NAEC’s 69th Annual Convention and 2018 Exposition

NAEC President Craig Zomchek led the discussion at the Contractor Meeting.

Big crowd, good times in Atlantic City

by Angela C. Baldwin
photos by Angela C. Baldwin, Caleb Givens and John Dimaio

he National Association of Elevator Contractors’ (NAEC) 69th Annual Convention and 2018 Exposition took place in Atlantic City on September 24-27. Held at the Atlantic City Convention Center and the Sheraton Atlantic City, this is the event’s second consecutive year at the locations, which served as a substitute for Orlando in 2017, due to Hurricane Irma. This year’s convention and expo had long been planned for the popular resort city located on New Jersey’s Atlantic coast and known for its boardwalk, beaches and casinos. And, under mostly clear skies, in Atlantic City and beyond, the 2018 event welcomed big crowds and a contagious enthusiasm.

From the 1920s Boardwalk-themed Welcome Reception, complete with plentiful spirits, casino games and good food, and the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation (EESF) party, replete with desserts, a photo booth and artists drawing caricatures, early in the week, to the Throwback Beach Party and Dinner and “Wild, Wild West” Dregs Party later in the week, there was fun to be had, and many partook. The NAEC staff ’s creativity captured the essence of Atlantic City and seemed a fitting celebration of the successful year had by so many NAEC members and the industry in general.

Though the good times were spread throughout the week, there was much business woven in, too, with plenty of networking and education, along with a two-day expo. According to NAEC Executive Director Teresa Witham:

“The energy of the city carried into the exhibit hall that featured 200 industry suppliers representing countries around the globe who service all facets of the vertical transportation industry. The opportunity for face-to-face interactions among suppliers, contractors, consultants, inspectors and other professionals proved to be invaluable to all. The convention and exposition gave the industry’s leading suppliers the opportunity to highlight the latest trends, technology and products, as well as provide networking, education and good times with old friends and new.”

The week opened, as is tradition, with the official golf tournament, held Monday morning at the prestigious Seaview Golf Club. That evening, the Welcome Reception and EESF Party gave attendees the chance to mingle, get reacquainted with old friends, make some new contacts and, generally, enjoy themselves. Both parties saw excellent attendance and, if volume is any indication, fostered engaging, spirited conversation. It proved to be a fruitful opening day to the convention and a harbinger of the week ahead.

Tuesday morning’s breakfast buffet was followed by the General Business Meeting led by NAEC President Craig Zomchek. Zomchek shared the future direction of NAEC, most notably the “stepping back” in February 2019 of Witham, who has been serving the association for 28 years, and the full retirement of part-time Chief Financial Officer Faye Carter- Powell. He also discussed the emphasis placed on new education programs. “NAEC has become a provider of valuable education services, and a new program fund is being put in place to support these services,” Zomchek explained.

Zomchek updated attendees on the growth trajectories of several educational programs, including the Vertical Transportation Management Program, which saw a 33% increase in enrollment over the past year. The Certified Elevator Technician (CET®) and Certified Accessibility and Private Residence Lift Technician (CAT®) programs saw enrollment grow by more than 30%. NAEC will begin offering QEI testing in 2019, something requested by NAEC membership for quite some time, according to Witham. Along with education program updates, various committee chairs provided updates on their respective committees, and Treasurer Louis “L.J.” Blaiotta, Jr., reported that the “state of the union” is strong.

Zomchek introduced the new NAEC board of director members: Ryan Coley, president of Right Way Elevator Maintenance Inc.; Michael Frecking, president of Lakeland/ Larsen Elevator; Chuck Sharp, vice president of D-C Elevator Co., and Kevin Flotten, national sales and strategic accounts manager of EMS Group, Inc.

Contractor, supplier and associate sessions followed the General Business Session. All were well attended and explored a multitude of issues facing each group.

After lunch, Roundtable Discussions spanned the afternoon. Many attendees moved from discussion to discussion, as there was much knowledge to glean from the wide variety of topics covered, including:

  • “How to Set Up and Manage a CET Program” by Sharp and Dave Smarte of Delaware Elevator, Inc.
  • “Performance Management Done Right” by Karen Hopkins of The Hopkins Group
  • “How to Become an AIA Course Provider” by Allison Allgaier and Russ Ward of Phoenix Modular Elevator
  • “Encoder Position for Permanent Magnet Motors” by Tyler Pecha of KEB America
  • “Fall Protection and Lock Out Tag Out – Two Areas of Concern within OSHA Focus 4” by the NAEC Safety Committee
  • “Home Elevators and Accessibility” by Patrick Edwards of EHLS Elevators & Lifts

The expo opened Wednesday morning at the Atlantic City Convention Center. With more than 2,800 attendees, along with the large number of exhibitors, it was a full house, and the energy remained high over the two-day event. According to Witham, the expo “allowed attendees to learn more about the current business climate in the elevator industry, as well as discover new and innovative products and services for a competitive edge.” Education sessions, many of which provided continuing education credits, were offered in two pavilions inside the expo hall throughout Wednesday and Thursday. The Cocktail Reception and Throwback Beach Party and Dinner capped off a busy day.

Zomchek presided at Thursday morning’s Awards Breakfast, where he recognized those, including outgoing board members, who had given their time and energy to NAEC over the past year. He also thanked everyone for giving him “the opportunity to serve,” including past NAEC presidents and the NAEC board, all of whom, he said, helped make the year a successful one. Zomchek also thanked his father, Ray Zomchek, in a heartfelt speech, calling him “an inspiration to many, including myself ” and presented him with the President’s Award.

The much-anticipated Booth Awards followed and were presented to:

  • Best Single — Vator Accessories
  • Best Multiple — Quad City Safety
  • Best Island— Wurtec
  • Spirit of NAEC —The Peelle Co.
  • Contractor’s Choice Award — Gorman Co., Inc.

New board members and officers were then installed by Bret Abels. The 2018-2019 officers are:

  • President — Gary Schuette of Midwest Elevator Co. Inc.
  • Vice president — Don Gelestino of Champion Elevator
  • Secretary — John Dodds of Kencor, Inc.
  • Treasurer — L.J. Blaiotta of Columbia Elevator

The presentation of NAEC’s most prestigious award, the William C. Sturgeon Distinguished Service Award, was delivered by Doug Witham. He paid a touching tribute to this year’s recipient, Perry Burch of Premier Elevator Co., Inc., saying:

“Perry fits the criteria of this award so well. And, good things happen to good people. He is a great man who has served this industry so well for so long. Now, at 81, he still goes to work every day at Premier. He helps young mechanics, teaching them to be competent mechanics and men – – elevator men.”

Burch called receiving the award a welcomed surprise: “I love being an elevator man. I love going to work every day. I was lucky enough to know Bill Sturgeon. He was deserving of having this award named after him, and I am honored to receive it.”

To close the breakfast, the gavel was passed from Zomchek to new President Schuette amid much applause. And, even as attendees were reminded to attend the Dregs Party that night, sights were already set on the 2019 convention, to be held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on September 16-19.

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