Watsco is bringing Whirlpool back into the HVAC industry in 2003. After more than a 10-year absence, Whirlpool has signed a multi-year license agreement with Watsco, in which Watsco will be the exclusive national distributor for its new line of central air-conditioning and heating equipment.

The Whirlpool line will be manufactured by a different company. Barry Logan, chief financial officer of Watsco, said that the company has had open dialogue with the seven major manufacturers and is examining its responses.

According to Logan, Whirlpool never really wanted to leave the HVAC market in the first place, but needed some cash flow to expand its presence in Europe, so it sold its HVAC line to Carrier. Now with a strong showing in Europe, the company is ready to dive back into the HVAC market.

"When GE left the HVAC business, Whirlpool followed suit. Now it is ready to re-enter and we hope this will help expand the market," said Logan. "A brand name will help sell the product."

A brand name is important, but is not enough to guarantee success. Logan said that during the short-run, while new technical features are being developed, the Whirlpool name would sell the products. But in the long run, improved features will differentiate Whirlpool HVAC products from the rest.

While Watsco has no plans for a national marketing campaign of the products, it will be included in Whirlpool¿s current advertising. According to Logan, Whirlpool will help his company on the home-building side and with retailers, two of Whirlpool¿s strengths, at very little expense. "They are very excited to add us," said Logan.

As the exclusive national distributor, Watsco will need to find ways to crack into markets without Watsco facilities. Logan said the company plans on entering new markets the same way that it always does ¿ acquisitions and expansion.

"There are two ways we enter markets," said Logan. "First Watsco always targets companies on Supply House Times¿ Premier 150 HVAC list for possible acquisitions or arrangements. Secondly, we attempt to expand into markets we aren¿t in yet. Sometimes we do both." Logan said Watsco prefers acquisitions. "We like to enter [markets] with some measure of power."

"Whirlpool and its peers, like GE, have always been good in the consumer business," said Logan, "but air conditioners aren¿t as much a consumer business. We think the potential exists, and with a good brand and better education through our Web site, we can bring the consumers to us. That¿s what we want to do ¿ bring the consumer to the products."

Additional information about Watsco can be found at www.ACDoctor.com or www.watsco.com.