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“Family Tradition” is more than a catchphrase at Cornetta Bros. Plumbing and Heating. Edwin Cornetta established E. Cornetta Plumbing and Heating, Elmont, New York in 1946. As his business and family grew, Edwin was joined by his sons, Edwin Jr.; Joseph (“Chick”); and Robert (“Bobby”). The family tradition eventually grew into the third-generation with Chick and Bobby’s sons Joe and Steven earning their master plumber’s licenses.
Edwin’s hard work and leadership paved the path for today’s Cornetta Bros.. His compassion and trust was evident in the early-1960s, too. As the neighborhood connected to the public sewer system many homeowners were unable to afford the several hundred dollar job. Edwin often told his customers, “Not to worry. Pay me when you can.” The work was completed and Edwin was eventually paid. These work ethics and personal customer relationships Edwin built his business on still hold true today.
Today, Cornetta Bros. continues to operate with the same template Edwin laid out over 60 years ago - offer the best service possible with attention given to customer satisfaction. Two of his sons and grandsons are the core of the today’s Cornetta Bros. Inc. Chick, Bobby, Steven and Joe are active in every facet of the business.
Joe has also been active in PHCC activities for decades, in particular, with the group’s legislative advocacy efforts. We talked to him this past summer as he prepared to be PHCC President.
PHC News: First tell us about yourself, your life and career in the PHC industry and Cornetta Bros.
Cornetta: I am a third-generation co-owner of a plumbing and heating business located on Long Island. Working in the same shop that my grandfather began in 1946, we have developed a huge list of repetitive clients who constantly refer us to friends and neighbors — thankfully, because our client base is so large the only source of advertisement we need is referrals.
Many of our customers are also second and third generation. My father, two uncles and five cousins all achieved their certificates of competence as licensed master plumbers. The office manager position was held by my grandmother, mother and, today, my wife Lillian is in charge.
Our business motto is: CORNETTA BROS, PLUMBING & HEATING
A FAMILY TRADITION SINCE 1946.
I was invited in the fall of 2000 to an event hosted by Dan Holohan.
Dan is a local and well-known expert on hydronic and steam heat. Having read many of his books and articles I jumped at the opportunity. As it turned out, this was a PHCC event and I was hooked.
After joining I began to soak in the knowledge as I listened to other business owners. Without realizing it, this was networking at its best. My first PHCC-given task was days after the attacks of 9/11. I was charged with coordinating donations of work boots, gloves and safety gear and with recruiting a local supply house to deliver them to a naval base on Staten Island.
Eventually I was asked to join the local PHCC board as chapter secretary and years later successfully ran for Long Island president. As my dear friend Hunter Botto ran for national office, I served as his national secretary. This led the way for a wonderful opportunity to continue on the PHCC executive board and eventually national vice president.
PHC News: What are the top issues facing the plumbing and HVAC industry right now, and how is PHCC taking a leadership role to address those issues and challenges?
Cornetta: The number one and two issues facing the plumbing and HVAC industry are workforce development and government regulations.
It’s hard for me to understand why careers in our industry are frowned upon. Parents, guidance counselors, teachers and peer pressure are driving young people away and quite often force-fed college. While no one will dispel the advantages of a college diploma, the truth is that it shouldn’t be the only path. PHCC is working hard to dispel these rumors and show how successful our careers can be.
Our workforce development will continue to expose this industry as a positive career choice. I will be spreading the word at high schools, Boards of Cooperative Educational Services classes and other events.
Government regulations is another huge issue challenging our industry. The push to electrify homes and businesses, thus, eliminating natural gas as a fuel choice, will impact us tremendously. Personally, my business stands to lose 45% of our revenue.
PHCC, in my opinion, is the leader in the industry in fighting unnecessary regulations and supporting fuel choice legislation. Our Government Relations Committee is very active in responding to state issues across the country. PHCC gives every member a voice in decisions that affect our business. Every year we host a legislative conference where PHCC members from across the country convene in Washington, D.C., to meet with our legislators. This is one of the most important benefits of PHCC membership and the most effective way to communicate our message and influence the legislative process.
PHC News: What goals do you have for yourself during your tenure as president of PHCC?
Cornetta: As I prepare to become president of PHCC National Association, my excitement is building. I look forward to continuing to promote PHCC, and to meeting as many members and chapter leaders as possible.
When I first announced my candidacy, my platform was to inspire members to give back to their communities. Here on Long Island, we’ve built several homes for Habitat for Humanity. Providing donated labor and supervision gave us all a great feeling. Five years ago, we built a custom smart home for the Tunnels to Towers organization. Being able to help the homeowner, a disabled military veteran, inspired so many members to volunteer that we needed to draft shifts to coordinate work.
This commitment to giving back, and our push for workforce development, are what I look forward to preaching to the masses. As mentioned in our strategic plan, PHCC members need to be recognized as the number one choice by consumers.
PHC News: What have you done in the past year to get ready for the new role?
Cornetta: This past year was a “watch and learn” expedition. I’ve had the luxury to work closely with PHCC President Dave Frame. His leadership qualities are nothing short of inspiring. Of course, serving on PHCC Executive Committees with Past Presidents Joel Long, Hunter Botto and Jonathan Moyer has helped me prepare to lead the amazing association. I have also had the pleasure of working closely with PHCC staff. The gang in Falls Church are all dedicated professionals who work hard together every day. As president, I get the “keys to the PHCC bus” for a year. I look forward to the journey.
PHC News: What is the one thing you are looking forward to most as president of PHCC?
Cornetta: As PHCC president, I will look forward to growing membership spirit. What’s membership spirit? Within every PHCC member, there is pride and excitement about the career they chose. Let’s build on that and shine a light on it.
We need to raise the bar about how great our skill sets are and how they lead to a prosperous and fulfilling career. PHCC members may not be able to hit a curveball, but how many major league ballplayers can diagnose even the simplest plumbing or HVAC problem? PHCC members will never hear the cheers of thousands of fans, but the smiles they see and sincere thanks they hear after repairing or replacing a boiler in freezing cold January is just as impressive. If you want to hear cheers, repair the central air conditioner in August and wait for the crowd to yell “Thank you!”
And, the respect we receive and deserve must be spread among the masses. We are plumbing and HVAC professionals, the best in the business.
PHC News: Where do the greatest business opportunities lie for PHCC members over the next 3-5 years, and how is PHCC going to help them take advantage of those opportunities?
Cornetta: Fighting for PHC interests on an increasing number of evolving government regulations will become a key member benefit through necessity. Over the next 3-5 years, I see the need for local and state support growing. Licensing issues, gas bans, refrigerant changes and state regulations are impacting us across the country. Here in New York City, they are discussing a ban on pizzerias who cook with wood. Yes, this is a stretch, but look how government can come out of nowhere and totally disrupt business. And don’t mess with New York style pizza!!
Getting back to topic, I see our Government Relations Committee and staff getting much more involved on local levels. This will present great opportunities for state and local chapters to see the benefits of our national team.
PHC New: If a plumbing and heating professionals was still on the fence about joining PHCC, what would you tell them to get them to join the association?
Cornetta: Beyond all the benefits members receive, I still believe networking is a major reason to join. Here on Long Island, our associates are at every monthly meeting. They set up displays of new products and answer questions. Wholesale associates help with members searching for stock of products. Members meet and exchange success and disaster stories.
When I visited New England for a PHCC conference, the PHCC featured plumbing and building inspectors on stage specifically to answer code questions. Where else can you gain so much knowledge and kindred spirit than the PHCC?
In Ohio, they held a trade show, along with continuing education courses, at a baseball park. Members met associates, saw new products, earned credits for licensing and enjoyed a cold beer at the ballgame all in one day. The PHCC of Ohio holds a very successful two-day event every year with the Air Conditioning Contractors of Ohio. These collaborative ideas need to be shared and I’m eager to do so.
Events like those in New England and Ohio are huge draws for new membership. We need to engage immediately with potential new members and discuss the value of our association. New members must be nurtured in their first years and shown how to take advantage of their membership.
PHCC News: Let’s talk about PHCCCONNECT in Cleveland. What do you see as the big takeaways for the event?
Cornetta: Our PHCCCONNECT2023, Oct. 25-27 in Cleveland, will be a huge success. I visited the site in March and think it will be perfect for our group. Like they say in all of the advertising, “Cleveland Rocks!” While there, attendees can enjoy the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, House of Blues and the city’s many world-class museums and restaurants.
And, the overall education and networking experience will be phenomenal. We are excited about our two keynote speakers: author and philanthropist Coach Ken Carter and economist Connor Lokar. In addition, there will be more than 20 targeted education sessions, including — for the first time ever — education offered directly on the floor of the Product & Technology Showcase.
Other highlights include a Wholesaler/Contractor Panel, a Workforce Development Breakfast, a Women in Industry Luncheon and a Rising Leaders’ Summit. Attendees also can experience tours of four nearby manufacturing facilities: Merit Brass, Moen, Oatey and RIDGID. I am excited to see our CONNECT evolve and grow.
PHC News: Finally, with your industry experience, what is one piece of advice you would like to pass along to the younger members of this industry?
Cornetta: Finally, here’s a message to younger members.
I recommend getting a copy of the American standard poster “The Plumber Protects The Health of The Nation” and hang it in your office. I have read articles stating that over the centuries, plumbers saved more lives than doctors.
I also recommend a book by W. Hodding Carter titled “Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization.” It is a light read with a focus on how plumbers protected humanity with clean water and safe waste removal. If anyone visits Philadelphia’s Market Street, you can see that Ben Franklin’s drinking well was only 2 feet away from his privy pit! It’s assumed Ben never hired a professional plumber.
What we do as licensed professionals can never be understated. Each day we deal with dangerous conditions from gas, asbestos, refrigerants, water and waste. We protect the air and water in homes and businesses. We ensure people’s comfort. We reduce energy costs and raise efficiencies. We are and always have been stewards of the environment.
So I’ll wrap up our talk with this:
Be proud of your work.
Be proud of your industry.
Be proud you’re a member of the PHCC.