Greeted to the Desert Springs JW Marriott by the towering backdrop of the Santa Rosa Mountains, a record number of HARDI members met Nov. 4-7 for the 2006 Annual Fall Conference in Palm Desert, CA. As “the best conference yet,” it is safe to say that the conference was indeed a world-class event that exceeded its goal of promoting the excellence in HVACR wholesale distribution.

As the spine of the association body, 15 committees and three councils held interactive meetings with jam-packed agendas on Sunday, the first full day of the conference. We will print detailed accounts from each in the February issue of HARDI Distribution Today, but there are many notable highlights.

From the active Membership Committee came the suggestion that the association form a Hydronics/Radiant Heating Council to address the growing needs of that industry segment. The Supply Chain Technologies Committee recommended a new HARDITek partner that will offer MSDS on-demand services to subscribing HARDI members. The HVAC Systems and Equipment Council continued discussions on 13 SEER matches and legal implications, while the Refrigeration Systems Council hosted a panel of representatives from ARI, ACCA and the EPA to join their discussions for a national refrigerant reclaim initiative and preparations for R-410A conversion.

Once again, the Habitat for Humanity Committee will be working to provide product to the Jimmy Carter Work Project. The next building it will sponsor will be the 2007 project in Los Angeles, CA. A representative from the L.A. affiliate was on hand with information on the project, including house blueprints. The Committee will begin soliciting donations in the near future. However, thanks to the dedication and determination of the Heating, Airconditioning Ladies Organization (HALO), that load will be a lot lighter. Through their silent auction and other creative initiatives, the women were able to raise more than $10,000 during the conference to donate to the cause.

Also meeting during the conference was the board of the HARDI Foundation, which exists to launch and support educational and research programs in the field of distribution and other related disciplines within the HVACR industry. Mueller Industries Inc. made a recent notable contribution to the foundation. The recently dissolved IWA buying group also donated to the foundation. Both donations totaled more than $18,000. One recent project funded by the foundation was the development and production of a video titled Connections for Life. Foundation President Doug Young gave the Monday luncheon audience a preview of the brand-new video. It was developed to:

  1. Instill industry pride and satisfaction to current industry employees;

  2. Demonstrate the value of distributors to domestic and foreign suppliers; and

  3. Introduce young people to the potential for careers in wholesale distribution in this truly essential industry.

The video had a great reception and will be available at no cost to HARDI members through the foundation and on the association website.

New this year was the development of the Market Center Distribution Award by the HARDI Board of Directors. They will award this prestigious honor each year, when appropriate, to a valued supplier member company that advocates the principles of Market Center Distribution and by their continued business practices proves their commitment to the wholesale distribution. The intent of the award is to raise awareness of the effectiveness and efficiency of wholesale distribution and to recognize those companies that have exhibited a long-term commitment to the underlying principles of HARDI. The first MCD Award was presented during the Monday conference breakfast to Nu-Calgon Wholesaler Inc., a supplier member for more than 33 years.

In addition to the interactive committee and council meetings, attendees have come to expect first-rate speaker and educational sessions. Expectations were exceeded during this conference, from the opening keynote of industry favorite Michael Marks through the Industry Executive Forum. Marks provided valuable insights about the rabid merger-and-acquisition environment and how distributors can capitalize. The Industry Executive Forum featured top executives from the refrigeration, controls, equipment and supply facets of the HVACR industry, who all agreed that distribution will remain an integral part of their future strategies.

And one can't neglect to discuss the always-successful conference booth program. The program had 230 supplier member companies represented and more than 320 distributor members attending. Participants witnessed packed aisles from start to finish during the four-hour show, with true business propositions taking place.

In the end, the greatest conference value touted by attendees is the constant stream of networking that takes place. From the golf tournament to meetings, speakers to meals, conference booth program to informal gatherings in the conference halls and terraces, HARDI's 2006 Fall Conference afforded the record number of more than 1,300 industry attendees ample opportunity for the growth of their businesses, their careers and their industry.

Plan now to join the 2007 Annual Fall Conference Oct. 6-9 at the Orlando World Center Marriott, Orlando, FL. As always, details will be available on HARDI's website at www.HARDInet.org.