Partner Profile: Ferguson Waterworks Meter & Automation Group, An Interview with Eric Tracy, Business Development Manager

March 8th, 2017

18635 - Logo Waterworks Meter Automation Group Logo Stacked“Most people operate on the ‘if you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist,’ mentality,” said Eric Tracy, Business Development Manager, Ferguson Waterworks Meter & Automation Group. “As water consumers, we’ve become used to the fact that drinkable, high quality water is readily available and delivered to our homes. So we’ve come to accept that we’re ‘entitled.’ We also don’t expect to pay that much for it because it’s our right. However, the reality is that in California, as in other states around the nation, there’s a lot of work to be done to maintain the nation’s infrastructure health.”

“There’s no getting around it, water is a political topic,” continued Tracy whoworks with municipal water utilities (like Ventura Water), as well as water districts and associations. “The politics started hundreds of years ago

Eric Tracy, Business Development Manager

Eric Tracy, Business Development Manager

when the first water infrastructure was introduced. Cities didn’t want to give up the control and the rights of water in their service area. Then later, more often than not, historically politicians have put off infrastructure maintenance and costs because it’s not a very popular topic with the voting public. Water rates, especially higher rates, are a bad PR move. However, what people usually underestimate is that is if you don’t maintain infrastructure as an ongoing priority, it will be far more costly in the long run, and on many levels, when that infrastructure suddenly fails.”

Founded in 1953 by Charles Ferguson, Ralph Lenz and Johnny Smither, Ferguson Enterprises, Inc., first opened its doors in two locations (Colmar Manor, MD, and Birmingham, AL) on a modest $165,000 in startup capital with the sole purpose of providing infrastructure supplies to small plumbing contractors. In 1954, when Crossroads Supply was founded in Alexandria, VA, it became the umbrella company for the three locations. Then, in 1959, Peebles Supply was opened in Hampton, VA and in 1969, David Peebles, became the company’s second president and changed the name of the managing company from (Crossroads Supply) to Ferguson Enterprises, Inc., in honor of the company’s mentor.

Cut to years later and the company now boasts 20,000 employees, bills in upwards of 12 million dollars in business annually, and is divided into three distinct divisions: Plumbing (selling to the contractor marketplace and industrial wholesale), Waterworks (water infrastructure i.e. pipes, valves, fittings, and fire hydrants) and Kitchen and Bath Showroom (selling appliances such as refrigerators, stovetops and fixtures to the consumer).

With a policy that “Nobody Expects More From Us Than We Do®,” Ferguson expects a lot from themselves, and strives to make a positive impact to strengthen the communities where they live and work. The company achieves this goal by working on partnerships and programs that contribute to the community such as “Homes for our Troops” serving as a national partner with HFOT to help build mortgage-free, specially-adapted homes for post-9/11 Veterans permanently injured in the line of duty, as well as “Project Holiday Joy” bringing toys and gifts to the community partnering with a variety of non-profits, and “Feed the Need” collecting food, supplies and monetary donations for more than 100 different organizations for families in need.

In addition to their humanitarian efforts, Ferguson has also instituted a Corporate Environmental Committee to identify, monitor and measure areas where the company can reduce their carbon footprint to benefit associates and the communities where they do business. A sampling of the efforts they address include utility conservation, recycling, promoting the use of more fuel efficient vehicles and working to making all the stores and distribution centers to be LEED certified.

“In the field, I work with an exciting addition to our industry that helps contribute to water conservation that came on the scene in 2002 — Automated Meter Reading (AMI),” said Tracy. “These ‘smart meters’ help utilities manage their customer’s consumption data digitally monitoring daily and hourly consumption without ever having to take in-person readings. Smart meters also offer the utility, as well as the customer, detailed and specific information on consumption — including pipe leaks, peak usage times and other data, which can help with conservation efforts.

“When the technology was first developed, it was very expensive,” said Tracy. “However, since 2010, and especially within the last five years, it’s become much more widely accepted and affordable.”

While many cities still need to get on board with this new technology, Ventura, with its 33,000 meters throughout the city, is already approved for smart metering.  Following a brief field testing period to be completed this summer, full deployment of new smart water meters is slated to be up and running in approximately five years.

“The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has given the U.S. a grade of ‘D+,’ when it comes to the health of our infrastructure. That’s precisely why education around infrastructure is vital. Working with ‘Water: Take 1’ we hope to assist in efforts to educate the public on several important factors — that water is not an entitlement, and that it takes a lot of effort to provide healthy, clean drinking water to homes and businesses. The visual medium of this online festival is a great way to underscore the water message in a way that people can understand, relate to, and hopefully take away and share.”