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A total of 817 members from not only PHCC, but two other trade groups traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico to attend CONNECT 2018 and Product & Technology Showcase, Oct. 10-12.
For the first time, members of the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society co-located its conference in Albuquerque, and the Radiant Professionals Alliance took part hosting a series of seminars at this year’s convention and trade show that included more than 20 education sessions, two keynote presentations and a trade show featuring more than 90 exhibitors.
Here’s a rundown of some of the show’s highlights:
This year’s CONNECT featured 19 plumbing apprentices and 10 HVAC apprentices from around the country who put their skills to the test in the PHCC Educational Foundation’s popular Plumbing and HVAC Contests.
Contractor volunteers arrived two days before the contest started to assemble test benches, distribute materials and supplies and set up the contest venue, which was located on the trade show floor to allow everyone the opportunity to view the apprentices’ work.
The plumbing apprentices were required to rough-in a bathroom, including a toilet, sink and shower, complete with supply, waste and vent lines, plus cleanouts and extra features designed to test the contestants’ knowledge and skills. The apprentices had to use a variety of piping materials, such as cast iron, copper, PVC and PEX, and the corresponding joining methods.
On the HVAC side, competitors were required to complete a written test, demonstrate proper brazing techniques and perform a hands-on diagnostic of an HVAC package unit, with system errors created by the foundation’s contractor volunteers. The apprentices also had to perform a pressure and leak test, determine proper refrigerant recovery procedures and demonstrate the ability to accurately take a variety of instrument readings.
Throughout the contests, the team of contractor volunteers were on hand to evaluate the work and provide feedback on each competitor’s performance.
The winners were announced after the two-day competition:
Plumbing Apprentice Contest Winners
• 1st Place: James Houser, Local 27, Pittsburgh. Sponsored by A. O. Smith.
• 2nd: Kyle Mao, Lange Plumbing, Las Vegas. Sponsored by AB&I Foundry,
• 3rd: Steven Kroope, Deluxe Plumbing & Heating, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Sponsored by Reed Manufacturing.
HVAC Apprentice Contest Winners
• 1st Place: Josiah Tiegs, McDowall Comfort Management, Waite Park, Minnesota. Sponsored by Brasscraft Manufacturing.
• 2nd: Daniel Deneve, GSM Services, Gastonia, North Carolina. Sponsored by NIBCO.
• 3rd: Jeffrey Deuel, American Mechanical Services, Denver. Sponsored by Milwaukee Tool.
The contests were made possible by the support of several industry sponsors who provide monetary support and in-kind material and tool donations.
Sponsors for the 2018 competition included AB&I Foundry; A. O. Smith; Bradford White Corp.; BrassCraft Manufacturing Co.; Copper Development Association, Inc.; Daikin; Delta Faucet Co.; Emerson; Fluke, IPS Corp.; KOHLER Co.; Mechanical Hub Media; Milwaukee Tool; NATE; NIBCO INC.; Oatey; Reed Manufacturing Co.; RIDGID; State Water Heaters; Tyler Pipe & Coupling; Uponor; Viega, LLC; and Zoeller Pump Co.
Milwaukee Tool also made a major contribution to the Plumbing Apprentice Contest this year by donating 20 of its M18 Force Logic Press Tools and jaw kits. This gift allowed the competitors to gain experience and prove their skill with making press connections and will be used in future competitions as well.
“These contests are an incredible demonstration of the opportunities that exist because of the Foundation,” said Craig Lewis, foundation chairman. “You have these amazing apprentices from all over the country coming here to show off their skills. The sponsors are so generous with their support. And then our volunteer committee members and staff are pulling it all together in a new exhibit hall every year. It really is quite a thing to see and I’m very proud of everyone involved with these competitions."
Plumbing Apprentice of the Year
In related news, PHCC and Delta Faucet Co. honored Daniel Judd of Leesburg, Virginia, with its annual Plumbing Apprentice of the Year Award.
After finishing his certified apprenticeship program, Judd began to work full-time for his family’s business, David Judd Plumbing, based in Leesburg and serving the state since 1992.
Naturally, Judd learned the trade working alongside his father, David.
“One of my earliest memories was going to a job site with my father,” Daniel said. “It was a new house, and my dad immediately handed me a shovel and put me to work, telling me I needed to dig a trench from here to here.”
During his last two years of high school, he enrolled at Monroe Technical Center in the HVAC program and went on to earn an associate degree in business management. He is currently pursuing a degree in accounting.
Daniel joined the Fairfax County Public Schools Plumbing Apprentice Program in 2015 and “impressed both his instructors and classmates with his ‘can-do’ attitude, high standards, drive to get the job done right and willingness to share his on-the job successes and challenges,” as was noted during the PHCC Awards Luncheon.
If Daniel’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he earned first place in the Plumbing Apprentice Contest at last year’s CONNECT in Milwaukee. Earlier this year, he went on to earn first place in the Virginia Plumbing Apprentice Competition and was also named PHCC of Virginia’s 2018 Plumbing Apprentice of the Year.
Quality Service Contractors
This year’s CONNECT featured a full-day strategic planning workshop followed by two more days dedicated to a special targeted solutions lab organized just for members of the Quality Service Contractors.
During a general session, consultant Mike Michalowicz outlined an interesting business-running philosophy published in his 2012 book, “The Pumpkin Plan.”
Michalowicz shared seven steps to growing a colossal pumpkin and how a colossal business can be grown in much the same way.
“No one should work mega-hours to build an average business,” he explained. “Customers aren’t looking for more of the same, they are looking for a business that is different and makes a difference.”
So, in a manner of speaking, he urged QSC members to plant the heartiest of seeds and cultivate only the most promising while weeding out the ones that aren’t destined to grow big.
Following the Pumpkin Plan presentation, QSC business coaches led participants on a strategic planning journey identifying concepts, tools and questions essential to this creative process. Starting with having the right strategic mindset, the day progressed through topics such as examining the environment in which the business resides, establishing a detailed playing field, strategic positioning, goals and objectives, measuring success and keeping score as well as business and human capital key performance indicators.
QSC also presented four additional sessions on getting the best ROI on your trucks, onboarding processes for new team members, keys to finding hidden profits and identifying the best customers.
Other seminars, keynotes
This year’s CONNECT included a broad range of sessions, including a full day of seminars prior to the evening reception that most might consider the official start of the event.
Those seminars included demystifying block chain, understanding the growing impact of Hispanics and Latinos to the workforce and even how to use Slack, a collaborate app to keep everyone on the same page – at least, a digital page.
In an address on how to engage the emerging workforce, keynoter Eric Chester encouraged attendees to identify their “sweet spot,” or the ideal qualities a candidate should have to fit in and be happy with their company.
“Maybe you know, but let your employees and customers know,” he said. Armed with that targeted profile, you can start “hunting” friends, employees, schools, social media, etc.
Chester also encouraged attendees to create a culture where people want to stay. “The only way to attract and retain great techs is to offer a culture that other employers who want those same great techs cannot match.”
The show also included another keynote address by economist Connor Lokar who predicted the economy would remain positive until a mild downtown beginning next year and continuing into 2020.
“I’m not saying you are going to stop growing next year,” he explained, “but you just won’t grow as quickly.”
The annual gathering for this PHCPPros community always includes a round of recognition for jobs well-done.
Let’s start our rundown with one unique to this CONNECT. Nick Giuffre, who retired as CEO of Bradford White last July, was made a PHCC Honorary Member after he presented a farewell address at the Bradford White Breakfast, which officially marks the start of the first full day of CONNECT.
In other top honors, Mitchell Cropp, CEO and founder of CroppMetcalfe Service, Fairfax, Virginia, was named the PHCC/Rheem HVAC Contractor of the Year.
Cropp started his company in 1979 with a firm commitment to knowing that offering the best in customer service also requires offering the best to his own employees.
“Wanting to be a great company and becoming that company are different things,” says the nomination submitted by PHCC of Virginia. “Mitchell Cropp is a testament to how responsive employees and customers can be when their interests and concerns are at the forefront of business decisions.”
One way Cropp backs up his employees is with the CroppMetcalfe Academy, an in-house four-year apprentice program. The academy, accredited in Virginia and Maryland, is in its sixth year and currently has more than 45 students.
The company also is a strong supporter of local organizations, and gives back to his industry by serving on committees and advisory boards for several trade-related associations, including the Fairfax County Virginia State Apprenticeship Program, the Construction Technology Education Foundation, PHCC of Virginia and PHCC of Northern Virginia, and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America.
On the plumbing side, Jeff Hux, president of Norfolk Plumbing Inc., Norfolk, Virginia, was named the PHCC/Delta Faucet Co. Plumbing Contractor of the Year.
As the founder of his family-owned business, Hux and his team of plumbing professionals rely on the latest technology and installation methods to streamline processes, increase productivity and deliver first-rate service to their customers.
Hux is not “not just an exceptional tradesman and capable businessman, but also a mentor, a leader and a professional worthy of honor,” notes the nomination by PHCC of Virginia. “Jeff Hux is just one of those unique members who steps up when necessary and stands to the side to allow others to shine. He is always willing to help a colleague or an employee within the association or the industry.”
As his company has grown, Hux and his wife, Dee, have become increasingly involved in the Hampton Roads community, supporting organizations such as Children’s Hospital, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and the Ronald McDonald House.
Currently, Hux is the president of the Hampton Roads chapter of PHCC of Virginia and a member of the state board. In addition, he is a member of the Virginia Board for Contractors, representing the interests of all licensed plumbers on issues of licensing and regulations.
In other awards, the PHCC also honored Charles B. Gans, president and CEO of Charles B. Gans Plumbing and Heating Inc., Havertown, Pennsylvania, with its Col. George D. Scott Award.
Honoring the continuing philosophy of dedicated service inspired by PHCC’s first president, Col. George D. Scott, this award “recognizes a PHCC member who has provided years of service and unselfish devotion to the association and to the industry … and whose industry efforts have provided many benefits to other p-h-c contractors.”
“Charles personifies the very qualities that make him deserving of this very special award,” said Laurie Crigler, PHCC National’s outgoing president. “He has brought great honor upon himself, his family, his wife Maryann, his company that has been in business for 92 years, his local PHCC chapter, his local community and our beloved industry.”
After 63 years of distinguished service to PHCC, Gans, 81, still remains an active member of the Philadelphia Suburban Association of PHCC and of Quality Service Contractors, a PHCC enhanced service group. He served as a PHCC Zone Director from 1998 to 2001, as well as a member of the PHCC National membership committee.
In addition, Gans has been actively involved in industry efforts including plumbing codes, apprenticeship and education, back water valves, bylaws, fundraising, licensing and government relations. He currently is an adviser to the Philadelphia Suburban Training Center and continues to support local youth programs and visit local schools in his area to promote careers in the plumbing and HVAC industry.
Beyond the PHC industry, Gans has been a charter member of the Haverford Township Rotary for the last 37 years and is involved with the YMCA and Haverford Township Partnership for Economic Development.
“PHCC does not give this award out every year,” Crigler added, “but Charles’ lifelong service to our industry – and to the future of this crucial profession – makes him very deserving of this distinguished honor.”
Other PHCC awards given at CONNECT include the following:
• Federated Insurance’s “Safety First!” Contractor of the Year Award – Chris Sproles, Central Texas Plumbing Solutions LLC, Waco, Texas
• Plumbing Instructor of the Year – Michael Hurt, PHCC of Virginia
AEC Spectrum Award
• Mike McGraw, PHCC of Pennsylvania
AEC Communications Awards
• Apprentice Materials – PHCC of Iowa
• Convention/Events – PHCC of Indiana
• Magazine – PHCC of New York
• Membership Packet – PHCC of Indiana
• Newsletter/E-Newsletter – PHCC of Tennessee
• Social Media – PHCC of Texas
• Website – PHCC of Indiana
Legislative Service Award
• PHCC of Texas
• Auxiliary 3-D Award – Sandy Stack, PHCC Auxiliary of Washington
Auxiliary Robert M. Cox Humanitarian Awards
• Image 1st Place – PHCC Auxiliary of Illinois and PHCC Auxiliary of Lincoln
• Image 2nd Place – PHCC Auxiliary of Delaware and PHCC Auxiliary of Nebraska
• Recruitment 1st Place – PHCC Auxiliary of Illinois
• Recruitment 2nd Place – PHCC Auxiliary of Delaware
Also, during the Awards Luncheon at CONNECT, the PHCC Educational Foundation announced that it received Invest in Your Future campaign contributions totaling more than $33,000. Thanks to donations from members and industry partners and matching funds from InSinkErator, Ferguson and NIBCO, the campaign reached its annual goal of $165,000. The Invest in Your Future campaign funds education and scholarships.
PHCC Political Action Committee
During the PHCC Political Action Committee event, PHCC of Texas was awarded PHCC National’s 2018 State Legislative Excellence Award for the great work they’ve done to change the Department of Labor standards to allow for a 2 to 1 apprentice-to-journeyman ratio.
Although the issue is not yet resolved, Government Relations Committee Chairman Mark Giebelhaus praised the chapter’s continuing efforts during the awards presentation.
“They give of their time, energy and resources to promote and fight for what they feel is right,” he said of PHCC of Texas.
Over the past year, the PHCC of Texas Board of Directors made it their priority to pursue the ratio as required by the DOL.
The work also inspired other chapters to do the same.
CONNECT 2019 will take place Oct. 2-4, at The Westin Indianapolis in Indianapolis.