NAEC 2019 Educational Conference
Compelling speakers, large crowd and new leadership mark this year’s National Association of Elevator Contractors’ spring event.
Photos by John Dimaio
Most U.S. elevator industry folks are downright happy to find themselves spending a week in sunny, mild Naples, Florida, at the end of a long winter, just by virtue of the excellent weather. So, add in some golf, a luxury resort, a couple of cocktail parties, top-notch speakers, and a wealth of old and new friends and colleagues with expertise for days, and you’ve got something special. The National Association of Elevator Contractors (NAEC) 2019 Educational Conference, held April 14-17 at the Naples Grande Beach Resort, welcomed nearly 250 elevator and industry professionals, historically big numbers for the conference, and ushered in a new era with new NAEC Executive Director Alesa McArthur at the helm. NAEC President Gary Schuette also helped guide the conference, which featured many education sessions, some worth continuing education credit, that comprised the requests and ideas of attendees from the past year’s NAEC events. Topics included time management, job descriptions, new code requirements for door equipment and elevator safety instruction, to name a few. The week provided ample time to take in the educational offerings, network, share meals, explore Naples and generally enjoy time together, and those your author talked to welcomed the opportunity.
The week kicked off Sunday afternoon with concurrent Contractor Member, Associate Member and Supplier Member sessions. Schuette presided over the Contractor Member session, and opened it by saying, “This is your opportunity to bring ideas to the floor.” Topics covered included NAEC’s impending Compensation Survey, which will serve to give companies a gauge on what elevator employees throughout the country are paid; insurance concerns, particularly that of the need for cyber insurance; the use of credit cards for payment and the availability of labor.
That evening’s Welcome Reception took place poolside and gave attendees the chance to enjoy some local music, the fine weather and an impressive sunset, while dining on an expansive buffet that included mahi mahi, roast beef, roasted vegetables, plantains, fresh fruit and flan. Spirits were high, and along with industry topics, dinner conversation vacillated between Tiger Woods’ 2019 Master’s Tournament victory earlier that day and the Game of Thrones final season premiere taking place later that night.
Monday morning’s Opening Breakfast featured a State of the Association address by Schuette, who hailed “the pace and atmosphere of the spring conference is one that is great for relationships.” He thanked the NAEC staff for their hard work, adding that he would be remiss if he didn’t mention this was the first spring conference in 28 years without former NAEC executive director and now Deputy Director Teresa Witham in attendance. He then named the slate of officers for the upcoming 2019-2020 year. They include: Don Gelestino – president; Michael Flecking – vice president; Rick Gable – treasurer and Kevin Flotten – secretary. He also provided updates on NAEC’s education programs, all of which are doing well and growing.
Schuette then introduced new Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation (EESF) Executive Director Shelly Johnson, who shared a little bit about her background in nonprofit work and the upcoming EESF annual campaign.
Keynote speaker Jack McCall, a motivational humorist, then entertained the crowd with his lyrical and poignant storytelling, much of it based on his childhood experiences in Tennessee. He discussed the challenges of the digital age and the difficulties employers contend with regarding generational transfer, as Baby Boomers, Generation X and Y and Millennials all try to navigate working together. He challenged audience members to “stay connected with the people important to you; they’re your safety net. There are challenges everywhere, but if we stay grounded in life, if we stay connected, we win.”
The day’s education sessions began with Access Elevator’s Patrick Edwards, who presented “Revisiting Residential & Commercial Stairway Lift Standards” to a full room. McCall followed with his session, “The Disconnect in Organizations: How to Reconnect and Return to What’s Important NOW,” which expanded on themes he touched on in his keynote address.
Later that afternoon, the Official Golf Tournament took place at the Naples Grande Golf Course. The excellent weather, camaraderie and friendly competition made for an enjoyable afternoon. Many who opted out of golf attended the Open Mic Session moderated by Gelestino, who told the crowd to not hold back. “One person’s problem and another person’s solution to it can help others,” he said. He also encouraged those in attendance to give their comments, concerns and suggestions to NAEC, “who is always trying to make things better for their members.” The session touched on a variety of topics including NAEC’s education opportunities, licensing issues and maintenance logs.
“The pace and atmosphere of the spring conference is one that is great for relationships.” —NAEC President Gary Schuette
After a free night, education began bright and early Tuesday morning. Continuing education credit was offered for the session presented by Pat Dreps and Joseph Thompson of Brugg Lifting North America, titled “Coated Traction Products – A Milestone in Elevator Rope Technology.” Also for credit, Electrodyn Systems, Ltd.’s James Marinelli discussed “A New Code Requirement for Door Equipment,” and Elevator Safety and Technical Services’ Lee Rigby delivered a two-hour session on “Elevator Safety Instruction.”
Other education sessions on Tuesday tackled business management topics. Lien Randle of Mitsubishi Electric U.S., Inc. started her interactive presentation, “Time Management: Either You Run the Day or the Day Runs You,” with a request: “Think about that thing at work that sucks the life out of you.” That prompt led to a lively discussion about time, the one thing Randle says “you can’t buy.” She encouraged the packed room to declutter, plan for each day and change their mindsets: “Make it personal, so you can have time for the things that matter most. Your personal growth has a direct impact on business. Happy people are productive.” Later that morning, Karen Hopkins of The Hopkins Group discussed “Job Descriptions – How to Get Them & What to Do with Them.” Dean Heasley of Nashville Marketing System explained how to “Rank Higher in Google by Elevating Your Digital Personality.” “Everything doesn’t have to be perfect in your digital profile; it just has to be better than the competition,” he said, stressing the importance of creating new content on a regular basis.
Tuesday evening’s lively cocktail reception gave attendees a chance to unwind from the day together before heading out on their own for the night.
Roundtable discussions began early Wednesday morning (see sidebar) and were well attended. Many of those sticking around for the day participated in The No Frills Golf Tournament at the Tiburon Golf Club. As always, the conference ended with a laid-back Dregs Event, complete with food and an amazing sunset.
For McArthur, the conference goes down as a hit:
“Members loved the location, education and especially the networking time at our special events. It made it even better that behind the scenes, everything was seamless, too. Shawn Cowden handled the special events like the pro he is, Amanda Smith was on point with education and Megan Ragan kept registration running smoothly. It felt good to be in my first year as executive director with such a great team, including our staff in the office who added so much, and our board, where we accomplished much work in our board meeting.”
The NAEC 2020 Educational Conference will take place April 19-22 at the Wild Dunes Resort – Isle of Palms in Charleston, South Carolina.