A week of networking, learning and camaraderie culminates in a 65th birthday bash, awards and changing of the
guard “deep in the heart of Texas.”
photos by Kaija Wilkinson, Angela C. Baldwin, Ricia Sturgeon-Hendrick and John Dimaio
Drawing 2,100 elevator professionals to San Antonio, Texas, on September 8-11, the National Association of Elevator Contractors (NAEC) 65th Annual Convention and Exposition proved to be, in the words of Rick Kennedy of Kencor Elevator Systems, “an experience of learning and camaraderie” with networking, education, outstanding Tex-Mex cuisine and, as always, the opportunity to form bonds and grow business on the expo floor, at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.
There were nearly 200 exhibitors this year, helping result in what NAEC Awards Committee Chairman Marvin Schumacher of Schumacher Elevator Co. described as a “magnificent show” and what outgoing NAEC President John Sweeney of Jersey Elevator called “one of the best ever.”
NAEC Executive Director Teresa Witham described the overall mood of attendees as upbeat and excited, and noted many exhibitors launched new products, as did NAEC. “The attendees were engaged, and participated heavily in all of the social events, trade show and educational sessions,” she said.
Events began before 7 a.m. and lasted well into the night. Host hotel Grand Hyatt San Antonio provided an array of meeting rooms that were used effectively by NAEC organizers. The hotel is connected to the convention center and is steps from the Riverwalk, where restaurants, shops and bars are plentiful.
The day offered optional morning activities, such as golf and a historic San Antonio tour, and, in the evening, the President’s Welcome Reception, where friends and colleagues shared warm greetings as they dined on marinated grilled flank steak on tortillas, among other items, and enjoyed a few cocktails. A live band provided Tejano music. For many attendees, the party was far from over, since the reception was immediately followed by the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation’s annual fundraiser (see sidebar).
The day started with a fun run and breakfast buffet. As exhibitors set up, keynote speaker Mark King, CEO of adidas Group North America, enthralled a packed house with the story of how his employer, TaylorMade, grew in less than a decade from a three-person golf-equipment company to one of the industry’s top players with more than US$1 billion in sales. King’s speech was peppered with genuinely hilarious anecdotes that made time fly and conveyed the message that “growth is a cultural mindset that must be infused into the bloodstream of every organization.”
Next, Sweeney led NAEC’s General Business Session, which included a description of the formation, purpose and goals of homeSAFE, a new nonprofit, the purpose of which is to raise home-elevator safety awareness.
Nominees to the 2014 board spoke about their careers and reasons for wanting to be involved. They are: contractors Todd Irvin, CEO of Executive Elevator in Louisville, Kentucky; Joseph McNally, CEO of McNally Elevator in Kalamazoo, Michigan; Emery Wilcox, general manager of Ascent Elevator Services, Inc., of southern California; and supplier Jeff Schumacher of Schumacher Elevator Co., of Denver, Iowa.
“All the disciplines have to work together in lockstep day after day to move this industry forward in this country, and it’s incredible.”— Rick Kennedy of Kencor Elevator, 2014 William C. Sturgeon Distinguished Service Award recipient
The NAEC Specification Database was discussed. Launched in April, the online tool allows those such as consultants, architects and contractors to find specifications they may copy and paste into their bids. Chaired by Doug Witham, the project is aimed at helping independents stay competitive. Sweeney thanked those instrumental in building the database, including Kennedy, who Sweeney joked has been involved “since he had hair.”
NAEC’s Education Committee reported on an “exciting and productive year,” which saw more than 100 Certified Elevator Technician (CET®) and Certified Accessibility and Private Residence Lift Technician (CAT®) candidates sign up for training, and more than 100 graduate. The committee is striving to get additional U.S. colleges to recognize CET for credit and plans to soon add 15 new video eLearning courses to the continuing-education library, on top of the 19 added in the past fiscal year. Discussions and updates also addressed membership development, the New York City elevator code and the group of young elevator professionals known as NexGen.
Attendees then split up to attend one of three forums held concurrently: contractor, supplier and associate member sessions. During the Supplier Member Session, discussion included ways to boost contractor attendance and increase overall expo participation on the second day. Witham told attendees past efforts to attract real-estate professionals and architects yielded lackluster results, and several people suggested that marketing efforts focus on the “next generation” of elevator companies and professionals such as those involved in NexGen.
Witham said NAEC has assembled an exhibitor task force to gather feedback about which venues are most appealing and plans to conduct a “total review of the contractors to find out what experience is relevant to them.” She said shows in the Northeast typically have higher headcounts and larger booth footprints. However, she said, generally there are fewer fully registered attendees since participants are closer to their bases of operation and able to attend events using show passes, which keeps days away from the office to a minimum. In non-Northeast shows, the fully registered headcount is higher with a slower pass/walk-in headcount, she says, noting, “if people are going to travel to attend, they go ahead and register and participate in everything.” Education, she said, is a bright spot: “One thing we’ve learned over the last few years is that so many states and entities are requiring continuing-education credits. Our education sessions are packed like they’ve never been before.”
“Our education sessions are packed like they’ve never been before.” — Teresa Witham, NAEC executive director
The well-attended Contractor Member Session was presided over by Sweeney, who stressed the importance of industry member participation in the NAEC convention. Incoming NAEC President Brian Farley of Hudson Elevator Group then led a discussion on crisis management and the importance of company safety programs. He posed a question to the group: “How many of you are ready to put your safety program in front of an attorney?” He continued, saying, “A safety program is not enough; it has to be implemented. And, it has to have teeth.”
The Associate Member Session, presided over by Dick Gregory of Vertex Elevator Consultants, focused on the need for additional elevator education for architects and building managers/owners. The lively discussion included much brainstorming on how to best deliver continuing education to those important sectors.
After the forums, roundtable discussions took place. Experts fielded questions and led discussions on:
- “Accessibility Codes for Elevators and Lifts and How That Relates to the Fair Housing Act versus ADAAG requirements”
- “Selling Safety”
- “Best Practices for Scaffolding & Residential Elevator Shafts”
- “Streamlining Operations with iPads and Other Mobile Devices”
- “Limited Use/Limited Access”
- “Employment Law: A Moving Target”
- “Mechanics Guide to Safety Inspections & How to Use ASME Code References”
The day wound down with a series of festive private parties and, for others, a quiet dinner and stroll along the Riverwalk.
Keynote speaker Mark King, CEO of adidas Group North America, enthralled a packed house with the story of how his employer, TaylorMade, grew from a three-person golf- equipment company to one of the industry’s top players with more than US$1 billion in sales.
The expo hall opened at 9:30 a.m., with buzz building through the day. NAEC welcomed attendees with cupcakes and a complimentary thermal coffee mug, and exhibitors drew potential customers and business partners with smiles, sales pitches and an array of freebies — from pens; to paperweights; to custom, “squeezy” stress balls; to ice-cold beer, which could be enjoyed, for example, from the top of the elaborate GAL/Hollister-Whitney booth high above the expo floor.
In staying with the Texas theme, many exhibitors and attendees wore Western gear — boots, cowboy hats and colorful embroidered shirts. Reflecting Witham’s observation, all seats were filled at both days’ educational sessions.
The Texas theme carried into the night with NAEC’s Diamonds & Denim 65th Birthday Bash. Preceded by a cocktail party, the dinner featured carving stations with prime rib and smoked turkey, among many other items. The Pictures Band entertained the crowd with rock and country hits old and new. Diners took to the dance floor for line dancing and more as the band played until midnight.
After what, for some, was a late night filled with food and frolic, there was no sleeping in, thanks to the Annual Awards Breakfast, which drew more than 300 people. During this segment of the event, awards were presented, new officers and board members sworn in and speeches made. Sweeney presented the President’s Award to his father, Mike Sweeney, founder of Jersey Elevator, whom he described as a “complete elevator man” and a personal and professional mentor.
Pointing to the rapid changes in communication and technology being experienced by the industry, new NAEC President Brian Farley of Hudson Elevator Group said it is an exciting time to be involved.
Pointing to the rapid changes in communication and technology being experienced by the industry, new NAEC President Brian Farley said it is an exciting time to be involved. He said he looks forward to his year in charge and plans to stay active in the NAEC for many years to come. He stated:
“I hope to one day sit back and be proud of the effort that we’ve all made to provide the leadership that sustains and improves our organization, and help make way for our sons and daughters to be future leaders of the NAEC. We look forward to continued success.”
Kennedy received the prestigious William C. Sturgeon Distinguished Service Award, and perhaps summed up the industry best when he said:
“When people ride an elevator, they know you push a button, you push another button, and then you get off. What they don’t know is behind those doors are hundreds of thousands of hours and money. . . . There are hundreds of thousands of hours of work on the part of the people who formulate and implement the codes and standards we operate from.
“Inspectors put in thousands of hours, and there are thousands of hours of training for the mechanics who turn the wrenches — who maintain and install our units and make them safe. All the disciplines have to work together in lockstep day after day to move this industry forward, and it’s incredible. That is why I am passionately involved.”
The day continued with exhibits, educational sessions and a Bridgebuilder Meeting. The convention wound down that evening with the Dregs Party held along the Riverwalk in the Lonesome Dove Room on the convention center’s River Level. Guests to the well-attended party were treated to good food, live country music and a local pastime — armadillo races. The NAEC 66th Annual Convention and Exposition will be held in Boston, Sept. 28-Oct. 1, 2015.
EESF, Supporters Toast “Taste of Texas”
The Buckhorn Saloon & Museum in downtown San Antonio, Texas, was the setting for “Taste of Texas,” the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation’s (EESF’s) annual fundraiser held in conjunction with the NAEC 65th Annual Convention and Exposition. The Monday night soiree drew approximately 230 people to the venue, a multistory, rambling affair that serves as a showcase for Wild West history, reenactments and a museum displaying a remarkable array of hunting trophies. Nearly everyone donned their cowboy boots, hats and denim for the event, and EESF Associate Director Nikole Gore-Layton greeted guests at the door with a table full of champagne flutes, all of which held champagne and a “diamond” — only one of which was real. EESF supporters purchased glasses for US$100 each for a chance to win, and Mark Yako of GAL/Hollister-Whitney ended up the lucky winner. The night started in the downstairs meeting room, where bartenders served up ice-cold beer and margaritas, and handmade gorditas were provided as appetizers — complete with a demonstration of how to make them the authentic Mexican way. Guests then moved upstairs to dine on chicken enchiladas and nachos as they enjoyed magic tricks and reenactments. The Chris Story Band entertained the crowd with country hits, as well as led a lively round of line-dancing. The event raised US$15,000 for the EESF.
Continuing Education Sessions
- “ALP Elevator Wire Rope Seminar,” Bruce Mock and Bill Meckley, ALP Industries, Inc.
- “Technology, Functionality & Operations of the Controller Line — Element TractionTM & Element HydroTM,” Michael Poon, Motion Control Engineering
- “Materials and Technology in Elevator Cab Interiors,” Evan Epstein, SnapCab
- “Avoiding Trouble with Retrofit Drive Installations,” Donald Vollrath, Magnetek
- “What’s New with Seismic Requirements in the Elevator Code and What Are the Requirements to Control Unintended Motion,” Tracey Fackler, Eric Lazear and Richard Taylor, Draka Elevator
- “How to Set Up & Manage a CAT Program,” James Boydston, Handi-Lift
- “Creating Code Compliant Maintenance Control Programs,” Bradford Welsh, Vertical Assistance
- “EECO Hydraulic Control Valve Training,” Abe Salehpour, Elevator Equipment Corp. (EECO)
- “The 5 Step Guide to the 70 Hour Hydraulic Installation,” Travis Hall, Alliance Elevator Solutions
- “Safe Elevator Operation with Serial I/O,” Tom Reamsnyder, Virginia Controls
- “Hand and Power Tool Safety,” Guy Gioino, Hub International
- “Elevator & Escalator Inspection/Testing Techniques,” Sheila Swett, Swett Corp.
- “Running Clearances 101,” Patrick Edwards, Integrity Elevator
- “Efficiency in Performing Annual and Five Year Tests,” Sanjay Kamani, KP Property Advisors
VIEEW Members Discuss Safety in San Antonio
by Angela C. Baldwin
The annual Vertical Initiative for Elevator Escalator Women (VIEEW) meeting was held Monday, Sept. 8 at 4:30 p.m. at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio. Hosted by Robin Oldham and Julie McKenzie of Vertical Express (TKE) and presided over by VIEEW president Martha Hulgan of MMH and Associates, LLC, the meeting, attended by approximately 25 industry women, centered around the topic of safety.
Over wine and cheese, group members shared their safety stories, which included advice to “dress for the job,” “just say ‘no’ if a jobsite appears unsafe,” and “take responsibility for your own safety.” Jackie Mortman, president of JM Associates/Burnham + Co., a division of HUB International, reminded everyone that it is the seasoned, more experienced people who are most often injured on the job. With that came an encouragement by Mortman and Barbara Allen, executive director of the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation, to keep safety information prominently displayed in the workplace. “People are hungry for information – no matter how long they have been in this industry. We need to keep the information out there,” Mortman said.
VIEEW members voted unanimously to put together a booklet of basic safety information for sales people and estimators, who visit jobsites rarely. It can be distributed to any company who wishes to use it to better educate their new, as well as their longtime, employees.
The VIEEW will meet next at the Elevator Conference of New York Supplier Showcase on April 8, 2015.
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