My parents will agree that during my early scholastic years, I thrived on low expectations. My work ethic had yet to be developed, much to the dismay of my parents, John and Pat Gargaro. Every year from fifth through seventh grade, I would earn the Most Improved Student award at my school. Now, this was not because I worked hard and made impressive strides throughout the year. Instead, it was due to the fact that I produced absolutely horrible work the first few months. I would follow that up with average work the rest of the year, and I would capture the award due to my improvement. Even better, I received the exact same prize that the top student got — free tickets to a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game. While I was able to trick my new teacher every year, my parents caught on after year three.

I took a page out of the Gargaro elementary school playbook three years ago when The NEWS decided they wanted a contest to highlight the younger generation of the HVAC industry. After going to numerous industry events that looked like a casting call for a reboot of the movie “Cocoon,” I was rightfully nervous that we would not be able to get 40 people to populate our planned Top 40 Under 40 list. Instead, we aimed for a Top 10 Under 40 list.

What happened next speaks to the volume of quality young people we have in this industry — and the number of quality older people who wanted these folks recognized. The NEWS was blown away as more than 100 nominations flooded in through our website. We had an even bigger response the next year.

And that makes sense. With technology, the IoT, and smart homes, suddenly the HVAC industry has gotten more hip than Huey Lewis (not Huey Lewis and The NEWS, though). When corporations, like Apple and Google, begin sticking their noses into the industry, it shows that HVAC is headed in the right direction. HVAC is no longer looked at like a Commodore 64 — a reference that is probably lost on those that will make the list.



Do you know someone under 40 who is doing great work in the industry? If so, nominate him or her at It doesn’t matter whether that person is a contractor, technician, teacher, distributor, employed by a manufacturer, etc. The contest is open to those working in all aspects of the industry. The nominee just has to excel in the workplace and have a fuzzy memory of cassette tapes.

Perhaps a technician is a customer favorite and goes above and beyond what is required. Maybe this millennial started his or her own HVAC company and is killing it. Perhaps he or she is the sharpest engineer on staff.

The younger generation loves to be recognized, and this is a fantastic opportunity to reward these individuals for their hard work and fresh ideas. One of the goals of highlighting the youth of this industry is to help recruit more talented individuals to the trades. The next time you’re interviewing a 20-something applicant, you could mention that your staff features one of the up-and-coming individuals in the HVAC industry.

On the entry form, please share as much information as possible. The more we know about your nominee, the more reasons we have to put them on the list. This is one of those rare occurrences where bragging is encouraged.

I am excited to see who gets nominated, and I hope you’re as excited to share these young employees’ achievements with the rest of the industry.

Publication date: 4/30/2018

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