Sheet Metal Workers Local 36, residential HVAC contractors unite to create SMART choice for St. Louis-area heating, cooling needs

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Luke 1By SHERI GASSAWAY

Correspondent

Union members and their families and friends now have a go-to source they can trust for all of their residential heating and cooling needs – SMART St. Louis.

SMART St. Louis is a partnership between Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 and 15 of its St. Louis-area residential HVAC contractors who use only highly trained, non-commissioned, union technicians and installers.

The contractors and their employees provide maintenance, repair, replacement and design of residential HVAC systems. The focus is to help customers reduce their overall heating and cooling costs by creating more efficient heating and cooling systems.

With the use of union craftsmen, this initiative sets the bar for residential HVAC work in the St. Louis area, ensuring projects will be done right the first time, on time and on budget. Consumers can have complete confidence when they use the services of a SMART St. Louis contractor.

HOW IT BEGAN

Luke 3Ed Hoganson III, Local 36 director of marketing, explained that there are more than 400 residential heating and cooling companies licensed in the St. Louis area – many of which use non-union employees.

He said Local 36 has between 20 and 25 residential HVAC contractors that were being “drowned out” by the competition on the Internet.

“We wanted to come up with something to help our contractors’ business without getting into their business so we decided to get together as a group to market ourselves,” Hoganson said. “Fifteen of our contractors were motivated by the idea and jumped on board.”

SMART PARTNERSHIP

SMART LogoHoganson, Local 36 Business Representative Steve Kraemer, Local 36 President and Business Manager Dave Zimmerman and Jack Goldcamp, St. Louis chapter executive of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA) along with the 15 contractors have been working on the SMART partnership for months. It’s a 50-50 financial effort between Local 36 and the group of 15 signatory contractors.

Efforts include an in-depth marketing campaign featuring a new website, social media pages (facebook.com/SMARTStLouis) and print, television and online advertising campaigns. The website (smartstlouis.com) offers listings for all of the contractors and links to their websites, timely heating and cooling tips for consumers and rebate offers.

HISTORY OF SMART NAME

Luke 6Those familiar with recent union developments are familiar with the SMART name.

In 2011, the Sheet Metal Workers International Association and the United Transportation Union merged to form the International Association of Sheet Metal, Rail, Air and Transportation (SMART). That’s when Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 became known as SMART Local 36, although it’s commonly referred to as Sheet Metal Workers Local 36.

Zimmermann said Local 36 and Local 265, which serves nine counties in Illinois, are the first unions in the nation to implement the program.

“In the St. Louis area, we control the sheet metal market in all areas except for residential heating and cooling,” Zimmermann said. “The SMART partnership provides us with the biggest room for growth.”

Goldkamp said when the union and contractors sat down to hammer out the details of the new program, they kicked around several ideas for a name for the group and decided on SMART because using highly trained, non-commissioned union craftsmen is a SMART choice for consumers.

WHERE SMART EMPLOYEES
RECEIVE THEIR TRAINING

Luke 2SMART technicians receive their education, certification and ongoing training from the Local 36 Sheet Metal Worker’s Training Center that opened in 2011. The LEED-certified, state-of-the-art facility underscores a commitment to construction excellence, energy conservation and the environment.

The school, which is a partnership between Local 36 and the St. Louis chapter of SMACNA, provides instruction on the design, fabrication, installation and service of complex heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, as well as architectural sheet metal products and commercial applications.

The school instructs 100 to 200 apprentices each year in a five-year training program, totaling more than 10,000 hours when combined with jobsite experience, said Goldkamp. It also provides experienced tradesmen with the ongoing training needed to stay competitive.

INDUSTRY CREDENTIALS

Each SMART technician maintains the following certifications to ensure best service in the HVAC industry

  • NATE (North American Technician Excellence) Certification. This certification test has been developed by a committee of industry experts nationwide and represent real world, working knowledge of HVAC systems.
  • EPA Refrigerant Certification. This certification is required by the Environmental Protection Agency for all HVAC technicians to handle, check and charge refrigerant systems.
  • Mechanical License. All SMART technicians and installers are licensed by their respective city/county to perform this specific type of work. Maintaining this license requires lifelong continuing education in the Local 36 training school.
  • OSHA 30 program. Every SMART technician has completed this comprehensive safety training program.
  • Drug Testing. Continuous random drug testing is required for all SMART team members.

INFORMATION AND SIGN-UP

For more information on SMART ST. Louis, visit smartstlouis.com, and be sure to visit and “like” the SMART Contractors Facebook page at facebook.com/SMARTStLouis.

Those interested in becoming SMART contractors or technicians may call 314-764-6890 or fill out a form on the SMART website at smartstlouis.com.

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