Profile of PHCC’s New President

The incoming president of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors — Association (PHCC) will be installed at CONNECT 2016.

PHCC has a long history of helping plumbing, heating and cooling contractors be the best in the business by providing services, information, resources and leadership. This year, CONNECT 2016 is geared to steer you in the right direction of moving your business forward.

It’s the perfect time and place to install and introduce new ideas and new leadership. 

Patrick Wallner has served the PHCC association on the national, state and local levels since 1992. And on Oct. 21, 2016, he will he take his place as the President of the PHCC – National Association.  

Wallner’s journey began as a member of PHCC of California (CAPHCC), where he served on the board of directors 1992–1995, was elected to executive committee in 1995 and then became state president in 1997–1998. He then served as Zone 4 director for the National Association from 2006–2008. Through his work and dedication, he has won numerous awards including the 2001 CAPHCC Contractor of the Year Award and the 2013 and 2014 PHCC of California President’s Award for service above and beyond the call of duty to the state PHCC organization. 

Wallner has also served on the Board of Governors for the PHCC Educational Foundation, where he works to help guide the foundation’s development of industry education and training programs for contractors and their employees. 

His journey in the plumbing, heating and cooling industry, however, began long before his involvement with PHCC. He is a second-generation plumbing contractor outside of Redding, California, involved in his family-owned business for 30 years. 

We had a chance to talk to Patrick Wallner and get an idea of what his plans are for the next year as he takes on his new role. Here’s what we learned: 

PHC: Can you talk a little about your journey in the industry? How did you first get involved in the plumbing, heating and cooling industry? What was it that inspired you to follow in your father’s footsteps? And, how did that transition into your work and involvement with PHCC and the different roles you’ve held? 

Patrick Wallner (PW): I grew up around the business. Dad started the company in 1968 when I was 7 years old. The shop and office were at the house until about 1976 when my parents moved the operations to Redding and opened up a bath boutique, too. It was one of the first plumbing showrooms in our area. When we were old enough, we worked during the summer months. 

Dad passed in 1995, and we moved the shop to a new and larger location about six or seven months later. I studied business administration and accounting in college and went to work full-time for the company in 1986. I just hit the 30-year milestone. My brother Andy runs the service department. He has been with the company more than 32 years now. His wife, Deanna, is our office manager and has recently celebrated her 26-year anniversary with the company. The majority of our employees have been with the company for more than 20 years. We treat all of them just like family members.

I grew up around the trade, along with four other brothers. Four out of five boys ended up in the trade. At one time, three of us worked for the company with my father. 

In 1990, I walked into my first PHCC national convention and trade show in San Francisco; I was so amazed. All I could see were PHCC signs and logos everywhere. Coming from a small town like Redding, I saw a great need for PHCC here. I started a local association and pulled most of the plumbing contractors together. We never used to talk to each other before that, except in passing at the supply houses. 

Since then I have been the president of my Rotary club, local and district president of the Sierra Pacific District of the Exchange Clubs and chairman of the Greater Redding Area Chamber of Commerce. I’ve been appointed by three governors to the District Fair Board, which I served as president three times in the past 15 years. I also have been board member of the Economic Development Corporation of Shasta County, and currently serve as vice chairman of the City of Anderson Oversight Committee to the Redevelopment Agency, the Shasta County Planning Commission, which I served as chairman last year, and the Northern California director for the California Counties Planning Commissioners Association. I am excited and proud to become the 2016-2017 president of the PHCC National Association. 

PHC: PHCC has noted that you are part of a distinguished group of contractors, manufacturers and industry leaders charged with guiding the foundation’s development of industry education and training programs for contractors and their employees. What are some of your past accomplishments in doing so, and how do you plan to proceed as the president of PHCC?

PW: The PHCC Educational Foundation is the educational branch of PHCC. It focuses on providing seminars and training at the national, state and local levels. The educational foundation has been heavily involved with SkillsUSA plumbing and HVAC apprentice contests that are held in Louisville, Kentucky. The foundation also sponsors the plumbing and HVAC contests at PHCC’s annual CONNECT events.   

I have contributed to the foundation every year for the past 20 years and recently was named to the PHCC Board of Governors. I have also served on the PHCC Educational Foundation Board of Directors for the past two years.

I am honored to assist in the development of our foundation’s offerings and will continue this endeavor for the rest of my life.

PHC: What do you consider the biggest challenge for the industry at this time, and what are your thoughts on addressing it? 
 

PW: Finding qualified skilled labor and regulatory oversight. We are addressing these issues through contractor advocacy and government relations. This year, we hosted a workforce development round table in Washington D.C., where several of our members, industry corporate partners and staff shared recruitment success stories with members of the Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus that could be replicated in other states. Issues such as workforce development and career and technical education were discussed, largely due to the projected shortage of 138,000 skilled tradesmen in the construction industry by 2022. I can personally speak to the difficulty in finding skilled workers. It is definitely a huge challenge that the PHCC — National Association is taking seriously and is focused on improving this issue for all PHC contractors, members or not. 

In May, more than 120 members of PHCC came together in Washington D.C. and lobbied our legislators during our annual legislative conference. The efforts that we undertake benefit the construction trades as a whole.

We have a very active and skilled Government Relations Committee led by my PHCC mentor, Mark Giebelhaus, and our Vice President of Government Relations, Mark Riso. Almost every day we conduct business in Washington, representing our industry in Congress, the Department of Energy, OSHA and the EPA. Our mission statement is “The Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors Association is dedicated to the advancement and education of the plumbing and HVAC industry for the health, safety and comfort of society and the protection of the environment.”

Also, our recent legislative focus has been on increasing funding of the Carl D. Perkins Act, which funds career and technical education, formerly known as vocational training. In September, we received the good news that the House of Representatives increased funding by $15.6 million for this federal program over fiscal year 2016. The bill now goes to the Senate. 

PHC: As you prepare to move into the role of resident, what are the new initiatives or goals set in place of 2017 and beyond?

PW: My theme for this coming year is “Collaborating for Success.” I’m really focused on the implementation of our new five-year strategic plan and making sure that we include all of the stakeholders in our association and industry to maximize our communications across the spectrum.

Related to the strategic plan, we’re really starting to see some movement on the increase in the HVAC products, services and education that we offer to our members. 45 percent of our plumbing members are also HVAC contractors. As a matter of fact, my involvement with PHCC is what led my company to add HVAC to our contractors’ license over 20 years ago. We have several HVAC seminars at CONNECT 2016, which is our annual national convention and trade show this year held Oct. 19-21 in San Antonio, Texas. 
 

Membership, public awareness, and workforce development are also a very important part of our strategic plan. Our biggest goal is increasing our membership. We have set the bar pretty high, which is to double our membership by 2020. 

PHC: What do you hope will be the main takeaways from this year’s CONNECT?

PW: We expect to increase our HVAC programs and service offerings this year. We will also focus on leadership training for our state and local leaders and volunteers, along with our efforts on workforce development. With these undertakings, I believe that we will get a huge jump start on “Collaborating for Success,” and we will be on the same page moving forward.
 
PHC: What has been the best piece of advice you’ve received in life that has allowed you to be successful and pay it forward with your involvement in the industry? 

PW: Support your industry and your community. My involvement in PHCC has been priceless. I have made friends with so many members over the years who will offer their help and advice with a simple phone call or email. The networking opportunities that we have been involved with over the years have made me a better businessman and employer. 
 
PHC: What advice would you give the new generation of plumbing, heating and cooling contractors as they start their careers? 

PW: The old saying that goes,“Good things come to those who wait.” Be patient; journeymen wages do not happen until you are duly qualified. Focus on the building codes, keep your driving record clean and continue to enroll in current code and technical training programs. We are all looking for career employees to come to work for us. 

Also, if you don’t belong to a trade association, consider joining the PHCC or one that represents your business interests. If you’re unable to join, please help support the PHCC Educational Foundation, government relations efforts and our Political Action Committee. Your voices are heard, and we are more effective with your support.  

PHC: As technology continues to advance and make its way into every industry, what role do you see it playing in the plumbing, heating and cooling industry, and how should contractors adjust?

PW: We are seeing a substantial swing in the technology we use to design, build, diagnose, repair and cost our jobs. The handheld computers we know as our phones continue to integrate current and new technology in the palm of our hands. From job site safety meetings to making changes to the design and build aspects of our projects, keep an open mind and focus on adapting the newest technology into your business model when it is feasible for you to do so. Don’t wait and get too far behind the curve.  

I walked into an interior lighting store here in my home town recently. They have been here for more than 50 years now, and I must say that I was shocked when they handwrote my invoice because they didn’t have a computer system, let alone a point of sale system. It took three times longer to look into the older catalog they had to find a special LED bulb that I was looking for. I went to the “expert” because I had to get the color and brightness combo correct the first time. Needless to say, I ended up ordering the bulbs online since they were not prepared to get out of the paper catalog. 

 

PHC: What are you looking forward to the most as president? 

PW: To serve with distinction and respect. This coming year I will be traveling all over this country and Canada as the ambassador of the PHCC National Association. This position is not for everyone and pretty much requires that I take a year off from my business. This has been a 25-year journey through many leadership positions and is the ultimate way to give back to the industry that has helped to make me and my company successful. If I can leave the PHCC a little better than it was when my year started, I will know that I have done a good job. 

PHC: Are there any thoughts you want to share? 

PW: There’s a quote from Theodore Roosevelt from 1908. It states, “Every man owes a part of his time to the business or industry in which he is engaged. No man has a moral right to withhold support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within his sphere.” That really sums it up. I picked this up in an email from our past National President, Keith Bienvenu of Louisiana. I truly believe that this says it all. The PHCC represents the entire industry, whether members or not. Why not consider giving back to the industry by getting involved and joining us? Just go to www.phccweb.org for information on how to join us, or email membership@naphcc.org

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