Englewood, Ohio — Joe Schmitt, the new president of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association, combines two of the nation's noble professions, farming and plumbing. Schmitt, owner of Joe Schmitt & Sons Plumbing & Heating here, grew up on a farm in Farmersville, Ohio. He took office at the PHCC-NA Network ‘08 Convention in Atlanta at the beginning of this month.
The new president said that growth in the industry and the association are the biggest challenges. The plumbing and HVAC industry will need 900,000 new technicians, he noted, and PHCC-NA, for its part, needs to attract more and younger contractors.
He was a farmer until he was drafted in the military in 1953 during the Korean War, Schmitt recalled. “On discharge from active duty, I returned to the farm. In 1954, I married my wife Dottie and I realized … that I needed to continue my education or look for a career. I applied for a job as an apprentice plumber at General Motors and was accepted into the apprentice program in 1954.”
Schmitt continued working on the farm and with a master plumber in Dayton, Ohio, during his apprenticeship. When he became a journeyman in 1959, the economy was difficult, so he decided to work for himself.
“My foreman and general foreman were previous [United Association] plumbers,” Schmitt noted. “They guided me through my apprenticeship and taught me the value of quality workmanship. When I passed the City of Dayton Master Exam, GM contacted me to teach their apprentices at Patterson Co-op adult education, which I did for five years. I also worked on the farm and building my business during this time.”
“In 1968, I joined the PHCC and the UA Local 162,” he continued. “My business was growing and I needed help, including the best source for qualified mechanics. My two sons served their apprenticeship through UA Local 162 and worked for me.”
Schmitt is well-suited to be an entrepreneur because he likes people. He said he enjoys meeting customers and making friends, but most of all, taking steps to make sure that his company will be successful in serving its customers.
He believes his most important lesson is to be able to serve the needs of his customer efficiently and at a reasonable cost.
He said he has taught his sons to recognize the value of building good relationships with customers, to be fair and trustworthy, and to maintain the company's image that has been developed over the years in business.
The company has become involved in green plumbing because saving money and resources makes sense.
“PHCC contractors are in the best place to guide homeowners and building owners in efficient water and environmental installations,” he said. “Our company tries to stay in the forefront by offering material and equipment to meet green plumbing. Our feedback from most customers is that they are interested in water and energy-saving equipment at reasonable costs.”
He started the business out of his home and moved from his shop at home to a building on Hoke Rd. in Englewood.
“Seven years later we revamped an old laundromat and barber shop into what is now our shop in downtown Englewood,” Schmitt said. “I am not a fan of moving. The question was, ‘What to do with all this stuff?’”
The biggest challenges for contractors in his part of the country, he said, are utility competition, the slow economy and the fluctuating of cost of materials.
On a national basis, the industry's biggest challenges are related to growth. The industry has to attract new technicians and PHCC has to attract new contractors.
“There is a need for about 900,000 new plumbing and HVAC technicians over the next seven years, according to government figures,” he noted. “That is an astonishing figure. We need to start now, even though the economy is down, to build an effective workplace for the future.”
The association's biggest challenge will be to attract younger contractors in order to maintain and grow membership.
“We need to offer educational materials that will entice the younger generation of plumbing and HVAC contractors to be part of our great association,” he said.
“We need to diversify and offer opportunities for the younger contractors,” he continued. “Business is not conducted today as it has in the past. We now have computers, cell phones and instant communication. The challenge is there and PHCC must be there to meet this challenge for future growth.”