Hopefully, when this issue reaches your desk, winter is about over or will be very soon. It was quite a winter for much of the United States and Europe; suffice it to say I'm ready for spring.

Of course, with the advent of spring comes the finalization of plans for the HARDI regional meetings. I understand some major format changes are in the offing for many of the meetings this year, which will substantially increase the business and educational value of your attendance. While attendance at any meeting of value causes me to debate where my time is best spent, I have always benefited professionally from deciding to attend industry events. I hardily endorse the value of the regional meetings and encourage your attendance along with others from your firm. The following are the exciting venues for this year's spring meetings. I encourage you to check your calendars and plan to attend. Check out http://www.hardinet.org/ for further details.

  • Southeastern Regional, April 18-20, Amelia Island Plantation, Amelia Island, FL

  • Combined Northeastern & Mid-Atlantic Regional and Congressional Fly-In, May 17-19, The Liaison Capitol Hill, Washington, DC

  • Combined Central/Great Lakes Regional & Mid-Year Business Meeting, June 5-8, Oak Brook Hills Marriott Resort, Oak Brook, IL

  • Combined Southwest/Western Regional, June 13-15, Vail Mountain Resort & Spa, Vail, CO

This special issue of HVACR Distribution Business focuses on an issue that is critical to virtually every independent business person. The issue of workforce development is certainly not a new subject but one that has been gaining importance for a number of years as many experienced HVACR technicians are retiring and the emphasis of many school counselors is to promote college education over the opportunities of working in the trades. While there is no argument against a higher education, it has always been the case that it is not for everyone. Research has indicated that, in many cases, the basis for evaluating the performance of middle and high school counselors rests on the number of graduates who attend college. These counselors do not receive positive assessments if they suggest that students consider a career in the vocational or trade fields. The HARDI Independent Study Institute (formerly Home Study Institute) has been involved for years in providing basic HVACR training aimed at wholesale distributor and other industry employees. In addition the HARDI predecessors, NHRAW and ARWI, each produced numerous collateral materials, including tapes and brochures, about the HVACR wholesaling industry which were distributed to community colleges, vocational schools and high school counselors. These materials, and the myriad of others prepared by our sister associations in the industry, seemingly had limited success over the years, as evidenced by the issue we continue to face of finding an adequately trained workforce. Fortunately the workforce issue is now front of mind. In fact many entities, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Department of Education, Department of Defense, HARDI, ACCA, PHCC, RSES, AHRI, HRAI and many others, are meeting the challenges head-on.

I would be remiss if I did not also mention the continuing efforts of HARDI, through its Foundation, HALO, Guest Educator Program and support of the Instructors Workshop, in promoting the value of the HVACR industry and raising money for vocational school equipment and scholarships.

There is still much to do, but for the first time there appears to be a coordinated effort that will surely yield positive results in the future.