In an unprecedented time, newly elected PHCC president Joel Long says it’s time stop living in fear, and getting back to work is a top priority.
Recently, Mechanical Hub had the chance to talk with Joel Long, co-owner of GSM Services, Gastonia, N.C., and PHCC president-elect. Running the nearly 100-year-old business with his brother Steven. Joel started to work for the family business during high school summer breaks and fell in love with the business. After high school, Long attended North Carolina State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Civil Engineering and Construction and started working for the family business upon graduation. In the following Q&A, Joel talks about his vision for PHCC and some critical issues facing contractors today.
MH: What does the position of PHCC president mean to you?
LONG: I am honored to have this opportunity to serve our industry and association after it has given so much to our company and to me personally. I am thrilled to such a big opportunity to continue the work of those who have served before me and to make a little progress for our members and partners.
We are in a unique position to understand the depth of caring from the PHCC family. As many may know, tragedy befell GSM Services in April of this year with the murder of two of our coworkers. It was devastating to say the least, but PHCC members supported these two families on a massive scale and proved once again there is more good in the world than evil.
MH: What are some things you can take from your career that you can apply in the next chapter as president of PHCC?
LONG: There is nothing quite like the experience you gain while growing up in businesses like ours and then growing into a leadership position in that same business. I have spent a lot of time at the state and national levels seeing what works, what causes issues, and what is broken. I am going to use that experience to hopefully continue to move us forward.
MH: How do you think being in the trades will guide you as the next president of the PHCC?
LONG: I think I fell in love with our trade because the people at all levels are just the best of America. I have always loved how we have a “can-do” attitude and can conquer anything while focusing on our families and doing what is right. PHCC will be operating that same way in my year as president like we have since our founding.
MH: The last 18 months has been quite the experience. What do you tying will be some of your initiatives going forward as we seem to be moving post-COVID?
LONG: I would say we may look back and see these two years as some of the most challenging in our careers. Our members faced many challenges related to the pandemic and PHCC was able to provide a ton of assistance on those fronts.
Our members were deemed essential during the pandemic and continued to send our workforce into client’s homes and businesses as the disease raged. Protecting both customers and coworkers was a major concern all-across the country. PHCC got out front early with our Covid Recovery Center and our members were able to use our center to stay informed of changes and best practices to overcome the pandemic issues. We will be continuing that effort.
I also believe it is time to get back out on the road and live without fear. We are going to lead by example and get our association moving back in a pre-pandemic mode. We must be as safe as possible and respect the concerns of the public, but at the same time we must get back to work on a full-size scale!!!! It’s time to go!
MH: What is your vision to take PHCC to the next level?
LONG: PHCC is a federation of state and local associations and I believe it works best when each level is openly communicating and helping each other reach our individual and combined goals. Communication and collaboration are key to our mutual success. There are so many different opportunities across the country, and we must be very nimble and targeted in our approach to help our partners. We are here to serve our contractor members first and foremost, but our customers are also our state associations. Strengthening those relationships and building on small successes is how we will take PHCC to the next level.
MH: What are some critical issues facing contractors today?
LONG: I have heard from contractors all over the country and they are concerned about how they are struggling to get back to work through all the roadblocks we have been facing this past year or so. We will obviously continue to see the pandemic making us adapt our businesses going forward, but there are also opportunities for growth all around if we continue to search for them. I encourage our members to use PHCC and our members as resources to help find new growth opportunities and information to help your business thrive.
MH: How do we find and inspire the next generation of coworkers?
LONG: I love the movie The Untouchables with Kevin Costner and Sean Connery. One of my favorite scenes is when they are trying to find uncorrupted new recruits for the Treasury Department and they decide to go to the academy to get untainted recruits. We need to do the same to find the next generation.
Before the pandemic, PHCC had developed our online apprenticeship program and we were already having good success in giving students a pathway for a career. As the pandemic grew, our members really started using this as a recruiting tool to convince high school students and their parents that a career in our industry made a ton of sense without the college debt.
I believe today’s youth is looking for a career that helps them grow intellectually, gain financial independence, give opportunities to improve the world, and have opportunities for career advancement. We must continue to get he word out about how our industry can help them achieve their goals.
We must also continue to expand these efforts by widening the exposure of this program to other avenues on a state be state level. We will be encouraging our chapters to partner with as many local school districts, community colleges and HBCU’s about how to expand our opportunities.
MH: Finally, what do you like to do in your spare time?
LONG: I am a sports nut and love college football. I have followed NC State athletics since elementary school and continue to follow today, and as I say every year, this is the year we win the College Football National Championship! Eventually I’ll be correct, right? Also, if you bump into me and have an extra hour, just ask me about being at State when Jim Valvano was our basketball coach.
I also love fishing. Grew up with my father fishing on many Saturday mornings, and I love the time to unwind and reflect from the business. I also love the variety of fishing in N.C. We have wonderful fishing in the intercoastal waters, fresh water lakes all over the state, and my current favorite, trout fishing in the North Carolina mountains.