Government plays a large part in the direction of many contracting companies.

By the time many of you read this, Americans should know if they'll have a new president effective Jan. 20.

That is, of course, unless the election is as close as it was in 2000 and results in recounts, in which case I might be able to write my December editorial with the same opening.

But I'm not writing to endorse a candidate or persuade anyone to vote for President Bush, Sen. John Kerry or anyone else. Such decisions are a very personal choice.

But as I write this in early October, the campaign machines of both candidates are in full force, and with much of the media coverage centered on Washington, D.C., it occurred to me just how much news impacting HVAC and sheet metal industries came out of the nation's capital this year.

Just a few weeks ago, President Bush approved the first major changes to U.S. overtime laws in decades, and labor lawyers, politicians and business owners are still trying to figure out who's covered. Meanwhile, some legislators are trying to block the changes from going into effect. This subject has already confused - and may affect - many contractors.

I recall attending a seminar hosted by a labor attorney at the Air Conditioning Contractors of America's 2003 convention, long before the overtime laws changed. When the subject of overtime eligibility came up, audience members peppered the lawyer with questions. It showed just how confusing this issue was before the new laws took effect.

Steel stories

Another subject in the news of interest to sheet metal contractors was steel prices. Despite intense Capitol Hill lobbying that resulted in the elimination of most steel tariffs at the end of 2003, steel prices continued their upward climb for much of this year. This was a story that impacted almost every major steel consumer, including HVAC and sheet metal companies.

Almost everyone was complaining, except for the steel manufacturers. This was evident when members of the Spiral Duct Manufacturers Association tried to get a steel mill representative to speak to their group during a May meeting. But the group was rebuffed, because, as Perf.-Etc. Steel Corp. owner Bob Tumberger said, steel companies didn't want to defend their profits to hostile consumers.

Then there were the stories about the never-ending increases in health care insurance premiums, which have companies of all sizes scrambling for solutions. Many HVAC groups, such as the Associated Builders and Contractors, and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors, are pushing for the right to band together and negotiate for lower premiums under legislation dubbed "association health plans."

How what happens Nov. 2 will affect these issues, I can't say, although most associations have made their positions and preferences clear. Regardless of who wins, it's likely many of these issues will be in the news for some time to come.

Letters: Contractors without GPS aren't looking ahead

I thought some of the comments on why not to install GPS ("Somebody's watching," September) were typical of "old school" contractors. Some owners just don't want to rock the boat. To them, the (business) environment has not changed. Improvements are necessary to stay ahead.

If (GPS) makes me more profitable, great. If not, at least I will have accountability in fuel expenses and time records.

We use Teletrak, which offers us GPS tracking plus two-way dispatch communications. Those vans are revenue and they belong to the company. If I don't know where they are 24 hours a day, it's my own fault. Of course, they will be used for personal reasons before, during and after business hours, but our reputation is on the front line every minute of every day and accountability is paramount.

Chris Shurtleff

Hawks Aire Serv Heating & Air Conditioning

Grand Junction, Colo.