Amidst all of the craziness that COVID-19 has brought upon us, there’s a very special organization that continues to work hard to protect and further the HVACR industry—whether you know it or not. We have the incredible opportunity to sit down with President and CEO of Air Conditioning Contractors of America, or ACCA, Barton James, and talk about the impact of COVID-19 on the industry, what ACCA is doing about it, and what the future looks like for the trades.

Hailing from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Barton has a storied career. From serving as a political appointee in the USDA during George W. Bush’s administration and through the events of 9/11 to representing the trades before Congress and the Administration, he’s seen it all. Barton has some encouraging words for the industry, and notes that while it’s tough right now, we’re already seeing this country come together to tackle the issues at hand.

About the ACCA

If you’re in the HVACR industry, whether a technician or the owner of a multi-million dollar business, the ACCA is constantly fighting on your behalf. Since 1928, the ACCA has existed to provide the trades with a voice and fight for the continued growth and advancement of the industry. ACCA is known for being a source of technical expertise for the trades, but it also functions as the driving force behind lobbying for contractors as a whole. It’s easy for contractors to not know about all of the many ways that ACCA fights for them, but it’s imperative for the trades that the ACCA remains on the front lines.

Not only does ACCA actively fight for the rights of the HVACR industry in Washington, it acts as a resource for everyone in the trades. From providing educational tools and certification pathways to legal advice and networking, it’s not just for owners. By utilizing the opportunities the ACCA offers, members can actively participate in the industry and use the tools afforded to set themselves apart in the marketplace.

Unexpected Turbulence

In the almost century of its existence, the ACCA has never canceled a conference—until now. With the current pandemic in full force, the ACCA had to make the unfortunate yet correct decision to cancel the ACCA 2020 Conference and Expo in St. Louis, MO. This yearly educational conference is a staple of the ACCA, and entirely for the benefit of the trades. As Barton notes, it’s not a profitable event for the ACCA, it’s a service for the members. The cancelation was a huge blow, resulting in almost a million dollars lost. Still, Barton reminds us that while it was devastating to have to cancel the event, the entire country is also sacrificing and having to make difficult decisions for the health and safety of all.

This year’s conference had a great lineup, and was focused on the workforce, leadership, finances, and many other issues that are relevant and valuable to ACCA members today. There was also a big focus on veterans, as Barton recognizes their importance to the industry and country and knows the trades has opportunities to employ and do more for veterans.

Today and the Future of HVACR

Just a few weeks ago, finding talented and experienced workers was a real issue, and now the trades is having to look at the workforce in a whole new way. Our industry is surviving on repair work, but new construction is suffering greatly. The vast network of contractors that are members of ACCA are actively communicating and looking for ways to survive this trying time.

Over 21,000 letters have been sent in the past week from ACCA members weighing in on the current situation to ensure the trades stays recognized as the essential service it is. The ACCA is persistent in lobbying for the trades to keep it alive and healthy, and it’s never been more important than right now. In addition to cementing the trades’ status as an essential service, the ACCA is also working on solutions to the workforce issues prevalent today, as well as other pressing issues like the regulations around flammable refrigerants that are causing logistical problems for many contractors. All of this work the ACCA performs is gearing the trades and its members to be as competitive as possible when the economy inevitably springs back to life.

Join the Fight

With over 4,000 members in ACCA doing more than half of the work in this country, representation in Washington from ACCA is invaluable. ACCA is constantly fighting for the HVACR industry as whole, for both members and non-members. Barton and ACCA are communicating with the Department of Labor, the Department of Energy, members of Congress, and even the White House on a regular basis to give the trades the voice it deserves and so desperately needs. Whether or not you’re a current member, and even if you don’t agree with some ACCA decisions, Barton and us here at RYNO can’t encourage you strongly enough to consider becoming involved with the advocacy work that ACCA does. Be part of the voice that continues to fight for and shape the industry, and you can help us create a bright future for the trades.