At times it is disappointing that there is not just one, single, unified voice for this industry. Such a wish cropped up again recently.

A panel discussion regarding the economic outlook for construction in the wake of Hurricane Katrina was recently held at the Hyatt Regency in Washington, D.C. Reporters from all over had the chance to call in and talk to panel members Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC); Gus Faucher, senior economist with economy.com; and Gina Martin, economic analyst for Wachovia. My question: Where was the representative from the heating and cooling industry?

The panel discussion was most informative, as each reported on what his/her research showed. In general, each said construction should be good in 2006, due, in part, to the fact that a quarter of a million homes were damaged or destroyed in the hurricane-hit Gulf Coast area. While next year appears strong from their vantage point, they could not say the same for 2007. Several reasons for the fall could be pinpointed to the growing cost of lumber, concrete, steel, and other building materials.

The heating and cooling industry was not even addressed, which is too bad. It would have been good for the industry to have a representative speaking on its behalf. However, because this industry is so fragmented, who would be that lone voice? Would it come from the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI)? American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)? Heating, Airconditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI)?

Your guess is as good as mine. In the end, no one can tell us - at least not yet - how Hurricane Katrina will affect this industry?

Certification Unification

In my humble opinion, it would be great to have unification in certification, too. I know I am not alone in that regard. Billy Mozingo, The NEWS' 2005 Best Instructor of the Year (see the story "All Talk - And All Action, Too" in this issue), would like to see that happen.

Mozingo pushed to become a proctor for the North American Technician Excellence (NATE). Soon Mozingo will be teaching refresher courses at Pitt Community College for those who wish to take the NATE certification exam.

Admittedly, he could have opted to turn to HVAC Excellence, a not-for-profit organization that was created in 1994, to as they put it, "address the need for national education and evaluation standards for the HVACR industry." Working with a national network of skilled technicians, contractors, educators, and suppliers, HVAC Excellence has developed programs which support nationally recognized standards for HVACR professionals.

In Mozingo's case, he looked at both parties and opted for NATE, mainly because it is backed by the majority of the HVACR manufacturers. In his estimation, with manufacturers on its side, NATE is the way to go. Another instructor, however, may think otherwise.

What bothered Mozingo - and me - is that there are two different certification venues, attempting to accomplish the same thing. Each supplies a method of measuring the level of technical knowledge possessed by service personnel, all designed to assure consumers and employers of a technician's qualifications.

Having two certifications...well, doesn't that confuse homeowners and customers? Don't they want to know what is different between the two certifications? Which one is better? Having one certification voice would better serve this industry, yes?

What Do You Think?

I can hear the rumblings already. Having several voices has its advantages at times, agreed - especially during this time of need. Because this industry is fragmented, this means more than just one association is doing its part to help the victims of the recent hurricanes.

For instance, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) recently put together a plan of action to help member companies and their employees who were affected by Hurricane Katrina. The association developed a special Web page (www.acca.org/katrina), designed to provide, among other items, an updated listing of contractors who are willing to provide temporary employment or relocation assistance to displaced HVACR workers.

As needs become clearer, ACCA said it plans to coordinate with partner organizations in the industry to contribute to the overall reconstruction process. (For more information about ACCA's Katrina Relief Task Force, contact Janet Pankow at janet.pankow@acca.org.)

Meanwhile, at its recent annual convention, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association (PHCC) set aside a fund to immediately provide $2,000 to any member in the hurricane-damaged areas who requested assistance.

PHCC also agreed to waive two years of national dues payments for those members. Contributions are being accepted for the fund. (To contribute e-mail naphcc@naphcc.org.)

This is one time that having more than one industry voice is a positive, not a negative. However, couldn't all of these good things come out of one, solidified industry voice?

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

Publication date: 11/14/2005