Industry Champion and Publisher Jeff Forker Dies

CLEVELAND Jeff Forker, former publisher of Contracting Business magazine, died at his home on Jan. 22 after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 60. His career dedicated to the mechanical contracting industry began in 1971 when he joined the staff of Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Magazine, the forerunner of Contracting Business. He worked his way through the production and editorial sides of

CLEVELAND — Jeff Forker, former publisher of Contracting Business magazine, died at his home on Jan. 22 after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 60.

His career dedicated to the mechanical contracting industry began in 1971 when he joined the staff of Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Magazine, the forerunner of Contracting Business. He worked his way through the production and editorial sides of the publishing business while working on several magazines at Penton Media Inc.

Eventually, he became publisher of Contracting Business where he operated under the premise, “If it’s the right thing to do for the readers, it’s the right thing to do for the magazine.”

Forker was later named vice president of Penton’s Mechanical Systems group, which includes Contracting Business, HPAC Engineering and CONTRACTOR magazines. Forker was instrumental in Penton’s acquisition of CONTRACTOR in 2001.

Among his many industry accomplishments, Forker assisted in the formation of the North American Technician Excellence program.

“His leadership in unifying support for the North American Technician Excellence program will provide lasting benefits to those working in the HVACR industry,” said William G. Sutton, president of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute.

ARI honored Forker with a Special Recognition Award in 1999, a Meritorious Service Award in 2000 and a Special Achievement Award in 2003.

Air Conditioning Contractors of America announced it is renaming its training award the Jeff Forker Award for Excellence in Training.

“Jeff’s passion for industry education and certification helped HVACR contractors grow and improve, and he was a driving force behind the establishment of NATE certification,” said Paul T. Stalknecht, ACCA president and CEO. “His contributions shaped this industry, and his spirit will continue to shape it in the future. He was my friend — he was our industry’s friend — and we look back on the life he lived so fully with gratitude for having known him.”

ACCA selected Forker to receive its 2004 Spirit of Independence Award, the association’s highest honor, presented occasionally to a man or woman who has made significant contributions to the success of the HVACR industry. While typically presented at ACCA’s annual conference, Forker was presented the award at a dinner given in his honor in December 2003.

“Jeff saw the HVAC contracting industry as more than a customer base for his publications,” Stalknecht said. “He saw it as a community to which he was proud to belong. He left the industry a better place, and we owe him a huge debt of gratitude. He will be missed but he will not be forgotten.”

In submitting Forker as a nominee for ACCA’s Spirit of Independence Award, Jim Hussey, past ACCA chairman, said: “Over and over again, Jeff has demonstrated an uncanny ability to peer beyond the immediate and spot the trends. He was fighting unfair utility competition before we contractors knew utilities were illegally subsidizing their way into our business. Because he understood its risks and rewards, he was able to help contractors who wanted to position themselves for acquisition and, at the same time, help those who wanted to remain independent and profitable to do so successfully.”

A multimedia tribute to Forker will be played at the 2004 ACCA Conference’s closing general session, scheduled for Feb. 28 in New Orleans.

The Forker family has suggested that any contributions be made to the American Cancer Society, 10501 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH 44106.