While it might not be fair to compare this industry with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), I think this industry should examine what it has done over the years in regard to getting exposure.

The NCAA knows how to do it.

Let me zero in on the NCAA men's basketball finals, which took place in St. Louis early last month. I had the good fortune of experiencing the Final Four firsthand. This was my second experience with this great college sporting event. My first exposure to the Final Four was exactly 10 years ago, when it was held in Seattle and the Oklahoma State Cowboys made the grade (only to lose in the semifinals to eventual winner UCLA).

It took some time, but over the years the NCAA managed to make this tournament into ... well, does it not share the trademark for the phrase "March Madness"? (Then again, Dick Vitale may take credit for such verbiage. Oh, yes, he would.) Granted, television coverage of the basketball proceedings has been instrumental in increasing the hoop fervor. Maybe many of you, like me, are glued to the tube almost every weekend in March.

National Indoor Comfort Week? What's That?

So, how does this all fit in with the HVACR industry? Thought you'd never ask.

Granted, this industry may never convince CBS to cover the International Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition - even though I say there is still room for Fox to have a reality TV series titled "Contractor Dave." (Yes, the cameras would roll as a real-life contractor puts out one fire after another each day on the job. Hey, if they can follow a day in the life of a restaurant owner, why not a hardworking contractor?)

What this industry should have is clout. Whatever it makes up its mind to do, it should be able to do. And, that's the key word: should.

The week of April 17-23 was designated as "National Indoor Comfort Week." Did you know about it? Did your community know about it? Heck, if you don't know about it, you can't promote it in your local area.

And, in truth, it's all a shame.

The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) actually kicked off this celebratory week last year. While we can excuse the initial try for being somewhat subdued, what is the excuse for this year? Next year? 2007?

ACCA came up with National Indoor Comfort Week to provide "an opportunity to showcase the positive impact that the HVACR industry has on health, safety, and overall quality of life." Funny, but I did not hear a word about this event during this time period. Nothing on local radio. Nothing on local TV. Nothing in the local newspaper.

Is this the best this industry can do? Not by a long shot.

Too Many Associations?

I agree with those who say this industry has plenty to shout about. Few things have impacted American life as much as modern indoor environmental systems. Yet, these systems have become such a basic part of everyday living that few consumers stop to think about their importance.

This contributes to an image problem possessed by many in the HVACR contracting industry. They fail to understand how vital they are to their communities. At the same time, a lack of public outreach about the importance of indoor comfort makes it more difficult for contractors to expand into new, more profitable value-added products and services.

To me, it's one vicious circle. In order for, say, this National Indoor Comfort Week to pick up steam and have real value, it will have to be adopted by every association in the industry. And, isn't this where most things bog down? This means it will have to have the blessing of ARI, MCAA, SMACNA, PHCC, RSES, ad infinitum.

Getting one and all to push for the same thing ... well, this is where the industry may be its own worst enemy. There are just so many associations. This is one reason why the industry seems to stay fragmented and stagnant.

If you had to point a person interested in this industry to the one, definitive voice of this industry ... well, can you?

At least the NCAA is one entity. It can get things done, even with board members. Even with Vitale flip-flopping in front of the ESPN cameras.

Mark Skaer is senior editor. He can be reached at 618-239-0288 or markskaer@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 05/02/2005