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Competitors during the second day of the Plumbing Apprentice Contest.

Indy Hosts PHCC Connect 2019

Three-day event featured education, networking and a celebration of the trades.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — From October 2nd through the 4th, Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association members, associates and auxiliaries came to Indianapolis for the organization’s premiere education and networking event, Connect 2019, held at the Westin Hotel and the Indiana Convention Center. By final count, more than 900 people registered for the event.

The event was co-located with the annual meeting of the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) and the Radiant Professionals Association (RPA). The RPA hosted a radiant/hydronics education track for attendees.

All told, more than 50 education events were on this year’s schedule, as well as numerous breakfasts, lunches, happy hours, and other networking opportunities. Special events were also on the program, such as a tour of The Dallara IndyCar Factory (a joint venture between the IndyCar Experience and Dallara Automobili) and the Delta Faucet Design Center tour (Delta has their global headquarters in Indianapolis).

Education topics included both technical sessions, such as Maximizing System & Pump Efficiency of Hydronic Systems with Air/Dirt Separation (presented by the RPA), as well as  business management sessions, such as Hearing is Not Enough – Overcome Objections and Take Control by Listening, presented by Pointman and sponsored by A.O. Smith.

For two days the show featured its Product and Technology Showcase where more than 100 exhibitors displayed the latest and greatest innovations the industry has to offer.

The show also featured the association’s annual business meeting, various awards presentations (including the Robert M. Cox Humanitarian Awards), and the PHCC’s Plumbing and HVAC Apprentice Contest.

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The crowd at the Opening Breakfast.

Opening Breakfast

The morning of October 3rd featured the Opening Breakfast, sponsored by Bradford White. Ken Nielsen, President, PHCC-National Association, addressed the crowd, asking attendees to, “Take advantage of the experiences around you as the PHCC National Auxiliary kicks off its 100th anniversary.”

PHCC National Secretary Joel Long then gave the invocation and led attendees in the pledge of allegiance. Long thanked Bradford White, the association’s highest-level strategic partner, and also thanked partners and sponsors from across the industry. He put a special emphasis on the young people attending and participating in the apprentice contests, saying, “They represent the future of our industry.”

After a presentation by the Indiana PHCC, Bruce Carnevale, CEO of Bradford White, took the stage. Bradford White is an American-owned, employee-owned company that sells only through the wholesale channel to the professional trade. The corporation includes Bradford White – Canada, Laars Heating Systems and Niles Steel Tank. Carnevale emphasized his company’s commitment to American manufacturing and the American tradesperson.

Carnevale discussed some of the rapid changes the industry has been undergoing. New systems and technologies, such as prefabrication, augmented reality, BIM, AI and machine learning, condensing and tankless technology, were all creating new opportunities—as well as new challenges. To meet those challenges, Bradford White has been building a new R&D lab (to be finished next year) and hiring new people. Recent new hires include a new CEO (Carnevale), a business intelligence analyst, an IoT manager, a strategic marketer and more.

“We have to innovate,” Carnevale said, “but you need to as well.” He urged attendees to make the most of their time and PHCC Connect, to leverage what the PHCC has to offer, including their educational sessions. And he told them not to be afraid to reach out to manufacturers like Bradford White, who see themselves as partners in the success of the trades.

Bradford White’s Carl Pinto, Director of Marketing, then briefly came to the podium to present a $15,000 check to the PHCC to support the association’s scholarship program. The donation, he said, “Represents our commitment to the future of the industry.”

Keynote

Bo DeAngelo, Manager of Technical Training for Viega, LLC, then came to the microphone to introduce the keynote speaker, Richard Trethewey.

Trethewey gained fame from Public Broadcasting’s This Old House. He is a fourth-generation plumber, with many fond memories of past PHCC conventions. Because of the many twists and turns his career has taken, Trethewey calls himself, “The luckiest plumber ever.”

Trethewey talked about the early days of This Old House, which had its start back in 1978. He gave a special thanks to Russell Morash, a producer and director at public television who has been called the “father of how-to TV” due to his work with such shows as This Old House, The French Chef, Victory Gardens, The New Yankee Workshop  and more.

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Richard Trethewey delivers his keynote speech in front of balloons celebrating the PHCC's 100th year.

“I know that 90 percent of the industry only watches This Old House to see if I’ll screw something up,” Trethewey joked before launching into stories from his more than 40 years in front of the camera.

“We always finish on time,” he said, “generally on budget, and the homeowners we work for become local celebrities.”

Trethewey talked about advances in technology, both on the plumbing and heating side, as well as in television. For one segment, they actually put a Go-Pro inside a toilet tank to give the viewer a different view of the installation.

Throughout the presentation, Trethewey played brief video clips of himself and the This Old House team in action. Trethewey and his crew have won a lot of Emmys (although strangely, never when they chose to attend the ceremony), they have been on the Jimmy Fallon Show, and they have partnered with Mike Rowe and his Generation Next program to bring an awareness of the trades to a new generation of workers. “Find someone with a good work ethic,” he said, “that’s key. You can teach them the rest.”

Trethewey found it amazing (and more than a little troubling) that Americans just don’t seem to be as “handy” as they used to be. People used to fix their own plumbing, their own cars, and they just don’t seem to anymore. “You should not be able to get a mortgage,” he said, “if you can’t find the main water shut-off in your house.”

Recently, Trethewey has been doing a lot of post-disaster recovery work, in New Orleans after Katrina, in New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy, and in Paradise, California which was struck by one of the nation’s deadliest wildfires last year.

Through it all, Trethewey has been proud to represent the industry. “I get to teach the public how to do it right,” he said in closing.

Ken Nielsen thanked Trethewey for his speech, saying, “Richard, we are proud to call you one of our own.” He then urged attendees to spend time at the Technology Showcase, to stop by the Apprentice Contest, and to join him for the Annual Meeting to be held on Friday morning.

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