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Home | South Texas | Focus | Focus - HVAC and Plumbing – Building continues to grow in Valley

Focus - HVAC and Plumbing – Building continues to grow in Valley

image Sarah Sagredo-Hammond, president and treasurer, Atlas Electrical, Air Conditioning, Refrigeration & Plumbing Services Inc., Alton, TX

SOUTH TEXAS – How would you describe the state of the construction industry in general terms? Construction in the Valley is booming, there is growth in every area of the Rio Grand Valley.  We have been honored with Space X, the medical center and the metropolitan area that will be created north of Edinburg. It’s a little city within a city and has everything from brand new homes, shopping and the beauty of nature.

Do you see an increase in the number of outside contractors coming to the area? 
    Outside contractors are always bidding and moving into our area, with the big government contracts coming in and the growth as described above, yes.
    Contractors love grand projects and there are many coming to the RGV, all bidding and working on being the creation head.  
What are the “hot button” issues?
    Increases in taxes, especially in the Hidalgo County area. It seems that there was a huge spike and many homeowners are upset and voicing opinions. Child care and awareness has taken a huge turn in attention in our area; finding ways to compensate for many children who have immigrated into the valley and also caring for those abused. There is a huge need for grants and funding to support these children. 
    I would say education has become a big topic for our area. Many of the graduating schools have first time Hispanics going to college, having college readiness and an increase in such graduations has sparked the minds of the residents of the RGV.  

What is on the horizon?
    Technology, technology, and technology of EQUIPMENT. With so many industry changes and standards and technology simplifying life, many are trying to understand how to bring that to our industry, with WIFI thermostats to help control spending of electricity and having more control of use of air conditioning, more people are becoming aware of the air conditioning units at home, which is always great.  The greater the awareness, the stronger the education.

How has the R-22 refrigerant phase out affected the industry?
    Its affects are big.  Many homeowners, who work paycheck to paycheck, and being that we are in an industry where the pay rate is lower than other areas, affects how people can afford to live.  With the heat in our area, people are dependent on air conditioning. Without it, you can dehydrate or faint from heat.  Therefore, for those on fixed incomes, having to find better solutions for financing and financing in house was a must for the phase out of the R-22.    
Have there been any significant code changes in the last year?
    There are a lot of code upgrades that are in place by state and federal changes; however, the cities within the states usually work with industries and homebuyers to put these into place at a different time period as a mandatory change.  So, we are seeing more of the heat load calculations being enforced on new homes, as well as proper air flow requirements.  Permits have also been required by the cities for quite some years, but enforcement of such seems to be on the rise, which is always a good thing in our industry.  
With the recent emphasis on green building, what is the most environmentally friendly change relating to your industry?
    Solar power - paneled for electrical installations and possible solar paneled ideas for HVAC. We do electrical work, new construction and installation, so we are able to work with energy conscious individuals who are looking for green solutions.
What is the most significant challenge your industry faces? Labor shortages? Other?
    Labor shortages is really not the challenge, it is well-trained labor that seems to fall short.  When we hire, we go through a year training of what is and isn’t acceptable to our industry.  We ask for our technicians to get certifications and licenses, and pay for that training to bring them up to par in our industry and where they need to be to represent us.  After a year of training and building, other companies come in and offer them a few more dollars, without knowing how their progress is or what they know; and some of these companies do NOT continue with training and education of the industry. In order to serve the community properly, you have to continue to educate yourself to stay up to speed, and that seems to fall short in our area.  

 Is HVAC/Plumbing education available for those wishing to enter the industry?
    We have local community colleges that dedicate time and money to train and provide book knowledge and some skilled hands on training to keep the integrity of the industry and the education of such. These schools, such as South Texas College, also offer many grants and scholarships so that training of the industry can continue and should be taken advantage of.  
Has the theft of copper affected pricing of work?
    Yes, customers wonder why charges increase and why they have to pay more for services than a few years back and feel personally frustrated at increased pricing. However, material and equipment continues to rise.  

Are there solutions to the copper theft problem?
    Stop allowing anyone to receive funding on copper.  It should be a legitimate company with a W-9 or a dba and social that is ONLY allowed to turn in copper for reimbursement, this would help cease some of the theft.  

What are the rewards of the industry?
    Everyday the rewards mount! This industry is a SERVICE industry.  When calls come in, and you help a customer and save their children from the heat and go over and beyond on weekends to help their families, the blessings and thankfulness of the people is tenfold. Further, in staffing, the technicians who grow with our company are compensated and are now able to provide for their families and grow and see their families flourish because of a company and the strength it brings is beautiful.  Service industries will never be done away with as long as licenses are continually checked and required and as long as requirements are made of them to stay up to par to the latest technology and trainings.  These industry rewards come not in big monetary gains, but in the smiles of those we are able to serve.
What are keys to being successful?
    Great team work.  It requires a team to build an army, acceptance of each individual’s strengths and weaknesses and in the end backing each other up when the need is there.   The teamwork creates an atmosphere of ownership, passion and drive and it is with great pride that Atlas says we have UNDENIABLY great teamwork. –cw

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