Interview with PHCC President Chip Greene
by Jack Morgan
October 5th, 2016 10:15am
I recently had the opportunity to sit down for lunch and interview my old friend, Chip Greene, just less than a month away from the PHCC National Convention in San Antonio. For those of you who may not know Chip, he is the third generation in his family to work in the industry. With his grandfather being a plumber and steamfitter and his dad starting his own business in 1948 and operating a successful mechanical contracting company for 35 years in the middle Georgia area until 1982. He worked part time for his dad in high school and college and went to work for a large mechanical contractor in 1984, working there until 1990 as an estimator and project manager. Greene and Associates has been around for 25 years performing plumbing & HVAC work in Central and South Georgia primarily in the educational, medical, and institutional markets. They also have a service division, Emerald Services, that performs commercial and residential service.

JM: What is the catalyst that led you to being President of a national organization?
CG: PHCC is split into zones (regions) across the country and there are 12 individuals who serve represent these zones on the PHCC Board of Directors. In 2010, the zone director for Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Kentucky decided to run for PHCC national vice president leaving a two- year unexpired term for his position. I was asked if I would serve to fill that position for the remaining two years. That exposed me to the business that goes on at the national level and it was of interest to me. At the end of my term, I ran unsuccessfully for vice president but was encouraged to run again the following year. I did in 2011 and was elected (once you are elected as vice president, you move up to president elect the next year and then president the year after that). My Dad told me once "those association folks will let you do anything you'll volunteer for". Good or bad, he was exactly right.

JM: What are the things that you feel like that you accomplished while being President of PHCC? What have you started that you feel may have been left "incomplete"?
CG: I have made every effort this year to refocus our efforts on serving our clients-our members, our state and local chapter executives, and our industry partners. These folks are the boots on the ground for the association and if they are successful and perceive value from being a part of PHCC, then PHCC will prosper. As far as what is left undone, we have made a little headway toward providing educational opportunities and recruiting manufacturers to partner with us training and education for our members. We are the Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors Association but for the most part, we have not done a very good job of embracing the "H & C" into what we do, despite the fact that approximately 45% of our membership perform HVAC. There is still much to do on this front. Fortunately, Pat Wallner of Redding, CA is coming in behind me as president and he is an HVAC contractor as well as a plumbing contractor like I am so he will continue with this effort and hopefully we will soon have a major HVAC manufacturer on board with PHCC as an industry partner.

JM: What have you enjoyed the most while being president?
CG: I think the thing I have enjoyed the most is the friends that I have made across the country. I have met lots of great entrepreneurs who are passionate about the success of this industry. And I have made an attempt to relate to these individuals as being a contractor the same as them. Also, you see the industry from a different perspective at this level, engaging manufacturers at a level not so much about selling product as what they see happening in the industry and how they can partner with PHCC to make an impact to address those trends.

JM: A big part of what PHCC does is representing the industry at the federal government level. What is the biggest challenge that PHCC currently faces in that arena?

CG: We use to focus the majority of our efforts on the legislature but in recent years, the executive and legislative branches of government "have been at odds with each other, so the executive branch uses regulations through government agencies such as the department of "energy, environmental protection agency, etc. to get their agenda accomplished. Unfortunately, many of these regulatory agencies have no idea of the practical implication of the rules they implement. PHCC has reorganized its staff so that the individual that we formerly used for technical and code assistance, now participates with these agencies to try to provide the regulators with some insight as to what the full implication of a rule they make has or in some instances, why the rule is not a one size fits all. This is an uphill battle but it is one we must fight.

JM: What challenges do the PHCC and other related organizations in the industry face in the future?
CG: Of course the elephant in the room is the lack of skilled help to fill the need of 240,000 new plumbing and HVAC jobs nationwide that it is predicted will be needed by 2020. This does not take into account vacancies that are going to come up due to the retiring of baby boomers that are 60+ years old. PHCC conducted a town hall meeting on workforce development on Capitol Hill in Washington back in April. A contractor on the panel stated that he was losing somewhere around $40 million in lost opportunities to get work because of the lack of skilled help to do the work. A strategic goal of PHCC for the next 5 years is to provide our members the tools and resources to overcome this shortage.

JM: What would you tell a young person who is thinking about a career in the p-h-c industry?

CG: I would tell him/her that this is an industry where if you learn a trade and you are good at it, you will always have a job. You will never be outsourced overseas. Also, for someone just getting into the trade, there is an opportunity to learn in both a formal setting and on the job, make a living, and when you turn out as a mechanic you have no debt for the education that you have gotten. I tell my apprentices, there is no limit to how successful they can be in this industry if they will simply embrace it and learn it.

JM: What is the PHCC doing to attract workers to the trade?
CG: PHCC as a national organization is developing resources for its member contractors to use to attract talent into the industry. Some of these are materials that can be used at job fairs to show young people the career path in the trade, what the opportunities are in related industries (wholesale distribution, engineering, etc.), and the earnings potential. Also, the PHCC Educational Foundation has recently rolled out a preapprenticeship program that covers topics such as tools of the trade, safety, introduction to construction drawings, soft skills (communication, employer expectations, individual responsibilities, etc.), and basic math skills. This will give a student or an individual examining career options to get a good overview of the industry and see if it is something that they would want to do. PHCC, through their state chapters, has a 4- year apprenticeship curriculum that can be done either through "brick and mortar" apprenticeship schools or on line through an e-learning format. Part of the apprenticeship program is that on the job training is going on at the same time so what they are learning is reinforced through a practical application. Lastly, a "Fast Start" program geared toward training service technicians is being revamped and should be available by year end.

JM: What message would you give fellow contractors about the benefits of belonging to PHCC?

CG: There are a lot of people smarter than me that do the same thing I do every day, but in many instances they have figured out a way to do if quicker, easier, simpler than I do it. Being a part of PHCC allows you to develop those relationships to network with and share best practices. It is also an opportunity to affect the success of the industry by participating in training the next workforce, affecting bad legislation and regulation that can possibly be detrimental to our businesses, and learn a better way to accomplish our business.

Chip, thank you for your time. It was great to see you! I look forward to seeing you in San Antonio!