Tim Williford testified on behalf of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors-National Association April 9, urging Congress to quickly help fix the constant rise in fuel costs.

Williford, who serves as chairman of PHCC’s Government Affairs Committee, is also the vice president of finance and administration for Southern Piping Co. in Wilson, N.C.

Speaking as a small business owner and on behalf of PHCC’s 4,100 members, Williford said that the rise in fuel prices has made it increasingly difficult to remain profitable.

“At Southern Piping Co. we spent about $1 million for gas and oil products last year. For 2008, we believe those costs are going to increase by 20 percent to 40 percent, or between $250,000 and $500,000,” he said. “As you can see, even a small change in the price of gas can have a significant impact on our budget. Indeed, we know that for every rise of 10 cents in the price of gasoline, we will incur an additional $35,000 in overhead.”

He said that according to a PHCC member survey, contractors overwhelmingly believe the high prices are negatively affecting their business. Williford told Congress that one PHCC member company has seen its fuel costs nearly triple. The company’s monthly gas usage in 2006 was $22,000 per month, but now it is approximately $55,000 per month.

To minimize the effect of the rising fuel costs, Williford said contractors are evaluating every means to reduce gasoline consumption, including consolidating transportation to jobsites, using smaller vehicles and reducing the number of vehicles on the road. Although surcharges may have been an option in the past, most contractors believe that this is not a viable solution right now because consumers are also feeling similar financial pressures.

“Gasoline and other petroleum products enable small businesses to remain the backbone of the economy,” Williford said. “As gasoline prices climb ever higher, the fortunes of America’s small businesses grow more dim, and with them, the fortunes of the economy as a whole.”