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Healthy growth in building construction offsets infrastructure weakness Total construction starts rose 3% in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $945.8 billion, according to Dodge Construction Network. Nonresidential building starts rose 6% and residential starts increased by 4%, while nonbuilding starts fell 4%. Year-to-date, total construction was 6% higher in the first four Read more

Healthy growth in building construction offsets infrastructure weakness

Total construction starts rose 3% in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $945.8 billion, according to Dodge Construction Network. Nonresidential building starts rose 6% and residential starts increased by 4%, while nonbuilding starts fell 4%.

Year-to-date, total construction was 6% higher in the first four months of 2022 compared to the same period of 2021. Nonresidential building starts rose 19%, residential starts gained 3%, while nonbuilding starts were 2% lower. For the 12 months ending April 2022, total construction starts were 12% above the 12 months ending April 2021. Nonresidential starts were 24% higher, residential starts gained 11% and nonbuilding starts were down 1%.

“The construction sector is seemingly shrugging off the fear of higher interest rates and a potential recession,” said Richard Branch, chief economist for Dodge Construction Network. “Many building sectors have made the turn from weakness to recovery as underlying economic growth and hiring are solid. With the pipeline of projects in planning continuing to expand, this trend should continue in the months to come. However, the concern that the Federal Reserve will force the U.S. into recession later this year may thwart the momentum in construction starts. While recession is not our baseline forecast, it can not be fully discounted.”

Below is the breakdown for construction starts:

  • Nonbuilding construction starts fell 4% in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $187.1 billion. Starts in the environmental public works category rose 8%, while utility/gas plant starts moved 10% higher. Starts for highway and bridge projects fell 14% and miscellaneous nonbuilding starts dropped 2% during the month. Through the first four months of the year, total nonbuilding starts were 2% lower than in 2021. Highway and bridge starts gained 28% through four months and environmental public works projects were 2% higher. At the same time, miscellaneous nonbuilding and utility/gas plants starts dropped 37% and 39% (respectively) through four months.

For the 12 months ending April 2022, total nonbuilding starts were 1% lower than in the 12 months ending April 2021. Environmental public works starts were up 10%, and street/bridge starts gained 6%. Miscellaneous nonbuilding starts were 33% lower and utility/gas plant starts were down 3%.

The largest nonbuilding projects to break ground in April were the $531 million Gross Reservoir Expansion in Golden, CO, the $450 million Seven Cowboy wind project in Washita and Kiowa counties, OK, and the $338 million Great Pathfinder wind farm in Boone and Hamilton counties, IA.

  • Nonresidential building starts rose 6% in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $295.9 billion. In April, commercial starts rose 2%, institutional starts gained 8% and manufacturing starts increased 16%. Through the first four months of 2022, nonresidential building starts were 19% higher than during the first four months of 2021. Commercial starts advanced 11% and institutional starts 1%, while manufacturing starts soared 189% on a year-to-date basis.

For the 12 months ending April 2022, nonresidential building starts were 24% higher than in the 12 months ending April 2021. Commercial starts grew 19%, institutional starts rose 11%, and manufacturing starts swelled 163% on a 12-month rolling sum basis.

The largest nonresidential building projects to break ground in April were the $500 million Caesar Virginia hotel and casino in Danville, VA, the $430 million Aggie Square Life science building in Sacramento, CA, and the $400 million The Rose Gaming Resort in Dumfries, VA.

  • Residential building starts rose 4% in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $462.9 billion. Single family starts gained 1% and multifamily starts rose 13%. Through the first four months of 2022, residential starts were 3% higher than in the first four months of 2021. Multifamily starts were up 16%, while single family housing slipped 2%.

For the 12 months ending April 2022, residential starts improved 11% from the same period ending March 2021. Single family starts were 6% higher and multifamily starts were 27% stronger on a 12-month rolling sum basis.

The largest multifamily structures to break ground in April were the $420 million 2-10 54th Avenue apartments in Long Island City, NY, the $400 million Civic Square condominiums in Seattle, WA, and a $300 million mixed-use building in Long Island City, NY.

Regionally, total construction starts in April rose in the Northeast, South Atlantic, and South Central regions, but fell in the Midwest and West.

WAVE will help Sloan improve and credibly report water stewardship performance The Water Council is pleased to announce Sloan, a global manufacturer of commercial plumbing systems based in Franklin Park, Ill., has signed onto The Water Council’s WAVE program. Sloan is the first company to initiate the program since its formal launch in February. WAVE Read more

WAVE will help Sloan improve and credibly report water stewardship performance

The Water Council is pleased to announce Sloan, a global manufacturer of commercial plumbing systems based in Franklin Park, Ill., has signed onto The Water Council’s WAVE program.

Sloan is the first company to initiate the program since its formal launch in February. WAVE will help Sloan improve its enterprise-level water stewardship performance and public reporting, concluding with independent verification of its progress.

“Water is earth’s most precious resource, and it’s important to understand and prioritize our water risks and shared water challenges in order to become better stewards,” said Patrick Boyle, Sloan director of sustainability. “Sloan’s historic partnership with The Water Council’s WAVE program provides us with an exciting opportunity to lead by example by communicating our corporate water stewardship efforts.”

The Water Council, an internationally acclaimed nonprofit dedicated to freshwater innovation, has helped companies of all sizes and industries improve water stewardship. It created the WAVE program to help businesses anywhere in the world address water on an enterprise level, moving beyond non-contextual water management targets to develop meaningful strategies, goals and actions.

Through WAVE, participating companies learn about their water uses, impacts and risks; approve a corporate water stewardship policy; prioritize sites where water-related risks can be mitigated; and communicate a corporate action plan, goals and timeline. Their efforts are then independently verified by SCS Global Services, an international leader in third-party sustainability verification. Verified companies can confidently state they are credibly and strategically addressing water challenges and opportunities where it matters most.

“Sloan is a market leader and global influencer when it comes to sustainability, and we’re proud to welcome them as the first official WAVE client,” said Dean Amhaus, The Water Council president and CEO. “We designed WAVE to benefit a variety of companies, whether you’re just starting on your water stewardship journey or already addressing water risks like Sloan.”

As a water technology company, Sloan has prioritized water stewardship and sustainability since its founding in 1906. The company joined The Water Council in 2011, and in 2021, it certified its Franklin Park headquarters to the International Water Stewardship Standard. Participation in WAVE will help Sloan expand on that work and strategically address water stewardship across all its sites and its supply chain.

Prior to WAVE’s launch in February, The Water Council pilot tested the program with A. O. Smith Corporation, Badger Meter, Nutrien and Watts Water Technologies.

A. O. Smith Corporation (NYSE: AOS) announced today that Eddie Goodwin, senior vice president, president of Lochinvar, will retire July 1, and Stephen O’Brien, chief operating officer, has been named the successor. “Since joining the company over 40 years ago, Eddie’s vast experience and steadfast leadership has helped shape Lochinvar into the industry-leading, high efficiency boiler and Read more

A. O. Smith Corporation (NYSE: AOS) announced today that Eddie Goodwin, senior vice president, president of Lochinvar, will retire July 1, and Stephen O’Brien, chief operating officer, has been named the successor.

“Since joining the company over 40 years ago, Eddie’s vast experience and steadfast leadership has helped shape Lochinvar into the industry-leading, high efficiency boiler and water heater manufacturer it is today,” said Kevin Wheeler, chairman, president and CEO. “He has built a strong team committed to designing, manufacturing and selling high quality, innovative products that meet our customer’s needs. We thank him for his vision and commitment to our customers, our employees and the A. O. Smith values over the past four decades.”

Eddie Goodwin

In his new role, O’Brien will build on the strong foundation Goodwin and his team have established, by implementing the strategic vision for the organization and further expanding Lochinvar’s innovative product lines. O’Brien has served as chief operating officer for Lochinvar since August of 2021 and is uniquely qualified to assume the role of president going forward. O’Brien joined Lochinvar from Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US (METUS) and prior to that, worked for A. O. Smith Electrical Products Company for 14 years before the company was sold to Regal Beloit Corporation. He holds an MBA from the University of Dayton in Ohio and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from State University of New York at Potsdam.

Stephen O’Brien

“With his extensive experience in  the HVAC industry, his strong leadership skills and focus on customer satisfaction, Steve is the ideal person to lead our Lochinvar business unit going forward,” Wheeler added. “I am confident the transition will be seamless, and Steve’s extensive background and business development skills will further strengthen Lochinvar’s channel partnerships and our presence in the market.”

It’s been quite the start to 2022 for Ryan Bickerton, owner/operator of Bickerton Plumbing and Heating LLC, Boston. Recently recovered from COVID, his phone hasn’t stopped ringing. He’s been busy, and that’s a good thing. Mostly specializing in high-end renovations, old houses in the historic areas of Boston and high-efficiency boilers, Bickerton has run his Read more

It’s been quite the start to 2022 for Ryan Bickerton, owner/operator of Bickerton Plumbing and Heating LLC, Boston. Recently recovered from COVID, his phone hasn’t stopped ringing. He’s been busy, and that’s a good thing.

Ryan Bickerton, Bickerton Plumbing and Heating, plumbing, heating, hydronics, radiant heating, trades, skilled trades

Mostly specializing in high-end renovations, old houses in the historic areas of Boston and high-efficiency boilers, Bickerton has run his own company since 2014. At the age of 18, Bickerton started into plumbing, working for a larger residential company doing large multi-unit buildings where he worked for 2 1/2 years before moving to a smaller company doing mainly commercial work.

The itch started for Bickerton when he started in construction over the summers during high school, working for a roofing company and a general contractor, basically doing whatever was needed on a job site. “I tried helping whoever needed to be helped on the site—plumbers, electricians, carpenters—cleaning up, making coffee runs, etc. I remember those summers working for the GC and I enjoyed helping the plumbers more than anything else. I realized I was falling in love with the industry, and the rest is history,” says Bickerton.

Nevertheless, Bickerton was encouraged to make an attempt at college even though he didn’t really want to; he gave it a shot anyway. He lasted less than a year and decided that was it. “For me, it was a waste of time and money,” says Bickerton. “My parents were okay with me leaving after giving it a valiant effort, but my father said ‘pick a trade because you’re not going to be sitting around here all day.’”

Bickerton recalls speaking to his father, and a few other people he knew who worked in the trades, and was pushed in the direction of electrical or plumbing mainly because, “you’ll never be looking for work.”

After obtaining his Journeyman Plumbing and Gas Fitting License in 2008, Bickerton completely shifted gears and joined the United States Marine Corps where he was deployed to Afghanistan. It was a difficult decision but joining the military was something Ryan had always wanted to do. In 2008, it was the right time. After six years of service with the Marines, Bickerton returned to plumbing and got his Master Plumbing and Gas Fitting License. “I started doing more and more side work until I landed a few bigger jobs that motivated me to leap into owning my own company. I haven’t look back since,” says Bickerton.

Ryan Bickerton, Bickerton Plumbing and Heating, plumbing, heating, hydronics, radiant heating, trades, skilled trades

Part of that drive came from his biggest role model, his father, who worked most of his life in a power plant in South Boston as a general mechanic—he could pretty much fix anything and everything that needed fixing. “My father is the hardest working person I know. I remember as a young kid not seeing him for days at a time because he was getting home late and leaving early before we were awake. I knew he was out working hard taking overtime to provide for us. He could and would fix most things around the house. I remember one year our water heater went out on Thanksgiving and he took care of it by himself. I thought that was pretty cool, and still do,” says Bickerton.

As for Ryan, he never considered himself a role model, but he tries to conduct himself that way. Any chance he gets, he’ll speak highly of the trades. “If any young kids ask me about the trades, I do my best to steer them in the right direction and let them know it’s a very viable option. It’s a rewarding career choice, and college and white-collar work doesn’t have to be for everyone,” says Bickerton.

Ryan Bickerton, Bickerton Plumbing and Heating, plumbing, heating, hydronics, radiant heating, trades, skilled trades

Bickerton does rough-ins to beautiful renovations.

Bickerton’s trade role model was his first foreman, Mike Sheehan, a plumber for 30+ years, his body broken from years of moving massive boilers and extra heavy cast-iron pipe. “But he still loved the trade. He taught me a lot of my early skills, and he would say that this trade has all the potential to do anything you want with it, which has really stuck with me to this day,” says Bickerton.

Ryan Bickerton, Bickerton Plumbing and Heating, plumbing, heating, hydronics, radiant heating, trades, skilled trades

Bickerton’s go-to tool has been the ProPress/MegaPress. “Don’t get me wrong, I loved to solder and took great pride in having clean joints, and still think it’s a necessary skill to have, but the press system is a complete game changer.”

While respecting these two men’s work ethic, Bickerton knows that balancing work and family life is important. It’s probably his most difficult task, says Bickerton. “I’m usually out the door by 5 am and home around 5 pm, and the kids go to bed between 7:30-8 pm and then most nights I have to do estimates or invoices when they’re in bed so I don’t have as much ‘leisure time’ as I’d like. I try to make every second I’m home count.”

And the weekends are for family. Bickerton used to work every Saturday and even some Sundays. Lately, however, Ryan doesn’t work Sunday unless it’s a catastrophic emergency, and on Saturdays he tries to be done by 12 or sometimes not at all. “Like I said before, I love plumbing and working but I don’t think I’ll ever regret not working more and spending less time with my family so I try to best divide my time in the fairest manner possible.”

Ryan Bickerton, Bickerton Plumbing and Heating, plumbing, heating, hydronics, radiant heating, trades, skilled tradesIt’s clear that family time is most important. “In my spare time, more than anything, I enjoy hanging out with my wife and our children. My wife Micayla and I have been married for six years and our three kids are growing up fast. If I’m not working, I’m with them. They are starting to get into different activities, hockey, baseball, football, swimming, horseback riding, and I just enjoy every second of that. Even if it’s just hanging out and watching a movie, it’s never wasted time for me,” says Bickerton.

Perhaps family means a bit more to Bickerton because his daughter, Mallory, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Rubenstein Taybi Syndrome (RTS). In 2017, Ryan and Micayla, along with some close friends, started a non-profit organization called Mals Pals Foundation. “We have been very fortunate with Mallory. We live in the epicenter for healthcare; she has had an inclusive educational opportunity here in Boston and it helps that we are able to pay for anything and everything she has needed in order to thrive,” says Bickerton.

Ryan Bickerton, Bickerton Plumbing and Heating, plumbing, heating, hydronics, radiant heating, trades, skilled tradesMal’s Pals Foundation aims to ease the burden of other families who maybe are not as fortunate. The Bickertons raise awareness for rare diseases like RTS, and they help educate newly diagnosed families. “We are trying to make difference in other people’s lives even if it’s just a small one. You can check us out at malspalsfoundation.org.”

Mallory is now seven-years-old and doing well. “Initially, there were concerns, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Bickerton.

Bickerton looks forward to going to work every day. “But the most rewarding to me is being able to sit back at the end of the day or at the end of a job and look at what I’ve done,” says Bickerton. “I like having something tangible, that I can look at and touch and say I did that, or I fixed that or I created that. Whether it’s fixing a leaking faucet, creating a bathroom where there wasn’t one before, plumbing a 5-unit building completely from scratch or providing someone with heat and hot water for the next 20-30 years. That’s pretty cool.”

Ryan Bickerton, Bickerton Plumbing and Heating, plumbing, heating, hydronics, radiant heating, trades, skilled tradesIn the end, Ryan really loves plumbing, even if he’s stressed out and jobs are behind, or he’s behind on paperwork, or he’s made a mistake and or redo something. “I still consider myself lucky to be doing what I love every day. And on those harder work days, I still get to come home to three beautiful children and a wife who loves me. Every time I walk in the door and they scream ‘DAD!’ all that stress lifts off instantly, and it’s all worth it.”

By Norman Hall A competitor recently asked how we can afford to spend so much time and money training our employees and our customers. My response is, “How can you afford not to train your people?” I would argue that education should be a prominent expense item for all contractors, wholesalers, and representatives in the Read more

By Norman Hall

A competitor recently asked how we can afford to spend so much time and money training our employees and our customers. My response is, “How can you afford not to train your people?” I would argue that education should be a prominent expense item for all contractors, wholesalers, and representatives in the HVAC and plumbing world. In this industry, where product and technical information can feel like a tsunami, customers rely on us to act as trusted advisors guiding them to the best solution. Our staff cannot simply exist as a walking, talking brochure. Arming our people with the knowledge and empowerment to think critically and to act with integrity has resulted in a thriving business and a dedicated customer base here at R.L. Deppmann.

pumps, Bell & Gossett, Xylem, Goulds Pumps, plumbing, training, contractor training, manufacturers reps, R.L. Deppmann

“OK, Show Me the Boiler and I’ll Help you out.”

A few months ago, I was at lunch with a commercial mechanical contractor. By the way, it was a real lunch, not a Zoom meeting. The contractor started asking about the importance of the R. L. Deppmann seminar series for the winter season. He told me the story. Last fall he purchased some equipment for a project from a competitor. The equipment was installed and ran fine for a short time. In the spring he received a call from the owner. There were complaints of sporadic shutdowns of the boiler. The younger salesperson who took the original order was called out to the jobsite to assist in troubleshooting.

The rep stood in the mechanical room and asked the contractor to take him to the equipment with the trouble. The response was, “it’s right behind you.” Imagine the look on the contractor’s face. The young salesperson was embarrassed and the customer lost confidence. No one wants this to be a story in their company.

Starting in the Industry

Employees are valuable assets of any successful company. Today, it appears there are more positions available than people to fill them. The result is a younger work force that is changing jobs and careers. The person you are hiring may have little knowledge of the industry and certainly little knowledge of your company.

Exposing this new employee to knowledge about the company, the job, and the growth opportunities is paramount. The new employee will leave you or you may leave them if they are not successful in a short time. There is a roadmap to training if you are willing to invest in it.

The New Employee Education Road Map

pumps, Bell & Gossett, Xylem, Goulds Pumps, plumbing, training, contractor training, manufacturers reps, R.L. Deppmann

Image Credit: Carbuyer

Our company, R. L. Deppmann, is a successful manufacturer’s representative of hydronic, steam, and plumbing products in Michigan and Ohio. Our customers call us to help them solve problems because we have, and teach, the knowledge they need. How does this happen? Our hiring pool on the sales and engineering end is no different than other companies, but the training program is.

  1. Start with core values and what the company is all about. Our new employees are purposely exposed to the company business and culture three times in the first few weeks of their career. The HR department presents, the managing supervisor presents, and a senior manager describes the business and culture.
  2. Know the team that supports you. Our customers are contractors, wholesalers, and owners. It is important for the new inside or outside salesperson to understand the various departments of support.
    1. The new sales rep spends a short time in the warehouse, learning, seeing, and touching the products. They also begin to learn the ERP and CRM systems.
    2. Next, they move into the startup and warranty (service) department. Here they begin to see installed products and how they are commissioned. With the Service Tech as their mentor, the employee will gather knowledge of the terms used in the industry, proper installation, and troubleshooting. There is also a chance to interface with customers.
    3. Customer service/inside sales is the next stop. Here they begin the process of satisfying customer requests. They learn product, parts, and our business systems. They work in a team with open conversation about the hundreds of different product types and customer issues. The employee learns to help the customer make a better decision about what they are asking for.
    4. We have a strong new construction business. The salesperson will learn the plans, specifications, proper selection and sizing, proper detailing to avoid issues, and pricing. Here there is the baseline process of speaking with contractors, wholesalers, engineers, and coordinating with other employees.
    5. By this time, the employee is well into their training period. They now go out on calls with a senior sales rep. They are prepared with some understanding of product, installation, troubleshooting, selection, and quoting. Daily discussions with the senior rep will fill in the features, benefit, and competitive landscape for company and individual success.
  3. Now the employee is prepared to be a resource for their customer. They understand who knows what and the resources available to satisfy the customer’s needs. The new employee feels like they are part of a team. They may have developed a friendship with other employees. They feel like they belong.

Getting Started: How to Create a Training Program

This program may seem difficult to start. We developed this over many years. The departments a new employee is exposed to changes with their job. An accounting employee will go through the core ideology training. They may not experience the customer service department but warehouse experience in return goods or the purchasing process knowledge may help them do their job better.

Start with that core ideology process. Make sure the employee understands who you are, where you fit in the industry, and what to think about when making decisions. Next, just pick one support department for the job and list what they need to know about it. Communicate with all the department employees what the goal is and just try it out for a couple weeks. You will develop your own program.

Next quarter I’ll share the continuing training program we use once the employee is in the job full time.

Norman Hall is an engineer and leader at the R. L. Deppmann Company, a manufacturer’s representative, in Michigan and Ohio. Norm has assisted in the design and troubleshooting of hydronic and steam systems for 45 years.