Business is humming along at a strong clip right now for many involved in the industrial PVF supply chain.

“Our business is extremely good,” says Joe Costanzo, chemical and manufacturing business-development manager with the Wolseley Industrial Group. “It’s been a great year. It’s nice to have tailwinds instead of headwinds for a change. Wolseley and (parent company) Ferguson benefit from being extremely diversified in industrial, residential, commercial, mechanical, underground utilities, HVAC and fire protection.”

Drilling down, Wolseley Industrial is heavily involved in oil and gas, chemical, pulp and paper, power generation, food and beverage and mining. “We’re not only diversified by industry but by geography, operating in all 50 states and most of Canada,” Costanzo adds. “It helps us weather a lot of the up-and-down business cycles.”

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Wolseley and Ferguson also continue to do well when it comes to giving back to the communities and industries they work in. Ferguson recently announced 10 exceptional students, all children of company associates, will receive $1,500 scholarships each year for up to four years to help with trade-school or college tuition.

A month earlier Ferguson and Wolseley were front and center in Houston at the spring PVF Roundtable meeting where they presented a check for $25,000 to the PVF Roundtable Scholarship Fund. This is the third year in a row Ferguson/Wolseley has presented a $25,000 donation to Roundtable leadership.

“Wolseley and Ferguson have been actively contributing to support scholarships in the trades for years,” says Costanzo, a Roundtable board member the last three years and a Houston meeting attendee for 15 years. “We’ve given almost $200,000 this year to the trades, educational foundations and workforce-development programs.”

Costanzo says providing the scholarship funding is a no-brainer for the North American distributor. “It’s badly needed,” he says. “A lot of contractors, fabricators and end-users are having a lot of difficulties finding skilled and trained workers right now. With welders, pipefitters and plumbers, the average age is up in the 50s and 60s now. We have to attract younger people into the industry and train them otherwise we won’t have anybody to install the products we sell.”

Costanzo adds the abundance of dollars flowing into the PVF Roundtable Scholarship Fund is helping reduce the financial barriers that may be preventing recent students and military veterans from getting access to the necessary training to thrive in a lucrative new career in the building trades.

“We don’t want to discourage people getting into the building trades because of money,” he says. “We can get these young people up to speed and into high-paying jobs a lot quicker than going into four-year colleges.”

Costanzo is blown away by the continued growth of not only the Roundtable, but of its scholarship program as well. “It’s grown exponentially,” he says. “Fifteen years ago there were maybe 50 people showing up at these meetings and now it’s 500. The scholarship funding has grown similarly. That first year we gave away something like $12,000 and this year we are planning to give away a quarter-of-a-million dollars.”

That growth includes the networking group’s fledgling Young Professionals arm that has swelled to more than 100 members. The scholarship fund’s two main fundraising arms (golf and fishing tournaments) continue to thrive and the group is looking at expanding the scholarship fund’s reach into other parts of the Gulf Coast, with an immediate emphasis on Houston and Beaumont, Texas, as well as Lake Charles and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“We’re getting support for this throughout the supply chain from engineering firms, fabricators, manufacturers, end users, master distributors and distributors,” he says. “The Gulf Coast is one major market and we’re seeing that need for trained workers becoming critical at this point. What we are doing is having a big impact on a lot of lives. It’s very exciting for our industry.”


This article was originally titled “Stewards of the industry” in the July 2018 print edition of Supply House Times.