The day-to-day task of HARDI members and others in the distribution business is to provide a reliable, efficient and effective mechanism for the delivery of goods throughout the United States.

But who looks to the future to ensure that this process not only continues but improves? No single company has the national breadth or experience to individually undertake the promotion of significant issues within the HVACR industry. This is precisely where the HARDI Foundation steps in. Drawing upon the resources of its members, the foundation serves as a significant catalyst in improving the distribution channel and ensuring that talented, enthusiastic and dedicated people join the HVACR industry.

The HARDI Foundation focuses on supporting education and research in the HVACR industry and related fields. It pays particular attention to promoting careers in the HVACR field, increasing productivity and marketing skills among distribution managers and employees, and advancing the idea of continuing education in the industry.

“A major focus of the HARDI Foundation is to help promote the highest standards in the HVACR industry and to develop educational programs that become the knowledge base that all top managers and employees need,” says Doug Young, the foundation's president. He is also the president of Grand Rapids, MI-based Behler-Young Co.

The foundation accomplishes this by raising money to fund projects to promote its vision. The trustees oversee all projects, but a new direction now includes receiving recommendations from HARDI's councils and committees that are on the front lines of the industry and suggest what or who is worth funding.

The HARDI Foundation is the result of the merger of ARWI's Research and Education Foundation and the NHRAW's James D. Wilder Foundation. When the two groups merged, it became apparent that one foundation would more effectively serve the goals of the new organization. The HARDI Foundation evolved following a vote at the HARDI summer conference in Savannah, GA, in April 2005.

This resulted in a governance mechanism for the HARDI Foundation that consists of trustees including the current HARDI president, president-elect, immediate past president, the executive vice president and director of education. The bylaws also allow for the appointment of four additional trustees. The foundation's first act was to elect a president who would serve a three-year term and have no additional duties in the HARDI organization so that he or she could focus on the foundation's goals.

The foundation is an IRS 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and contributions are tax-deductible. The HARDI Foundation has almost $280,000 in financial institution investments, annually earmarking $8,000 for employee scholarships and $3,000 in grants for school projects.

“Anyone wishing to contribute to the cause of maintaining a successful and growing HVACR industry can contact me about making a tax-deductible contribution,” says Don Frendberg, foundation treasurer and HARDI's executive VP/COO. “We also have a foundation brochure that includes a contribution form, and the annual conference registration form has a spot to designate a contribution, as does the annual HARDI dues statement.”

Several foundation projects already show positive reception and success. One such project is “Finding and Keeping Good People.” Employees receive tuition support through the foundation which serves as a great perk at maintaining a level of commitment and enthusiasm on the part of the employees towards the distributor.

Another program is “Industry Career Pathways.” The foundation has joined forces with about 20 or more distributor trade associations to promote distribution in the curriculum at the junior college level. This approach dovetails with the foundation's participation in the job market. It solicits more than 200 schools and offers to post their résumés on the HARDI website, which serves as recruitment fodder for all HARDI members who wish to access the information.

Recently, the foundation approved Training & Development (T&D) case studies that focus on two distributors with success in T&D programs. Students studying distribution at the University of Eastern Michigan are conducting the studies, and when they are completed, members can read the results when they are added to the HARDI Resource Guide section on Making Training & Development Thrive on the HARDI website.

Ramping up a new approach to highlighting the public relations aspect of distributors, the foundation funded Connections for Life, a new 6-minute professionally produced video that explains the role of the HVACR distributor in the marketing channel. This DVD is free to members. It helps newcomers understand the importance of the HVACR industry, and why it is a good place to work and an important contributor to our economic system.

“The HARDI Foundation is actively engaged in promoting the message of HVACR distributors throughout the industry and beyond,” says Doug Young. “Its future success hinges directly on the participation of distributors. Please consider taking an active role in giving something back to the industry by making a contribution to the foundation.”

T.S. Peric' is the editor of HVACR Distribution Business magazine. Contact him at tsperic@penton.com.