KNOXVILLE, TENN. — David Dugger has learned two important lessons in his career in mechanical contracting: “You have to be in politics to be in business; and you cannot dwell on your mistakes.”

Dugger takes over as president of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association at the organization’s CONNECT 2012 conference and tradeshow in Philadelphia in early October.

Dugger is president and CEO of ShoffnerKalthoff Mechanical Electrical Service. He both served an apprenticeship and got a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Tennessee. Headquartered in Knoxville and in business for more than 50 years, ShoffnerKalthoff provides new and post construction services including HVAC, plumbing, electrical, process piping, industrial ventilation, millwright, boiler repair, sheet metal fabrication, design/build, and service and maintenance for HVAC, plumbing, electrical, refrigeration, and DDC controls.

“Political action is extremely important to PHCC,” Dugger told CONTRACTOR. “In fact, our members rank PHCC’s legislative and regulatory representation on Capital Hill as their highest priority. Politics is not a spectator sport. It has often been quoted: ‘If you’re not at the legislative table, you’re on the legislative menu.’ Of the 535 Members of the House and Senate, very few understand the business of a contractor, and even fewer understand the plumbing and HVAC industries. That is why it is so important that PHCC has a presence and voice on Capital Hill. With the national elections coming up, there will be many changes occurring in Washington. We expect the turnover in Congress to be very high. We have a great opportunity to have a strong impact on Congress next year. To maximize that opportunity, we’ll continue to build on our national grassroots network system so that we can quickly mobilize our membership on important matters. In the 112thCongressional cycle, more than 4,000 PHCC members contacted their legislators about issues that would have harmed their business. In this upcoming session, we think we can top that number and build our influence even more.”

Dugger no doubt learned to never dwell on his mistakes through his years of field experience. In his career, Dugger worked as a project manager and estimator. He has been involved with a variety of projects in terms of both in size and complexity ranging from healthcare, manufacturing facilities, institutional, commercial office and mix-use buildings. He holds licenses in more than 12 states and has extensive experience in the design/build areas of mechanical construction.

SKMES is a much larger contracting firm than many in PHCC-NA. Service makes up about 12% of its total revenue. The rest is plumbing and piping 32%, HVAC 36% and electrical 20%.

SKMES’s hometown of Knoxville is a medium-sized city located between Atlanta and the Northern states, located in a valley surrounded by beautiful mountains and lakes. Dugger said he looks forward every year to the changing seasons. Construction has always (up until the economic downturn) been a continuous commodity in the Southeast region. He noted that his company has been very fortunate to experience the growth that it has had.

“We practice sustainable construction and have been involved in several LEED projects in this area,” Dugger said. “We are not involved with green plumbing from their program but we do offer water conservation and energy retrofit through our service division. Most of our customers believe strongly in energy conservation and are willing to invest in it.”

Being from a larger contractor is just different, not better.

“I don’t think that being from a larger company makes me any more capable of being president than any of the PHCC members,” he said. “We are all entrepreneurs and business people. By being a larger firm I believe that I do bring a different perspective to the association.”

Contractors have many distractions and PHCC, as a trade association, has to break through the clutter. It will do this with its educational offerings. Like all trade associations these days, PHCC has a challenge to be a relevant source of information and resources to its members, Dugger pointed out.

“People today are so very busy and have many new options on how they spend their time, receive information and network with others,” he said. “To address this changed landscape, we just completed a strategic planning process that sets the stage for some exciting new programs and services for PHCC members.

“We’ve already launched one of the new benefits: a regular member mailing full of business tips geared solely to plumbing and HVACR contractors,” he continued. “The first dealt with understanding overhead and the second with safety and risk management. Two more of these comprehensive packets will be mailed this year.

“Another new program will debut at CONNECT 2012: a water audit certification program that will give members a great way to lead their market as a water conservation expert. We’re also in the beginning stages of a brand awareness campaign that will help get the word out about all that PHCC and its association offers. As you can see, there are a lot of new and exciting initiatives underway at PHCC.”