One thing I love about our industry is there never is a shortage of news.

As I’m sure most of you heard by now, Ferguson has been on an acquisition spree of late, buying five companies since July with the main eye-opener being master distributor Jones Stephens. I was at an industry shindig about a week after I reported the news of the acquisition and that particular transaction had the room buzzing like I’ve never heard before.

Check out our industry news section for full details on the deal. Also there you will see an item about Utah-based Mountainland Supply and Contractors Heating & Cooling Supply forming an ESOP. With succession-planning a topic of keen interest for companies today, the acronym for employee stock-ownership plan is something you may be seeing more of down the road. To that point, we have a feature on ESOPs written by Corey Rosen, the founder of the nonprofit National Center for Employee Ownership. Rosen’s piece can be found in this issue. Is an ESOP right for your company? Rosen sheds some introductory light in his writings.

Speaking of people making things happen, we all know there is shortage of labor throughout all parts of the supply chain whether you are a contractor, distributor, manufacturer or a rep. Numerous organizations are putting their money where their mouth is in terms of devising solutions to the problem. The American Supply Association continues to do a great job bringing this industry roadblock to light and pushing forward with ways to tackle the shortage.

In August I was at the summer PVF Roundtable meeting in Houston (visit for a complete rundown of that meeting) where President Joe Pro of Penn Machine told me by the end of this calendar year the industrial PVF networking group will have distributed more than $770,000 in scholarships since its PVF Roundtable Scholarship Fund was started. This is money earmarked toward individuals who could help lessen that labor burden.

And while in Houston, I had to a chance to talk via phone to Scott Ianaro, who teaches pipe-fitting fabrication and blueprint reading at San Jacinto College’s North Campus in Houston. San Jacinto is one of the schools that receives scholarship funds from the Roundtable. And they are much-needed.

“There wouldn’t be a program here without that scholarship money,” he says. “The scholarships are a great way for us to get the word out about the program.”

Ianaro says funds from the scholarship are used toward student tuition costs at San Jac. Any non-military-veteran student who applies for the scholarship, Ianaro notes, receives it. “It’s an obscure trade,” he says. “A lot of people who go into this field go in without education and go straight to the field. I teach them so much more than what they need to be just a field hand. I want these guys to know what they are doing when they get out in the field.”

Ianaro, who notes the school recently invested a significant sum of money into the program, also educates his students on the benefits of being a pipe fitter in the industrial PVF industry. “Pipe fitters can make $33 an hour,” he says. “Stay in school a little longer and learn pipe fitting. There always will be pipe-fitting jobs, even in a recession. If you go on an industrial jobsite, you will see more pipe fitters than any other trade. The real shortage is with pipe fitters. We had a student who was a security guard at a plant. He went to school here for four months and went out in the field, got his NCCER certification and became a journeyman pipe fitter. He makes $33 an hour right now and they said he’s on track to becoming a supervisor. I have a friend who travels the country in a camper with his dog doing shutdowns and he’s making $300,000 a year because pipe fitters are so in demand.”

Ianaro notes his program has a zero dropout rate. “Once students are in here they take an interest,” he says. “I was given a chance in this industry when I was 17 years old. I want all my students to have a chance at a good life.”

And this is an industry where many folks such as Ianaro are working hard to make sure that happens for many generations to come.