New Changes in Industry Will be Tough for Contractors

In recent issues ofThe NEWS, we read about a lot of new changes, which are going to bring smiles to our industry and maybe more than that. Manufacturers think that they can make huge profits through these new changes, and there is no doubt that they will. Also big HVAC service companies think that they will get their share too, there is no doubt about that either. But the vast majority of customers will have a big hole in their wallet. How they will seal that hole I have no clue, and how the poor customer and his family will survive, that doesn't seem to concern anyone now.

The existing systems that our customers have in their homes are R-22 systems. While the R-22 systems are available, the problem will not affect anyone that much, but once R-22 systems are not available, the contractor will have a tough time closing the sale. And that particular customer will have to spend an unbelievable amount, maybe triple the cost spent in the present or past, not only on the system they had to replace, but for the additional alteration to their homes for the bigger new system. Plus, new piping for the 410A system will have to be on the sidewall of the house, exposed or covered with trunk at an additional cost.

All these additional costs and triple the expense, do you think every existing customer is ready for that? A contractor or service company may lose his long-time customers due to these changes. Definitely these new changes are going to hurt every small business contractor.

Our industry thinks changes are always better and good for us, but my point of view is I don't think so, and it's not fair enough. Changes must be for every field and everyplace and for everyone, only then is it fair and profitable.

The price on everything has gone up, in a few cases [people] are making more money, but the majority are not. On top of that, fewer benefits, job cuts, and medical and educational costs have gone up, but our standard of pay hasn't gone up compared to those things.

The contractor or service company also will face tough challenges such as hiring well-qualified technicians, and giving them better pay and more benefits, new tools, equipment, and training or education to keep them updated at all times. Experienced technicians should get better pay, and they deserve it. I am talking about experienced technicians and not just certified technicians.

All these additional costs we have to put on our customers' heads to make our living and to have our share of profit. But on the other hand, if the customer is having a tough time and if his wallet is tighter, then how are we going to make ourselves profitable? A tough time is ahead of us.

Miguel Barreto
Mike's Refrigeration, Bogota, N.J.

Recruit Early, Recruit Often

I would like to reply to Matt Prazenka's request in the March 13 issue [in his letter titled "Encouraging Youngsters to Join This Industry"], and offer some suggestions for ways that the HVAC industry can grow its labor pool. My first suggestion is, no matter what it is you do, go back to your high school and tell students about it. If you went to college or vocational school, return there and tell students about your experience. Ask the people that work with you to do the same. If you love what you do, your enthusiasm will help you interest others in your work. Don't forget to share the lessons learned from your mistakes, too. These experiences are just as valuable as your successes (maybe even more valuable).

My next suggestion is to engage the organizations you are associated with to do the same thing for students. There was a wide variety of careers and industries represented at my high school career fair, including someone from the local pipefitters union. Some of these organizations can provide you with information to share with the students (and school guidance counselors as well). When I was preparing for the career fair at my high school, the Mechanical Contractors Association of America, the Mechanical Service Contractors Association, and the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. provided me with posters, brochures, and other information about jobs in the HVAC and construction industries. McGraw Hill supplied copies of a great publication called "InDemand," that they produced for the U.S. Department of Labor. It describes various careers in the construction industry, typical salaries for different jobs, and the knowledge and training required for each of them.

I have heard that in business and in life you must always be selling, whether it is your products or services, your company, your industry, or you. I add to this that you must always be recruiting, because that is how you find great people to work with you. And paraphrasing an old saying about voting in Chicago, you should "recruit early and often."

Vic Muscia
Manager, National Contractor Accounts
Contractor Business Group
York, a Johnson Controls Co., Mount Prospect, Ill.

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Publication date: 04/10/2006