60 Years Young - A Salute to Our Diamond Anniversary

by Michael Weil, executive editor

Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but in July 1944, when the very first issue of The Refrigeration Industry rolled off the presses, diamonds weren't on anyone's mind. Destined to become Contracting Business magazine, this fledgling periodical was born at a time when the world was embroiled in a second global conflict following the worst economic depression ever known to mankind.

The need for refrigeration was tremendous -- supply lines for U.S. troops were longer than ever seen from any previous war -- and it was vital to keep food and medicine fresh.

This new magazine hit the streets with the latest information available for installing and servicing these systems. It was targeted to contractors and wholesalers who were involved in refrigeration for food
production and storage, grocery store refrigeration, domestic refrigeration, and more.

Sixty years and five name changes later, (The Refrigeration Industry -- 1944; Commercial Refrigeration and Air Conditioning -- 1949; Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Business -- 1958; The Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Business -- 1965; Contracting Business -- 1981) the magazine has evolved from strictly being focused on refrigeration to include air conditioning, heating, hydronics, and all the ancillary technologies that support the servicing, testing, and maintenance of this equipment.

Contracting Business also began leaning more heavily on contractor business management strategies, service delivery methods, and relevant industry issues to help contractors be more successful. From our way of thinking, that, in the end, helps the entire industry to be successful.

In each decade of the magazine's existence, events influenced and changed the HVAC industry and the markets we serve -- war and unimaginable growth in the 40s; the rise of air conditioning and the subsequent growth associated with that in the 50s. Of course, there was the social chaos of the 60s, combined with continued growth and properity in the HVAC industry.

The 70s saw the first major energy crisis, the advent of computer technology, and governement regulations that began to change how we use refrigerants forever.

A market shift from construction to service and replacement, as well as the popularization of the Internet as a business medium were the cornerstones of the 80s, while commercial construction slumps, horrendous office building vacancy rates, and industry consolidation hit hard in the 90s. Today we face a recessionary economy, a war on terrorism, as well as legal actions surrounding indoor air quality and energy issues .

And yet through this all HVAC contractors and manufacturers have found ways to better service their customers, provide for their comfort needs, create solutions to global problems, and thrive. This truly is an amazing industry.

In this January issue, we kick off a celebration of our diamond anniversary that will last all year. In every issue we'll showcase this industry's heritage through special editorial nuggets that not only offer a bit of nostalgia, but also a look ahead -- to the opportunities that lay ahead for this industry.

In fact, we could use your help -- for those contracting firms and manufacturers who have some history behind them as well, we're looking for stories and anecdotes that illustrate how this industry works, and how we got to where we are today. If you have such stories, whether they are gems or diamonds in the rough, send me an e-mail at [email protected] and we'll try to include it.

Our 60th Anniversary celebrations will culminate with a special edition, published in addition to our regular monthly issues, later this year. So please stay tuned, enjoy the memories, and learn from the past, as we all look to the future.

From the entire staff at Contracting Business, past and present, to you and your staff, we wish you a healthy, exciting, and prosperous 2004.

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