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Mechanical Hub kicks off its 2023 Industry Forecast series with good friend, Bruce Carnevale, President and CEO, Bradford White Corporation. You would think coming out of a global pandemic there might be signs of positive growth. But hold your horses, as they used to say. For the economy to back on the right track, it’s going Read more

Mechanical Hub kicks off its 2023 Industry Forecast series with good friend, Bruce Carnevale, President and CEO, Bradford White Corporation. You would think coming out of a global pandemic there might be signs of positive growth. But hold your horses, as they used to say. For the economy to back on the right track, it’s going to take some time, and steady leadership.

Bradford White Corporation, industry forecast, economic forecast, water heaters, government regulations, plumbing, heating, Bruce Carnevale

Bruce Carnevale, center, right, holding water bottle

MH: I’ve heard that the first half of 2023 might be a bit bumpy, how do you see 2023 shaking out and the short-term economy in general?

Carnevale: I’m actually a bit more concerned about the 2nd half of 2023, John. While most economic indicators are not good right now, some are headed in the right direction so there feels like there is a bit of stability for now. Even though it has moderated the past couple of months, inflation continues to be stubbornly high, but the jobs market had been surprisingly strong. I’m not sure everyone understands that when the inflation rate falls from 9.1% to 6.5%, that doesn’t mean prices have fallen. It means that prices are increasing at a lesser rate, but they are still increasing at over three times the Fed’s target rate!

Bradford White Corporation, industry forecast, economic forecast, water heaters, government regulations, plumbing, heating, Bruce Carnevale

I believe that historically high prices have slowed demand, and helped slow the pace of inflation more so than the Fed’s rate increases have up until now. It takes time for the Fed’s actions to take hold, and I think we will see the impact of that later this year in the form of a significant slowdown. If not technically a recession, I think it will feel like one to the American consumer. I hope that the Fed becomes less aggressive with its 2023 rate increases.

I mentioned that the labor market has remained strong, but my sense is that is changing fast…every day we are hearing of new layoffs at some of the country’s largest employers. This is a clear indication of how much demand has slowed, and I think that will continue into the 2nd half of 2023.

MH: What causes you pause for concern? (Steady inflation, supply chain, housing starts, interest rates, foreign factors, etc.)

Carnevale: All of the above! But what concerns me most is labor availability. I think most companies would say the shortage of workers is still their number one business concern, despite all of the other challenges you mentioned. I am hopeful that the slow down in the labor market will bring the number of available workers and the number of job openings back to equilibrium.

Bradford White Corporation, industry forecast, economic forecast, water heaters, government regulations, plumbing, heating, Bruce Carnevale

The global geopolitical instability also keeps me up at night. We all saw the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing war. That continues to be impactful to supply chains and economies, especially in Europe. But there are several other hot spots in the world that could erupt, whether it be wars or new COVID outbreaks, and have dramatic impacts on the global economy and supply chains.

MH: Are you seeing any signs of positivity? If so, where?

Carnevale: Absolutely. I’m actually somewhat bullish for our business for 2023. As I’ve mentioned in articles and presentations over the last year and a half, we’ve been in a period of correction from the over buying of water heaters in 2020 and 2021, but the worst seems to be behind us. It is also great to re- engage with our customers and business partners in person, and their businesses have mostly normalized to what they were pre-pandemic.

MH: Without getting too deep into the weeds, how do regulations help or hinder the manufacturing process, and are there any significant ones coming down the pike of which contractors should be aware?

Bradford White Corporation, industry forecast, economic forecast, water heaters, government regulations, plumbing, heating, Bruce CarnevaleCarnevale: Really, John? How long do we have? If your question is specific to the impact on manufacturing processes, significant regulations which require manufacturers to build entirely new models are a huge challenge. Imagine that you have a factory which builds products that are currently compliant, and then five years from now, you have to build a completely different products to meet new regulations. That sounds like a sufficient amount of time, right? But you have to continue to produce the current product while you are re-tooling the factory to build new product. There is no practical way that you can just remove all the old equipment, roll in the new equipment, flip a switch to stop making the old models and start making the new models on the date the new regulations take effect. We expect that the Department of Energy’s upcoming NAECA 4 regulation will require us to do just that. We’ll figure it out, but it’s a significant challenge and it will be very expensive.

Bradford White Corporation, industry forecast, economic forecast, water heaters, government regulations, plumbing, heating, Bruce CarnevaleContractors need to prepare for a significant shift to heat pump water heaters, condensing commercial gas water heaters, and condensing boilers. Every indication is that is what the DOE will require, and several states are moving in that direction even faster and more aggressively. Some municipalities have already banned gas water heaters, and some have announced that they will within the next 5 to 10 years. I would encourage contractors to really dig into the regulations pending in their market area and prepare accordingly.

As it relates to contractors, what is your “message” to them as it relates to your company and its line of products and services? Last year, Bradford White celebrated the 30th anniversary of our commitment to the professional installation of our products. As stated in those messages, we will remain “For the Pro” with the products, services and support we bring to our contractor customers. We will strive to continue to be your best partner for success in your business.

MH: What specifically does BW have its sights set on in 2023? (New products, working with assocs. for workforce development, etc.)

Carnevale: Despite some of the headwinds that still exist with regard to the supply chain and the economy, we are excited about 2023. As you know, toward the end of last year, we released our new formula for Vitraglas tank lining where it now includes Microban. The excitement around that has been tremendous and we expect Vitraglas with Microban to help our customers win against the competition in both residential and commercial water heaters. We also have several other new products that launched in 2022 and even more to be announced in 2023.

Bradford White Corporation, industry forecast, economic forecast, water heaters, government regulations, plumbing, heating, Bruce Carnevale

We are also excited to be expanding the reach of our Industry Forward (IF) program, which was created to put a focus on the wonderful career opportunities available in our industry. As you know, all of us in this industry have workforce challenges so we expect to get more traction for IF in 2023 to shine a brighter spotlight on this challenge and increase awareness of our industry’s career opportunities to the general public.

Family is life. Robert Broccolo Jr. (@prodrains), owner/operator of Professional Drain Services of Southern New England, LLC, Westerly, R.I., has much to be thankful for. He’ll be the first to tell you that he has the most amazing fiancée, Tiffani, whom he can’t wait to marry, and he gushes over his beautiful five-year-old daughter Isabella Read more

Family is life. Robert Broccolo Jr. (@prodrains), owner/operator of Professional Drain Services of Southern New England, LLC, Westerly, R.I., has much to be thankful for. He’ll be the first to tell you that he has the most amazing fiancée, Tiffani, whom he can’t wait to marry, and he gushes over his beautiful five-year-old daughter Isabella. Oh, and he is expecting a baby boy—Robert Broccolo III—this May.

Robert Broccolo Jr., Pro Drains, @prodrains, drain cleaning, septic, septic tanks, RIDGID, plumbing, drains, sewers

But that’s what it’s about, right? Hard work and long days to pay the bills to carve more time with family, and to leave them in a better place financially. It’s that work/leisure balance that is so important. “It’s hard to do so but it all depends on your personal goals. My goal is to leave my kids’ grandkids an empire, but that requires tons of hard work and time each day,” says Broccolo. “I try to balance the work day so I’m home by the end of the day before the kids go to bed, spend time on weekends, and plan vacations throughout the year. As much as I’d love to be home more, I want to build for my family and future.”

Robert Broccolo Jr., Pro Drains, @prodrains, drain cleaning, septic, septic tanks, RIDGID, plumbing, drains, sewersGetting Started

Broccolo recalls his journey into the industry when he applied for a job with a local plumbing contractor who was hiring workers for a big project. “Also, I had an interest in plumbing as my father is a real estate investor and always had a very good understanding of plumbing and heating. It was one of the skills he mastered over the years so I wanted to learn and make him proud, build some value to myself, and be able to help my him in his real estate ventures. I got the job and shortly thereafter, became an apprentice plumber for that company, learning lot of different aspects of the trade,” says Broccolo.

Growing Exponentially

Broccolo started off with a basic pickup truck and enclosed trailer; he acquired the basics needed to attempt a drain cleaning company. Subsequently, hard work and dedication to customer service has allowed Broccolo to grow his business by utilizing his social and networking skills he believes he gained from the many years— since the age of 10—working as a caddy at a few private golf courses. “It helped me spread the word of who I was and what I offered. I believe networking can be a very valuable tool if used properly.”

Robert Broccolo Jr., Pro Drains, @prodrains, drain cleaning, septic, septic tanks, RIDGID, plumbing, drains, sewersBroccolo has been in the plumbing industry for a little more than 10 years now, as he worked as a plumber for a local plumbing and mechanical contractor for years. It was around this time working with other contractors that Broccolo was given an opportunity to show what he could offer. He decided to move forward with starting his company in 2017. Specializing in sewers and septic, underground rehab, excavations and cured-in-place-pipe (CIPP) lining, Broccolo’s certifications include CT P7 Plumber, RI Underground Utility Contractor, CT Septic Installer, RI Septic Installer, RI and CT Septic Pumper, and RI Registered Septic Inspector. “From there, the growth hasn’t stopped. We now have the ability to do anything when it comes to sewer and septic,” says Broccolo.

Going into year six with great success, Broccolo continues to expand the underground rehab side of the company. “My love for plumbing has been primarily focused on sewers since the start of my company. I’m constantly learning, going to trainings, trade shows, expos, etc., to gather as much info to continue to grow the company and services we offer,” says Broccolo. “

Robert Broccolo Jr., Pro Drains, @prodrains, drain cleaning, septic, septic tanks, RIDGID, plumbing, drains, sewersLooking Up

Broccolo has had a few mentors in his plumbing journey, with his father being his hero and No. 1 mentor. “He’s always guided me in the right direction and given solid advice,” says Broccolo.

There are others, too. “My old boss Mike Loffler and Steve Antoch, and an amazing man I would caddy for each weekend at the golf course,” says Broccolo.

Each person in some way helped guide Broccolo and mentor him in different ways, sometimes not even knowing they were doing so. “So, paying it forward, I try to be my best self to help others in the industry; I believe if we all work together, we can all grow learn and do better, and that in turns makes the industry better,” says Broccolo.

Promote the Trades

According to Broccolo, the trades have been given a negative image for a long time, and that there are great jobs pay and opportunity in all aspects of the trades. His message to those kids thinking of entering the trades would be—give it a chance! “Don’t be fooled with the have-to-go-to-college mentality. I was caught in that mentality when in high school; you were considered a failure if you didn’t go to college. In fact, I went to college and it just wasn’t for me. I wish I had the ability to get my hands in the trades sooner,” says Broccolo.

Robert Broccolo Jr., Pro Drains, @prodrains, drain cleaning, septic, septic tanks, RIDGID, plumbing, drains, sewers

What message should we be sending then? “The industry could do better by working alongside the schools,” says Broccolo. “Same as a college fair or a military recruit booth, it would be amazing if there was a ‘Trade Day’ where different trades had the ability to be at each school once a year—featuring one-on-one time, the ability to answer and ask questions, and see the reality of the jobs vs. the perception of it,” says Broccolo.

Broccolo says that a local company could sign students for jobs the same as a college signs a student. Companies could then work apprenticeships with students and implement classes to help students see if the trades are for them vs. college. “Just like most things in life, you need to experience it in some way to know if it’s for you,” says Brocoolo.

Listen, some of the most challenging jobs for Broccolo are the underground rehab projects and CIPP installs, but working on pipes without digging and solving problems is very rewarding. “Nothing is more satisfying than getting the job done that most can’t and knowing you did it without being invasive to the property,” says Broccolo.

As we move into the first quarter of 2023, the trade show circuit is in full effect, and the Mechanical Hub team will be present at all of the events, starting with World of Concrete next week. The buzz is strong moving from the post-COVID drag to in-person connection again that includes all shows from Read more

As we move into the first quarter of 2023, the trade show circuit is in full effect, and the Mechanical Hub team will be present at all of the events, starting with World of Concrete next week. The buzz is strong moving from the post-COVID drag to in-person connection again that includes all shows from January through March.

World of Concrete (January 17-19, Las Vegas) — This show has been serving the concrete and masonry construction industries for nearly 50 years. Why does Mechanical Hub attend? Tools baby! The leaders in the tool industry—that delve into the concrete side of things—are all there and great conversations and connections can be made there. And, it’s Vegas. I’m sure you can find something fun to do there, right?

IBS, KBIS, ISH, plumbing, HVACR, heating and cooling, AHR Expo, WWETT, The International Builders’ Show, World of Concrete, Construction

KBIS/IBS (January 31-February 2, Las Vegas) — Since co-locating back in 2014, this really is a can’t-miss show. Combing the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) and The International Builders’ Show (IBS) was a huge boon to both of these prior individual shows. Combing forces is like watching Hanna-Barbara’s Wonder Twins “activate” in the form of a leading national trade show every year. Finding the latest in kitchen and bath trends with the latest and greatest from the building world? Um, yes please.

IBS, KBIS, ISH, plumbing, HVACR, heating and cooling, AHR Expo, WWETT, The International Builders’ Show, World of Concrete, Construction

AHR Expo (February 6-8, Atlanta) — If I could count the amount of steps I have amassed over the years walking this show floor, I probably would have worn more comfortable shoes from the beginning. This is the largest annual U.S. HVACR trade show and you will not be disappointed with how much there is to see and do at this event—from seeing the latest technology and products visiting with manufacturers at their booths to the educational tracks offered. BTW, Mechanical Hub’s two podcasts will be broadcasting from the AHR Podcast Pavilions, so if you’re at the show, be sure to stop by and say hello. (Appetite for Construction Podcast Monday, Feb. 6 at 5:00 pm, pavilion 2; Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 4:00 pm, pavilion 1. Make Trades Great Again Podcast Monday, Feb. 6 at 2:00 pm, pavilion 2; Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 11:00 am, pavilion 1; Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 1:00 pm, pavilion 2.)

IBS, KBIS, ISH, plumbing, HVACR, heating and cooling, AHR Expo, WWETT, The International Builders’ Show, World of Concrete, Construction

WWETT Show (February 20-23, Indianapolis) — Man, we love going to this show as well. So many connections made, such a great time. The Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport Show—a mouthful so let’s just call it WWETT—is the world’s largest annual trade show for wastewater and environmental service professionals. This show offers educational programs, live demos, the latest in drain cleaning technology, and the opportunity to connect with fellow industry showgoers. For those that can remember that far back, this was the old pumper and dumper show.

IBS, KBIS, ISH, plumbing, HVACR, heating and cooling, AHR Expo, WWETT, The International Builders’ Show, World of Concrete, Construction

ISH Messe Frankfurt (March 13-17, Frankfurt, Germany)—Guten tag from Deutschland! The Mechanical Hub team will be making the jump over the pond to attend one of the world’s largest biennial (every two years) PHVACR trade show. The focus of this year’s ISH is marketable solutions for a sustainable future. Currently, the organizers are expecting around 2,000 companies to present their solutions for renewable sources of energy, sustainable water usage and clean air at the leading international trade event for the HVAC and water sector.

IBS, KBIS, ISH, plumbing, HVACR, heating and cooling, AHR Expo, WWETT, The International Builders’ Show, World of Concrete, Construction

ISH 2023 will offer the ISH digital extension, a virtual presence that will open in parallel to the live event in Frankfurt and will also remain open for one week longer until March 24, 2023.

IBS, KBIS, ISH, plumbing, HVACR, heating and cooling, AHR Expo, WWETT, The International Builders’ Show, World of Concrete, ConstructionPre-COVID, ISH was so popular, more space was allotted to the already mammoth 12 building campus. According to the ISH website, the show is the largest exhibition venue in the world for product innovations, and it occupies an area equal to approximately 39 football pitches. Thank goodness for Ted Lasso, because we now know that pitches mean soccer fields. We’ll need to brush up on our German for sure as the MH team will be traveling the countryside after the show, visiting with some key clients.

Hope to see you on the road!

When he’s not competing in his bowling leagues, or spending time with his family, you can find Trey Young on Instagram @iplumbit documenting his residential plumbing work in new construction. And his Instagram success is not only in the work he shows off, but I have to think that it’s in the music he selects Read more

Trey Young, iplumbit, residential plumbing, plumbing, Plumbing Plus, Matt Baese, Eric Pruitt, St. Louis, trades, support the tradesWhen he’s not competing in his bowling leagues, or spending time with his family, you can find Trey Young on Instagram @iplumbit documenting his residential plumbing work in new construction.

And his Instagram success is not only in the work he shows off, but I have to think that it’s in the music he selects to accompany the posts. ”Some songs I pick for videos may be ‘trending’ sounds or songs on Instagram at the time, but most of the music comes from my personal catalog,” says Young. “I like to believe I have a good ear for music that adds something to the project I’m showing off.”

The Beginning

Young got his first taste of plumbing working for Plumbing Plus, St. Louis, during summer break of senior year of high school. “Plumbing Plus was performing a sewer repair for a rental property for one of my parents, so I approached owner Matt Baese and asked if they needed any help, and the rest was history,” says Young.

After a short stint in college for website development, Young started working for Plumbing Plus full time a few years after high school as a laborer, and earned an apprenticeship shortly after. “I dabbled in website development for a bit, and it just wasn’t paying what plumbing was paying, even at senior levels,” recalls Young.

After three to four years working side by side with master plumber Eric Pruitt, “I began working solo and eventually created an Instagram to document my work,” says Young.

Hard Work Pays

According to Young, both Baese and Pruitt have shown tremendous patience with him during his rookie years, imparting invaluable information to be proficient as a plumber. Moreover, “I consider myself an advocate for the trade, imparting need-to-know information to assist others in making an informed decision on whether the path of plumbing will best suit them,” says Young.

Trey Young, iplumbit, residential plumbing, plumbing, Plumbing Plus, Matt Baese, Eric Pruitt, St. Louis, trades, support the tradesYet, there is a misconception that trade work is repetitive, unforgiving manual labor for a meager salary. This misconception starts early with most kids, says Young, reinforced through unrealistic depictions on TV shows, movies and cartoons, etc. “It’s always been my opinion that the industry should focus on more outreach programs directed toward elementary school as much, if not more, than high schools to combat that misconception early,” says Young.

Work ethic is key to the trades, with traits such as dedication, integrity, punctuality and a willingness to learn mandatory. “’Hard work pays off’ may be a tad cliché in the year 2023, but it has always been the best intro to anyone considering a career in the trades,” says Young.

From a hornet’s nest inside a rehab home the size of a large yoga ball, to spiders the size of a small hand, “I’ve run across some pretty wild jobs,” says Young. But Young says he enjoys plumbing so much—being in different sites working on different jobs every single day. “Whereas with a corporate job, you are in the same cubicle, drinking the same cup of coffee, looking at the same computer, day in day out,” emphasizes Young.

Moreover, “the best reward is completing a job beyond expectations and bringing visible relief and or joy to someone who has been dealing a major plumbing issue for days, if not weeks.

Getting Connected

Social media, and Instagram in particular, has helped Young become a more versed plumber by introducing him to new products, tools and methods. “I’ve also had the opportunity to virtually meet hundreds of like-minded tradesmen, some even in person through company ambassador programs or people recognizing me at the local plumbing supply house,” says Young.

The Next Step

How does Young balance his quest for the ever-elusive perfect 300, family time and work? “Unfortunately, I find myself asking the same question because work takes up the majority of my time lately. After recently earning his Journeyman’s License, “setting the groundwork to eventually venture off on my own demands most of my leisure time,” says Young.

Buffalo Grove, Ill. — This past week, a tragedy occurred in the plumbing industry. On a jobsite, in someone’s front yard, a plumber died as a result of being buried alive due to a trench collapse. Twenty-seven-year-old Nikodem Zaremba was killed when the 8-ft.-deep trench he was working in collapsed on top of him. Zaremba Read more

trench collapse, trench safety, plumbing, OSHA, plumbing safety, shoring

The shallow trench box was employed because the walls were unstable following soil saturation from a year’s long hydronic leak. Didn’t trust the dirt, but no trench collapse happened. Waste of time and money? No, no, and no. Why not? Think about the need to kneel beside the piping to make the connections and braze the copper joints then add insulation. That puts the employee below the top of the trench where a collapse would have the potential to engulf the employee under several tons of earth. The copper piping runs to an outdoor makeup air handler with 100% outdoor air for the laboratory at the city sewage treatment plant. Image: Dave Yates

Buffalo Grove, Ill. — This past week, a tragedy occurred in the plumbing industry. On a jobsite, in someone’s front yard, a plumber died as a result of being buried alive due to a trench collapse. Twenty-seven-year-old Nikodem Zaremba was killed when the 8-ft.-deep trench he was working in collapsed on top of him. Zaremba was co-owner of Rooter Solutions.

OSHA is currently looking into this and has opened a formal investigation into the circumstances. According to initial results, the site did not appear to have the necessary safety precautions to keep the accident from happening.

On the recent Appetite for Construction podcast, Mechanical Hub friend, Dave Yates, told the story back in 1972—the first week on the job as a young tradesman—he was called to a nearby jobsite to help three plumbers to safety by digging them out of a collapsed trench. Unfortunately, one was already dead when he arrived. The other, a couple of feet away, was buried up to his armpits. They were able to extract the other two workers to safety.

trench collapse, trench safety, plumbing, OSHA, plumbing safety, shoring

This muddy ditch was for an inner-city library where the cast iron was rotted out and raw sewage was running into their basement. A muddy sloppy mess and we were ensuring no mudslides into the ditch. Not deep enough to require shoring, but OSHA does state the ditch/trench is to be inspected by a “qualified” person to determine if shoring is needed when ditch/trench is under 5′ deep. Image: Dave Yates

Survive or not, says Yates, being buried in dirt for an extended period of time can cause major health issues, including complications called Compartment Syndrome, a condition that occurs when the pressure within a compartment increases, restricting the blood flow to the area and potentially damaging the muscles and nearby nerves.

“Victims of a cave-in are in grave danger even if they are not totally buried, and can still breathe. Circulatory problems, Compartment Syndrome, clotting, and other issues can be life threatening or cause serious injury,” commented Tim Doran on Facebook.

Listen below to hear Dave’s conversation on the podcast:

From 1979 to 2019, Yates had employees and bore a responsibility to ensure they had full-time work and would return home to their families safe each day. “Most had never worked for anyone who required the use of shoring. Even our excavators did not have shoring when we first looked at using them as subcontractors. Without either renting it or buying their own, they could not work for us. I told them they could charge extra for shoring because it was an expense for them just like any other job site cost,” said Yates.

Fifty years later, from Yates’ recollection of that day to present day, it seems that there are those that still don’t heed the best given. We pray for Zaremba’s family, and stay safe out there.