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Brown’s Refrigeration Equipment Co. specializes in commercial Design/Build, walk-in freezer installation and maintenance, and laboratory and warehouse refrigeration. President Gary Brown sounds a familiar theme about finding quality employees: it’s not getting any easier.
Construction in Florida is booming, but Brown says the employee base for vocational trades throughout the state has seriously declined.
“I think everyone’s fighting the same battle,” Brown says. “I’ve been on the advisory board at the local vocational school for 25 years, and we’ve noticed a trend of students moving away from the trades. The supply coming in is so small, we’re barely meeting the minimal guidelines to keep the class going.”
Brown says a high school guidance counselor admitted to him that, “the high school’s job is to prepare people for college.
“But when I asked her how many high school graduates make it through college, the answer was 19%. At the high school level, there’s no one to guide those who aren’t going to be the next Bill Gates. There’s no one to tell them about the good jobs out here that pay good money. They come knocking on my door when they’re 30 years old and see their lives getting away from them. By that time they’re too late.”
A lack of career candidates has caused Brown’s to turn down projects.
“We’re at a point where we have to turn away business every day. You’re better off not taking a job rather than sending someone out there who’s not qualified,” Brown says.
Benefits Essential
Brown has beefed up benefits to keep his employees punching the clock.
“You’ve got to have a full benefits package — vacation, overtime pay, bonuses, retirement, and health insurance —to keep quality workers,” Brown says.
“If you don’t, a competitor is going to tap them on the shoulder and take them away.”
His Tools of the Trade
Brown’s installs and services Manitowoc and Hoshizaki icemakers, and uses Browning belts, pulleys, and bearings. His product lines include Copeland, Flow Controls (formerly Alco), CPC, Emerson Electric, and White-Rodgers.
R-22 Phase-out Timeline
January 1, 2010: 65% reduction in production, using the 1989 cap as a baseline. After 2010, chemical manufacturers may still produce R-22 to service existing equipment, but not for use in new equipment. As a result, HVACR system manufacturers will only be able to use pre-existing supplies of R-22 to produce new air conditioners and heat pumps. These existing supplies would include R-22 recovered and recycled from existing equipment.
January 1, 2015: 90% reduction in production, using the 1989 cap as a baseline.
January 1, 2020: Use of existing refrigerant, including refrigerant that has been recovered and recycled, will be allowed beyond 2020 to service existing systems, but chemical manufacturers will no longer be able to produce R-22 to service existing air conditioners and heat pumps after this date.

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