iewing the massive hall from
one end to the other, you could clearly see the hustle and bustle of a
marketplace as 1,672 companies displayed the vast array of equipment that
is a vital part of modern living, a key component of the global economy
and the answer to a better life for people at home and abroad.
It was a celebration as much for the engineers and manufacturers who created the equipment as it was for the contractors and equipment specifiers who came to learn about the latest systems and technology and to see hands-on demonstrations.
By any measure, AHR Expo 2004 was a big hit - with its exhibitors and the tens of thousands of attendees from 34 countries who jammed the hall from Jan. 26-28. With 324,590 net sq ft of exhibit space, the exposition in California, U.S. was the largest HVAC/R exposition ever held on the U.S. West Coast. Dozens of seminars and courses helped attendees learn about the latest techniques, how to improve their businesses, and how to plan for the future.
The Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) is a proud co-sponsor of AHR Expo (next year's will be in Orlando, FL, U.S. on Feb. 7-9) with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). For attendees, it is an outstanding showcase for innovation. Eight of the exhibitors were recognized with 2004 Innovation Awards, 32 received "Honorable Mentions," and 225 companies were first-time exhibitors.
Despite the upbeat tone by an industry that anticipates an expanding economy, a more somber message was being delivered across the country in Cleveland, OH, U.S., where Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans released a long-awaited report on manufacturing.
Titled "Manufacturing in America," the report advocates policy recommendations and calls for action by U.S. Congress, federal agencies, state and local governments, and the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The report lists recommendations ranging from a reduction in the corporate tax burden, to reforming legal excesses, to curtailing frivolous lawsuits. It recommends a more objective cost benefit review process for proposed and existing regulations, noting that regulatory compliance costs are equal to approximately 4 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Among the objectives of this effort were the identification of obstacles facing manufacturers nationally and internationally and the development of short- and long-term solutions, many of which emerged from 20 roundtables held across the country by U.S. Commerce Department officials. ARI was a participant in those roundtable discussions, which over coming years, could lead to a comprehensive strategy that Mr. Evans says would ensure that manufacturers have the opportunity to compete and succeed at home and abroad.
Mr. Evans said his department was proposing creation of an assistant secretary to serve as the "point person for manufacturing and services" and is also calling for creation of an office of industry analysis that would analyze the impact of proposed regulations on manufacturers' competitiveness.
"Now is the time for government to work with our manufacturers, to reduce their costs, increase their resources and markets, strengthen their work force, and sharpen our focus on their success," Mr. Evans said.
Secretary Evans also noted the importance of training and maintaining a world-class workforce, including education for students in school as well as continuing education and re-education efforts, all of which would impact our industry with its increasing shortage of competent, trained technicians.
Obviously much of this must be undertaken by Congress. To help build better relations with our elected officials, nearly 50 representatives of ARI companies and other associations traveled to Washington, D.C., U.S. in February for ARI's first annual "CoolConnections" policy symposium.
ARI presented its first public policy award to U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who has been a stalwart friend of the HVAC/R industry. We also met with U.S. representatives C.W. "Bill" Young (R-FL), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee; Harold Ford (D-TN), a member of the House Budget and Financial Services Committees; and Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), a member of the Education and Workforce Committee.
Later we fanned out to meet our senators and House members, learning for example, that there is strong support for full funding of Perkins Grants, which help local school districts provide applied technology training - including HVAC/R instruction. In an example of what can be accomplished through face-to-face meetings, a senator offered to send a letter to the entire U.S. Senate urging support for the grants. A U.S. congressman offered a legislative solution for long-overdue tax reform.
These are just the first steps of what will be a multi-year effort to promote our causes with Congress and U.S. government agencies. ARI through its members and relationships with other associations is well positioned to help shape a better future for HVAC/R manufacturers.
In this way, and thanks to the ingenuity and perseverance of our industry, we will continue to make progress on the goal of improving the quality of life for billions more people around the world.