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What A Year 2020 Has Been!

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First, I want to thank Eric Knaak of Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. for his leadership and wisdom during his tenure as chairman. I served with Eric on the executive committee, which was very educational and very rewarding to me. We work very well together and I remind him – I still have your cell phone number! 


Whenever someone asks how long I have been in the HVAC business, I always answer “literally all of my life.” When you grow up in a family business, you find yourself working at an early age — I can remember making drive strips and S-locks when I was nine years old.  


I did not intend to be in the HVAC business. My first career goal was to be a thoracic surgeon until a family friend told me I would be 40 years old before I would be making money and I would have no private life. 


After I started college, I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer and work for Boeing. Unfortunately, that job market dried up at the time, so I became a mechanical engineer and accepted a job with a company that built the large cooling towers for nuclear plants. That job opportunity did not work out sI decided to try my hand at the family business and 42 years later I have absolutely no regrets. 


I love the HVAC business. I have had the privilege working for a broad spectrum of clients including Dale Earnhardt and Billy Graham. My grandfather started the business in 1928, so I’m the third generation. I have vowed not to fall under the third generation curse, the one who runs the business into the ground – not on my watch! 


Our business became a member of the National Warm Air Heating &Air Conditioning Association in 1965. The first thing that was bought was a Manual J First Edition for $2.50. We were committed in “doing it right.” At that time, we were the only HVAC company in our area doing Manual J calculations — and it paid off well. Quickly our business became the contractor to go to in our area for a quality HVAC system. 

In 1986, I purchased one of the first copies of Right-J by Wrightsoft…greatest invention since the wheel! ACCA had given us the tools to “do it right” and to this day still provides us with the resources to be a successful HVAC contractor. 


Even though our business has more than 90 years in the industry, ACCA has an even longer one! Originally, the National Warm Air Heating and Air Conditioning Association started in 1914 and then became the National Environmental Contractor Association, which then became ACCA in 1969. 

Since 1914 — 106 years ago — this organization is all about “doing it right.” Our manuals have become industry standards — our quality installation and maintenance manuals help contractors to “do it right.” 


I have been involved in the talks about A2L refrigerantsand all along ACCA’s voice has been “let’s be sure we are ‘doing this right.” Interestingly but not surprisingly, the mission statements in 1914 and today are very similar. Both set the standard for HVAC contractors with the goal to elevate the interests of the industry. 


Almost exactly one year ago, the executive committee sat down to develop a strategic three-year plan. Between the hard work of the ACCA staff, the board of directors support and Bart James’s leadership, ACCA is half way through this journey already!! The best part, the plan has already started to pay dividends — not only to the financial health of ACCA, but how it is serving our membership and industry partners. 


One goal I would like to accomplish this year: rebuild our partnership with the ACOs, ACCA’s affiliated groups. The goal is to make ACCA more regional, more of a “in your backyard” type of organization. ACCA wants to be there for our members at the state and regional levels. 


I know a lot of contractors are extremely concerned about the future of the industry due to COVID-19. My message is of hope: this isn’t a permanent situation. Contractors need to look beyond next week, next month and look to years to come. What better way to determine that by having the resources already available at ACCA? 


I sincerely believe that the economy will rebound even stronger than before. We need to ready our companies, our employees, our training for when our country opens back up again. Let’s be prepared and get back to work! 


Author’s Note: Lanny Huffman is president of Hickory Sheet Metal in Hickory, NC, and ACCA’s 2020 – 2021 Chairman of the Board. He can be reached at 

Lanny Huffman
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