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Special Report: Stimulating Mechanical Insulation

By Julie McLaughlin

With the federal government pumping billions of dollars into the economy, most businesses are asking themselves, "How can we take advantage of this opportunity?" Insulation end users now have more opportunities than ever to receive funding for their projects. The National Insulation Association (NIA), through its Mechanical Insulation Marketing Initiative (MIMI), responded by publishing a Toolkit (www.insulation.org/mimi) for those involved with the mechanical and specialty insulation industry. This comprehensive site includes resources to help users reach their state's governor, senators, and state energy director to promote energy efficiency and "green" jobs.

MIMI has been working to promote the benefits of mechanical insulation for more than a year now, but the government stimulus package gave new impetus to the efforts. MIMI's educational materials make the case for mechanical insulation not only to government officials but also end users. As everyone watches budgets, mechanical insulation's incredible return on investment makes more sense than ever.

Successful Case Study

E.J. Bartells, a contractor member of NIA, made a conscious decision to adapt its business model to the new emphasis on energy efficiency. This strategy included contacting state energy directors and congressional representatives, as advised in the MIMI Toolkit. The company is helping community colleges, industrial facilities, schools, and water-treatment facilities, among other organizations, become more efficient through the addition and maintenance of mechanical insulation.

Rick Smith, CEO of E.J. Bartells, talked with Insulation Outlook about how his company has taken advantage of the stimulus. In the conversation excerpt printed below, he shares his company's experience working to educate others about mechanical insulation.

There is still funding available for energy-efficiency improvements at federal, state, and local levels. We hope you will use this information to gain funding for your own projects.

Q: What advice do you have for others who haven't come up with a plan to take advantage of the stimulus money out there?
A: Don't wait for opportunities or business to happen or come to you. The opportunities are out there, and there are enough of them for our entire industry. I have been in this business for 25 years and I have never seen an opportunity like the one in front of us today. If you don't get excited about this, then you have ice water in your veins!
Q: Where did you get the idea to form your stimulus business plan?
A: Actually, we had already developed a plan to use the NIA Insulation Energy Appraisal Program (IEAP) within our sales group to perform energy audits on facilities and had enjoyed some success. By looking at the stimulus plan and realizing that we had the tools and products to be effective, we were able to create additional awareness.
Q: What was your first step?
A: We had a company-wide conference call to set specific tasks in motion for current accounts and to begin to look at the financial opportunities at the local, state, and federal levels. Most are still trying to decide how to spend the money. The MIMI Toolkit was helpful in reaching out to government officials.
Q: How does your stimulus business plan differ from your previous methods?
A: It has really become an extension of our everyday business model. In the past, we were strategically looking at opportunities to save dollars, reduce emissions, and promote the value of insulation. Now, with NIA's Mechanical Insulation Awareness Campaign beginning to take place, we can leverage our products and services at a higher level. We have increased the awareness internally and equipped our employees with the tools they need to sell on an individual basis.
Q: Did you encounter resistance? If so, how did you overcome it?
A: There is still a lack of knowledge about mechanical insulation. We continue to educate, focus on opportunities, and talk with those who make decisions. The other item is that there is competition for the stimulus dollars. Most states are looking for housing-related items (windows, siding, etc.); light bulbs; grid-related [considerations]; wind, solar [energy], etc. We have to continue to explain that mechanical insulation works and is ready to be put into service now without further development cost. This is an education process, and NIA has been great in supporting those efforts at the federal level.
Q: What types of jobs have resulted from your stimulus business plan?
A: We have had a lot of new business, including:
  • Commercial insulation projects
  • Industrial insulation projects
  • High-end residential projects
  • Manufacturing materials/applications (fabrication and product development)
Q: What has been the biggest challenge?
A: Creating awareness. Often the project can be small to provide proof that we can provide what we say. I love those opportunities, because the opportunity to show them or have them test the product on a pilot project always leads to a successful sale or the creation of a larger project. Our industry has product(s) that will work and create energy savings and reduce emissions, and we are ready to perform right now. Mechanical insulation is not a sexy business, but it is a workhorse that will be there for years to come. Everyone wants flash, visibility, and notoriety, and overcoming that can be a challenge.
Q: What has been the biggest surprise?
A: There is awareness that there is money to spend, but I have been surprised at how uncoordinated this whole stimulus effort has been at the various levels of government. The potential for waste is there if we do not slow down and understand with clarity how the money can be spent in the right applications without wasting it. Our industry has the opportunity to show the country that we have technology that is ready and available and can be effective right now.
Q: For how long do you expect to see benefits from the stimulus?
A: Because of the mechanical insulation awareness that has been developed by NIA, it can and should have a lasting impact for years to come. After the stimulus money is gone, it will always make sense to use and maintain mechanical insulation in any facility.

Your Time Will Pay Off

Stimulus money is still available—make sure your company doesn't lose out on this rare opportunity to receive federal and state funding for your mechanical systems insulation improvements. Schedule time in your day to visit the MIMI website, familiarize yourself with the resources available, and start educating your bosses or clients about the benefits of mechanical insulation. Your company will definitely benefit.


This article appeared in the November 2009 issue of Insulation Outlook.


Author

Julie McLaughlin

Julie McLaughlin is Director, Publications for NIA. She can be contacted at 703-464-6422 or jmclaughlin@insulation.org.




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