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NAEC Spring Educational Conference 2017

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Set in sunny Scottsdale, the annual event brought together newcomers, industry experts for education, networking and relaxation.

A mid the bright blue skies and rolling green golf-course hills of Scottsdale, Arizona, the National Association of Elevator Contractors (NAEC) held its annual Spring Educational Conference on March 26-29 at The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch. While the nearby city of Phoenix was abuzz with anticipation of the 2017 men’s NCAA Final Four basketball tournament and in the thrall of preseason Arizona Diamondbacks baseball games and 17 NFL teams’ spring training, conference attendees in Scottsdale were afforded proximity to that, plus the tranquility of nearby golf courses, and the resort’s Luna spa and quiet courtyards fit for conversation or a meditative coffee break. You could say the location was ideal, but for it being a bit cool in the shade and the need for sunglasses to keep the sunshine out of your eyes. Over the near week your author was there, those were the only complaints to be heard, and they were made in jest. 

In truth, the nearly 240 attendees, many regulars to the event, along with some first-timers, enjoyed a wide variety of educational sessions, meetings, receptions and offsite activities, making for a full, productive week. According to NAEC President Joseph McNally, “the Spring Conference is a hidden gem where attendees can learn new concepts in a relaxed atmosphere. It is an exceptional way to meet people and interact with your peers.”

The event’s first meetings began Sunday, March 26. The day-long NAEC Board of Directors meeting was followed by contractor, supplier and associate member meetings, which covered such topics as machine-room-less (MRL) elevators, codes and standards, and the growing interest in developing both a Spanish-language Certified Elevator Technician (CET®) program and a digital CET program. The meetings were lively, well attended and touched on the issues of the day with candor. The evening’s Welcome Reception proved just as lively, or more so, thanks to the good company, warm atmosphere, delicious food, including traditional Southwestern fare, and flowing drinks. 

At the conference’s hearty steak-and-egg Opening Breakfast Monday morning, McNally discussed the need for an active NAEC membership. “It’s vital to the association and its future,” he said, noting NAEC’s “impressive” 40 nominees for the board’s four positions that will need filling this fall. “This is a record number of nominees, and that says a lot about NAEC. It’s going to be a hard decision.”

McNally also reported that NAEC’s membership keeps increasing, with 5% growth seen in the past year. The CET program has seen 37% growth since July 2016, and the Vertical Transportation Management Program has graduated 12 students and is getting great reviews, he added.

Along with growth comes change. McNally announced the board’s future president, Colley Elevator’s Craig Zomchek, who will replace him at the NAEC Annual Convention and Exposition this September. Additional new board members as of this fall include Midwest Elevator Co. Inc.’s Gary Schuette as vice president; Kencor Inc.’s John Dodds as secretary and Columbia Elevator Products Co., Inc.’s Louis “LJ” Blaiotta Jr., as treasurer. 

Internally, NAEC has also seen change. McNally introduced new NAEC Deputy Director Ryan Nettleton, who joined the team earlier this year following the transition of Faye Carter-Powell. Carter-Powell now works remotely as NAEC’s chief financial officer. After five years, Marketing and Meeting Manager Kerrie Rebmann, now a mom of three, will soon leave NAEC for full-time motherhood. Amid applause, McNally congratulated Rebmann on the birth of her twins a few months ago. Before sending everyone off to a full day of education, McNally also noted that NAEC’s American National Standards Institute accreditation had been completed and approved, and its various committees are busy with a variety of projects.

The first education session of the day, led by Gary Ward and Dennis Rhodes of Imperial Electric, a Nidec Co., discussed “Machines 15 Years Later and Beyond,” including machine changes, new installation advantages and market trends. Karen Hopkins of The Hopkins Group followed, answering the question, “What Do Employers Have to Do Now? New Employment Laws.” Concurrent to Hopkins’ session, Brandon Mandy of Man-D-Tec Inc. led an “Elevator Emergency Code Refresher.” These well-attended morning sessions were peppered with discussion, and after a lunch break, the conversation continued with the Open Mic session led by Zomchek.

A more free-flowing discussion on a variety of topics, the Open Mic session moved from the pros and cons of MRL elevators to the ebbs and flows of maintenance. In regards to maintenance, one attendee summed up the conversation, saying, “Maintenance gets more frequent in a good economy, but when the economy turns bad, contracts become quarterly or every six months instead of monthly. Right now, maintenance is getting more frequent, which is a good thing.” The conversation eventually turned to the growing need for the proper education and training of new employees, as well as the increased use of maintenance control programs and what that means for the industry.

After a free evening, attendees reconvened Tuesday morning for a day full of education sessions and offsite activities, including the conference’s official golf tournament at nearby Stonecreek Golf Club and 4×4 excursions. “Optimizing Best Rope and Roping System Performance” presented by Brugg Wire Rope’s Martin Rhiner and “Lead, Follow or Get Out (of the Way)” led by Larry Hart, CEO of Tribe, an online learning platform, were the first sessions of the day. Tom Hausenbauer of MEI Total Elevator Solutions followed with “Roped Hydraulic Applications, Installation & Maintenance Techniques/Solutions for Hot Oil Jobs,” as did Todd Bairstow of Keyword Connects and Lauren Mobyed of Google, who discussed “Emerging Online Trends for Aging in Place and Residential Mobility Companies.”

Following lunch, the NAEC Safety Committee held a panel discussion led by Ray Downs of TEI Group, Steve Wurth of Wurtec, David Smarte of Delaware Elevator and Patrick McBride of Servset Elevator Inc. Topics spanned from OSHA and confined space to insurance and arc-flash standards. Panel discussion moderator Rob Merlo of The Merlo Agency stressed to the group that “safety is a member service of the NAEC.” He encouraged all NAEC members to “reach out to the Safety Committee if you need assistance or have questions throughout the year.” The committee is discussing creating its own quarterly newsletter and putting more safety-related information in Mainline, the NAEC-member newsletter, as part of its outreach. Various safety-related documents are already available for members on the NAEC website’s library, said Smarte.

Education for the day was rounded out with “Strategies to Maximize Wealth & Protect Assets” presented by Joanna Larsen of the American Society for Asset Protection, and “Rack and Pinion Elevators – Education & Code” presented by Kevin Harrison of McDonough Elevators. Tuesday evening’s cocktail reception at the
resort’s Sunset Plaza brought everyone together again after a full day. The weather continued to prove Arizona springs are something to behold.

Wednesday morning’s Roundtable Discussions were heavily attended and covered a breadth of timely topics. At noon, another golf tournament, “no frills” this time, took place at the McCormick Ranch Golf Club. Meanwhile, The Peelle Co.’s Michael J. Ryan taught an American Red Cross First Aid Course back at the resort. The Spring Conference closed that evening as it always does – with a Dregs Party, a final sendoff after a week well spent. NAEC’s Annual Convention and Exposition will be held September 11-14 in Orlando, Florida, at the Hyatt Regency Orlando & Orange County Convention Center.

Roundtable Discussions

Track 1:

  • “Elevator Traveling Cable and Compensation Cable Installation” by Ray Miller, Draka Elevator Products Inc.
  • “Healthiest & Safest Elevator Pit Environment” by Barry Robbins-Capuano, W2W777 Operations, LLC “Private Residential Elevator Code Changes 2017” by Craig Jones, Country Home Elevator

Track 2:

  • “NAEC New Hire Safety Orientation Documents” by David Smarte, Delaware Elevator
  • “Business Systems Conversions – Best Practices, Lessons Learned and ROI Expectations” by Jonathan Taub, Fieldboss
  • “Roundtable Discussion on Home Elevators” by James Boydston, Handi-Lift Inc.
  • “NAEC’s Vertical Transportation Management Program” by Rick and Kas Kennedy, Kencor Inc.
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