A Change of Plans

Joe McNally said of Atlantic City: “For the exhibitors, this is a great place for them, with people coming from the East Coast”; photo courtesy of The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.

NAEC defies hurricane to hold its 2017 convention and exposition in Atlantic City; cover photo courtesy of The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.

by Lee Freeland
photos by Lee Freeland and John Dimaio

Hurricane Irma struck Orlando in the early morning hours of September 11, what had been scheduled as the first day of the 68th Annual Convention & 2017 Exposition of the National Association of Elevator Contractors (NAEC). The threat of a direct hit by what had weakened to a Category 2 storm had already prompted the NAEC staff to work feverishly to reschedule, if possible. Fortunately, what was already scheduled as the site of next year’s event, the Atlantic City Convention Center and nearby Sheraton, could accommodate NAEC on September 22-26, less than two weeks after the original schedule.

Teresa Witham, executive director of NAEC, explained:

“Our leadership convened as quickly as possible and made the decision to postpone the convention. As the hours after this decision progressed, we learned there was no coinciding availability in the Orlando hotels or convention center for the balance of 2017 or 2018. We were able to find availability in Atlantic City, a destination where we had a positive response track record. We sent out an informal poll to all of our members and individuals who were registered and/or contacts for our exhibiting companies. The overwhelming majority was positive and supported the move to Atlantic City with the new 2017 dates.”

Opening Events

There was good turnout, with 1,574 attendees visiting booths from 134 companies. September 22 began the fun with a golf tournament. The President’s Welcome Reception commenced that evening with a variety of food, focusing on fresh Atlantic City seafood. Immediately afterward was the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation’s (EESF) well-supported “Inaugural Cornhole Tournament.” Twenty-four two-player teams competed in a fierce fundraising effort to win a customized set of cornhole boards (won by Gina Valdez of Texacone and Dennis Rhodes of Imperial Electric), while spectators cheered them on and finished off their night with drinks and decadent desserts.

NAEC President Joe McNally opened the next morning’s events, thanking the NAEC staff for its hard work. He introduced guest speaker Steve Gilliland, a National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member with four bestselling books. McNally added that Gilliland was “one of the most sought-after speakers in the world,” bringing his motivational keynotes to more than 250,000 a year. Over the next hour or so, the audience was treated to many humorous and impactful stories relating to Gilliland’s life as a professional baseball announcer, writer of humorous cards for Hallmark (following a divorce!) and much more as he encouraged them to “enjoy the ride” in both work and life.

General Business Session

McNally also opened the General Business Session, introducing Todd Irvin, who confirmed 41 attending members and gave the Credentials Report. McNally then gave positive news in his President’s Report: NAEC’s Certified Elevator Technician (CET®) program has grown 40% in the last year, with its Certified Accessibility and Private Residence Lift Technician (CAT®) program having grown 30%. Also, NAEC is launching a QEI program and developing its own elevator school, similar in setup to culinary and aviation schools. Finally, it is also analyzing its conventions as it looks to continually expand and improve. He thanked Teresa Witham specifically for her leadership in putting on this challenging event, noting her 26 years of service with NAEC and 21 years as executive director.

The following contractor board of director nominees were introduced and given a chance to speak: Robert Barber, construction/modernization manager and treasurer of Premier Elevator Co., Inc. in Atlanta; Rick Gable, president of Gable Elevator, Inc. in Twinsburg, Ohio; and Donald Gelestino, president of Champion Elevator Corp. in New York City. Additionally, John Curzon represented the Nominating Committee in recommending Tom Thompson, director of sales and marketing for Innovation Industries, Inc. in Hauppauge, New York, for the Supplier position. All nominees were approved. The meeting was adjourned following Jeff Schumacher’s Treasurer’s Report, explaining his investigation into new revenue streams, such as the startup of NAEC’s QEI program.

Contractor Member Session

Incoming President Craig Zomchek began the Contractor Member Session by opening a discussion on the Maintenance Control Plan (MCP) and elevator pit access. David Smarte spoke from the crowd on OSHA’s confined-spaces rule from last year that affects working in a hoistway, saying Delaware Elevator has spent US$70,000 to make sure it’s compliant. He warned against taking a chance on getting a (newly increased) fine, as it can be quite significant. Smarte also explained the “non-permanent confined space” OSHA calls the pit.

Zomchek steered discussion to the area of nonproprietary machine-room-less elevators: Smarte warned against getting into them, as their lack of longevity will “come to a head soon.” The electronic MCP (available at www.elevatorbooks.com) was also noted by those who use it as a real timesaver.

Rodney Pitts then brought up the new International Union of Elevator Constructors personal time off contract provision to see how others allow for and interpret it. Zomcheck and Gary Schuette answered many of his questions from their experiences.

Awards Breakfast

McNally introduced the board of directors and again thanked the NAEC staff, who received a long standing ovation. Past President Brian Farley presented the booth awards (see photos). McNally then presented the President’s Award to his wife, Carol, whom he also called his mentor.

Outgoing directors were Schumacher, Irvin and Wilcox, who were awarded for their years of service since 2014. Doug Witham then installed the new directors and new officers.

Officers are:

  • President: Craig Zomchek
  • Vice president: Gary Schuette
  • Treasurer: John Dodds
  • Secretary: Louis “L.J.” Blaiotta, Jr.

NAEC’s most prestigious recognition, the William C. Sturgeon Distinguished Service Award, was then presented to Stephen McDuffie of Portland, Maine’s Pine State Elevator by longtime friend and past recipient Dick Vinciquerra of AFD Industries, Inc. A member of NAEC since 1975, McDuffie was elected to the board of directors in 1985 and elected president in 1987. He was also co-chair of the Bylaws Committee in 1996 and 1997 and has been on that committee for the last 15 years. He said upon receiving the honor:

“The real person who deserves this award is Teresa Witham. This feat rivals the evacuation of Dunkirk, but if Teresa had been involved, more people would have gotten out quicker. . . . I urge people to get involved in NAEC — an active membership is vital, so participate when called upon.”

Incoming President Zomchek then thanked McNally for all his service as his predecessor and gave him the gavel award. Zomchek explained that his goals include expanding NAEC’s service portfolio and implementing a new strategic plan.

There’s a lot to look forward to for future NAEC events, especially following the success of this one rescheduled at, essentially, the last minute. The 2018 convention and exposition will be held in Atlantic City on September 24-27, 2018, and other important dates are listed under the “Events” tabs at both www.naec.org and elevatordirectory.com

Roundtable Discussions and Educational Sessions

There was a lot to learn at this year’s convention. In addition to concurrent roundtables discussing employment law, company performance, insurance, mobile technologies, ASME A18.1 and safety compliance, the following educational sessions were held during the exhibition:

  • “Maximizing Rope Life in Today’s Hoistway” by Kevin Heling & Jacob Kuhn of Wurtec and Martin Rhiner of Brugg Lifting
  • “Roller Guide Components & Elevator Ride Quality” by Ryan Peacock of ELSCO
  • “Retaining the Use of DC Elevator Machines” by Donald Vollrath of Magnetek
  • “Changes in Fire Codes Related to Elevator Installation” by Lee Rigby of Elevator Safety & Technical Services
  • “Control of Hazardous Energy” by Keith Evans of Premier Elevator
  • “Evaluating Risk & Liability Concerns in Elevator Help Phone Response” by David Bryant of Kings III Emergency Communications
  • “Confined Space” by David Smarte of Delaware Elevator
  • “Competing Today and Tomorrow in the Proprietary Elevator Industry” by Walter Barnes of Electronic Controls, Inc.
  • “Mechanics Guide to Safety Inspections & How to Use ASME Code References” by Craig Jones of Country Home Elevator
  • “Fundamentals for Successful Mobile Device Deployments” by Steve Metzman of iBusiness Technologies
  • “Elevator Drives — Topology, Control and Troubleshooting” by Tony Heiser of KEB America

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