerant transition. Taking questions from the audience, the participating chief executives touched on topics ranging from "manufacturer brand vs. contractor brand" to the value of certification and upcoming new technology trends.

Participating in the forum were: Halsey Cook, Carrier; Tom Huntington, York International; J.R. Jones, Rheem Manufacturing Air Conditioning Division; and David Pannier, Trane. Mike Murphy, editor-in-chief of The News, served as moderator of the discussion.

ACCA President and CEO Paul Stalknecht opened the national meeting.

Leisgang Assumes Chairmanship

At the annual ACCA Chairman's Banquet on Friday, Skip Snyder, the outgoing chairman, thanked the association and the ACCA staff for the chance to serve in what he called a "once in a lifetime opportunity."

He also spoke about his emphasis on mentoring and education in the past year. "With mentoring, education, and a peer group, you dramatically reduce your learning curve. You can have a far better professional career. Your employees will also benefit from your business skills. But most important, you will not waste a portion of your lifetime learning from mistakes that could be avoided."

Following Snyder's ovation from the large crowd, Greg Leisgang, president of JonLe Heating-Cooling in Cincinnati, Ohio, was introduced as the new chairman of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America.

In his address, Leisgang spoke of the friends he and his wife have made through ACCA meetings and his MIX Group that have enriched both the business and their lives.

"ACCA has meant the world to me, to my family, and to my business ... Karen and I owe ACCA so much that we decided the least we could do is offer back a year of our lives in service," he said.

Leisgang talked about his plans for the coming year as chairman, specifically his desire to help contractors prepare for the challenges of tomorrow. "I've realized that there are an awful lot of contractors who are pretty good at what worked yesterday," he said.

"If ACCA is going to mean anything to this industry ... if ACCA membership is going to mean anything to contractors ... then we must prepare contractors to be good at what works today ... and will work tomorrow."

Leisgang then outlined a few specific programs that will be implemented by ACCA this year to help contractors do just this. Leisgang said ACCA will compile available research on health and HVACR systems, and develop a strategy paper for members to help them incorporate health impacts in marketing trends; provide solid information to technicians considering becoming owners so they can make an informed decision; and look at the best practices in operational technologies so that contractors can make better investment decisions.

More Contractors, Workshops, And Sponsors

The conference closed Saturday with more talk of the future. Futurist, economist, and second-time ACCA keynote speaker Lowell Catlett wowed audiences once again with his unique insight into the way technology is changing everyday life and how HVACR businesses will be adapting to these new needs.

The 2005 ACCA Conference & Indoor Air Expo saw more attendees and more support than ever before. In fact, the Platinum Elite sponsorship program, which recognizes those companies who make a significant investment in the conference, saw 11 participants in 2005, up from five in 2004.

Platinum Elite sponsors were: Rheem Manufacturing, Carrier, York International, Trane, Lennox, Armstrong Air, Ducane Air Conditioning & Heating, International Comfort Products, AirTime 500, One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating, and American Standard.

As he closed the conference, Leisgang pointed out that it was "not an ending, but a beginning."

"We've all stoked our personal fires this week," he said. "Don't let the fire go out. Tend it. Get your employees, your colleagues, your family involved. Share the excitement.

"And if you find that when you return home, your managers or your partners look at you a little funny because you're so full of ideas, there's only one way to solve that problem: make sure you bring them with you to next year's ACCA conference so they can experience it firsthand!"

The 2006 ACCA Conference & Indoor Air Expo will be held March 14-17, 2006 at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, Calif.

Publication date: 04/11/2005