United 2016


Hospitable Montreal plays host to successful joint convention.

photos by John Dimaio and Angela C. Baldwin

More than 2,400 industry members convened in Montreal on September 19-22 for United 2016, a joint convention of three of North America’s major associations, the National Association of Elevator Contractors (NAEC), Canadian Elevator Contractors Association (CECA) and International Association of Elevator Consultants (IAEC). Held at the Palais des Congrès de Montreal Convention Center and Le Westin Montreal Downtown, the convention week began with board meetings and greetings, graduated to education sessions, association general business meetings and parties, and culminated in a two-day exposition with 195 exhibitors from six countries. By all accounts, the event, which happens once every four years, was a success.

Feedback has been positive, confirmed NAEC Executive Director Teresa Witham, who said the culturally rich city of Montreal, its comfortable weather and the easy proximity between the host hotels and convention center were big hits with attendees. There was an air of celebration that colored the week spent in the French-speaking city situated along the St. Lawrence River that is home to Cirque Du Soleil, McGill University, a wealth of historic architecture, eclectic food and music and the grand Notre-Dame Basilica. Cobblestone streets covering much of Old Montreal took attendees from host hotels Le Westin Montreal Downtown, InterContinental Montreal and the Hyatt Regency across the street to the convention center, which, besides its plentiful meeting space, featured art installations, art galleries, restaurants and metro access.

Attendees were as interested in surveying the new products and technologies at the two-day expo as they were in talking about the major issues of the day — safety, education and training, maintenance and maintenance control plans (MCPs), and machine-room-less (MRL) elevators, to name a few — at education sessions, during receptions and over cocktails late into the evening, according to Witham. There was no absence of high-spirited camaraderie at United, nor was there a lack of substantive conversations shared among friends and colleagues, as the industry continues to navigate the growth pattern established following the Great Recession.


While CECA and NAEC boards of directors meetings took place on Sunday, the 18th, the convention week began for most early Monday morning with registration, a round of golf at the St. Raphael Golf Club and/or education sessions presented by sales strategist and bestselling author Marc Wayshak, who discussed strategies for building a successful sales team, including the importance of hiring the right people, and Don Vollrath of Magnetek, who explained why AC adjustable-speed drives may need to be replaced.

The afternoon’s “New Technology” forum welcomed eight presenters from exhibiting companies who shared a preview of the new products or technology they planned to introduce during the upcoming expo, set to begin Wednesday, the 21st. Representatives from Draka, Expert Service Solutions, Mathis Electronics, CEDES Corp. of America, Kings III Emergency Communications, Site Service Software, Adams Elevator Equipment Co. and Matot briefly shared interesting facts about their new products and technology, including Draka’s fiber optics, Mathis’ Glo-Rite Lamp and CEDES’ TOFgard, encouraging attendees to learn more by visiting their booths during the expo. 

The evening’s President’s Welcome Reception, held in Le Westin Montreal hotel, saw an exuberant crowd entertained by a jazz band and nourished with eclectic local fare, most notably excellent seafood and Asian dishes. For many, the reception provided the first opportunity to catch up with old friends and connect with new business contacts, while it also presented a chance for the association presidents — Bret Abels, NAEC; Jim Lawrence, IAEC; and Brian Elliott, CECA — to officially welcome one and all to United 2016.

Cocktails and conversation flowed until the bulk of the crowd moved two floors down to the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation (EESF) “Mardi Gras in Montreal” party. The Fat Tuesday Big Brass Band set the mood for partygoers, who feasted on traditional Mardi Gras desserts like king cake and moon pies, as well as other sweet treats. A photo booth and hurricane martinis added to the fun that capped off an enjoyable first convention night.


Keynote Speaker

Tuesday morning’s breakfast was followed by a rousing keynote address from motivational speaker and founder of Dynasty Crafting Brian Holloway, a former Stanford University All-American and 1981 first-round draft pick for the National Football League’s New England Patriots. Holloway, who helped the struggling Patriots get to Super Bowl XX in 1985, encouraged audience members to be “playmakers.” “Playmakers,” he said, “are the people who get up early and stay late to make the impossible happen.” As someone who faced adversity as a child and was told by teachers he would not amount to much, Holloway stressed the importance of “looking downfield” and seeing beyond the hard stuff. “You need to not just see adversity, but opportunity, possibility. . . . The end zone is wide open,” he explained.

Holloway was eventually joined on stage by his son, David Holloway, a former NFL Arizona Cardinal, who asked the crowd, “What is your vision? Because vision,” he said, “informs everything else.” The father-son team then answered questions from the audience, including how to create playmakers, and stayed to shake hands and take pictures with the many lined up for the opportunity.

Before the crowd exited for the upcoming business sessions, Lawrence took the stage and encouraged everyone to take advantage of all the convention had to offer. He announced IAEC was celebrating its 25th anniversary, as was Witham with NAEC. Amid applause Lawrence pronounced United the perfect anniversary party. Abels, wrapping up his term by United’s end, took a turn at the lectern and complimented United’s CECA hosts and Montreal’s hospitality. He also thanked all speakers, exhibitors and sponsors for helping make United 2016 a big success.   

Association Meetings and General Business Sessions

The NAEC General Business Session, led by Abels, saw the election of five new board members: Timothy Conkling, vice president of Capitol Elevator Co., Inc.; John Dodds, chief operating officer of Kencor, Inc. Elevator Systems; and Gary Schuette, president of Midwest Elevator Co. Inc., to contractor positions; and Louis “L.J.” Blaiotta, Jr., CEO of Columbia Elevator Products Co., Inc., and Cornelius Walls, vice president of North American Operations for Formula Systems, to supplier positions.

Abels congratulated Witham on her 25 years with NAEC, thanking her for her years of service, and attendees responded with a standing ovation. Abels then congratulated all of the newly elected board members before giving the floor over to Rick Kennedy, who awarded the Vertical Transportation Management Program’s (VTMP) first graduate, Frank Giampa of Delaware Elevator, with a certificate of completion. 

Abels presented Canton Elevator with the Contractors’ Choice Award, before recognizing outgoing board members Erik Bleyle, Gary Thomas, Steve Husband and Dave Smarte, whom he thanked for their energy and years of service. New board members were installed by Rick Kennedy, making their elections official.

Abels presented his President’s Award to O’Keefe Elevator Co., Inc. CEO Denny Wychulis, someone he considers a mentor and guiding force in the industry. Abels thanked his wife and family, along with Wychulis, for making his year as NAEC president possible. Abels then welcomed incoming NAEC President Joe McNally of McNally Elevator, whose term would begin Thursday, the 22nd, at the close of the convention.

Before lunch, attendees spent time at the NAEC Contractor, NAEC and CECA Supplier, and NAEC Associate member sessions. Topics ranged from a lengthy discussion of MCPs at the NAEC Contractor Session to safety and alternative testing at the Supplier Session.

After lunch, Lawrence led the IAEC General Business Meeting, where discussion included the need for an alternate location for the association’s upcoming 2017 annual forum, as its original intended location of Las Vegas would not work out like expected. Cities from New Orleans to New York City were discussed, and IAEC Executive Director Sheila Swett agreed to investigate all options and report back to the group soon.

In honor of its 25th anniversary, Lawrence said IAEC would donate an additional US$10,000 to its annual gift of US$15,000 to EESF, with the hope of aiding the foundation in meeting its mission and implementing its new program. Lawrence said the US$25,000 gift would be presented to EESF at the Awards Breakfast.

Swett announced an upcoming membership drive, with all new members getting free registration to next year’s forum. She expressed “high hopes” that invitations, which would be sent to more than 400 consultants, to a “quality, professional forum” would produce good results. Current membership stands at 72 members, seven associate members and three honorary members.

The members discussed codes, MRL elevators, and NAESA International’s upcoming Safety Summit, to be dedicated to former IAEC member Robert S. “Bob” Caporale.

An afternoon of education sessions and a reception honoring Ed Donoghue, who served the National Elevator Industry Inc.(NEII®) for 40 years, completed the day.



The CECA Annual General Meeting (AGM) convened bright and early Wednesday morning, called to order by Elliott. Each regional director updated association members on the year’s business in his area. Doug Guderian’s Central Region report stressed the need to crack down on MCP noncompliance and shared the good news of Durham College’s successful new program that introduces women to the trade and educates them to become elevator mechanics.

Guderian said the CECA Residential Elevator Committee, which was recently developed and has already had four meetings, is a growth segment of CECA. The committee’s mission is to raise awareness “that the elevator is an essential part of every home,” said Guderian.

Western Region Director Heiner Marnet updated the group on that region’s ongoing struggles with the British Columbia Safety Authority (BCSA). Many weighed in on their own issues with the BCSA and ways to potentially resolve them. Rob Cane updated all on the Eastern Region, while Steve Boisvert delivered the Supplier’s Report. Boisvert said CECA currently has 116 supplier members, with the most coming from the U.S. and Central Region.

Elliott, reiterating CECA’s healthy finances, as reported by treasurer Guderian, said the group could afford to provide free convention registration to its board members in the future, something that might serve as an incentive to join the board. A vote was taken, and the measure passed easily.   

Only two board positions were in need of filling, and the group elected Phil Staite of Quality Allied Elevator in Toronto as the new Central Region Director, while it was decided Guderian would stay on as treasurer.

Michael J. Ryan announced CECA’s next annual meeting is scheduled for June 6-10, 2017, in Collingwood, Ontario.

The Exposition Opens

The expo doors opened at 10:30 a.m., and the convention floor hummed with a healthy crowd until day’s end. There was no forgetting you were in Canada; one couldn’t miss The Peelle Co.’s booth, which honored the country’s beloved pastime of hockey, featuring a small rink complete with sticks and pucks for those who dared to play. And, there was no forgetting it was okay to play while you worked; KONE Spares welcomed visitors to its booth by handing them golf clubs and encouraging them to practice their swing at the makeshift putting green, while Precision Escalator Products had the very retro arcade game, “Elevator Action,” on hand to bring out the competitive kid in everyone. Attendees were vying for a turn to sit in the racecar at Webb Electronics’ booth, while the GAL Manufacturing Corp. booth provided a meeting place for beer and business. Courion even offered its booth visitors the chance to win prizes. Kenny Breglio, Jr., of BP Elevator, won the golf club, and Phil Medlin of Elcon Enterprises, Inc. won the iPad.

Most exhibitors your author spoke with throughout the day were pleased with the turnout, and energy and enthusiasm on the show floor. Education sessions, held throughout the day, were varied in topic but consistently well attended.

Le Cirque Dinner Dance

The evening’s cocktail reception was followed by Le Cirque Dinner Dance, which featured a four-course meal with a steak entrée and Cirque Du Soleil performers, whose mid-air flips and contortions thrilled the crowd. The band delighted, as well, playing an eclectic mix that included Jimmy Buffet, Stevie Nicks and the Doobie Brothers, with popular French tunes strewn throughout the playlist. Dancing commenced once the acrobatics concluded and continued until midnight.


The Awards Breakfast, led by Elliott, celebrated the convention’s success, CECA’s longtime members and the winning booths from the expo. Best Single Booth went to WestCoast Innovative Pro Pads; Best Multiple to Ascenseurs Designs; Best Island to The Peelle Co.; and Spirit of United to Webb Electronics. 

Pete Meeks, president of Delaware Elevator, Inc., presented Smarte, director of Safety and Education at Delaware Elevator, with the 2016 William C. Sturgeon Distinguished Service Award, NAEC’s most prestigious award. Of Smarte, Meeks said, “Today we honor a member who has served this industry like so many before him — tirelessly. I have known this recipient a long time, and he has earned this award.” Smarte thanked his family and all those who had gone before him in winning the award. “I am a recipient on behalf of all of you,” Smarte said.

Elliott presented Witham with an award of appreciation for her hard work in bringing United 2016 to fruition. Accepting the award, Witham declared the convention’s success a team effort in “an industry like no other, in how we work together.”

The last day of the expo began with the same enthusiasm as the first, as attendees and exhibitors took advantage of the final hours to connect with other companies and individuals with whom they want to do business. The convention closed, as it always does, with a Dregs Party, one last hurrah until next year when the 2017 NAEC Convention and Exposition will take place in Orlando, on September 11-14, 2017.

Education Sessions

  • “DNA of a Championship Sales Team,” Marc Wayshak
  • “Converting Old VVVF Drives to New Drive Units,” Don Vollrath, Magnetek
  • “The Vertical Transportation System Consultant and their Ever-Increasing Role in the Day-to- Day Operation of the Building’s Vertical Transportation System,” Rob Cuzzi, Van Duesen and Associates
  • “A Technical Presentation on Testing Safeties Without Using Weights: An Electronic Method That Covers All That is Missed by Current Practice,” Tim Ebeling, Henning GmbH & Co.
  • “Modernization Practices & Opportunities to Increase Revenue,” Mike Klehr, MEI Total Solutions
  • “A17.1 — 2013 Code Update,” Richard Gregory, Vertex Corp. “Destination Dispatch,” Nicholas Montesano and Bryan Casas, DTM Inc.
  • “Sealing Management for Hydraulic Cylinders,” Tony Valdex, The Texacone Co.
  • “Hydraulic Telescopic Jack Application & Service,” Daryl Frith, Elevator Equipment Corp.
  • “Residential Elevators and the 3 x 5 Rule,” Bill Richardson, Savaria
  • “Electronic Valves,” Billy Shrum, IV, Maxton
  • “Emergency Evacuation Elevators,” Christopher Koening, Otis
  • “MCP,” John Koshak and Daniel Swett
  • “Use of False Cars for Rail Installation,” Mark Drake, Wurtec
  • “How to Survive an Accident Investigation,” Brian Farley, Hudson Elevator Group, and David Smarte, Delaware Elevator
  • “Current Construction Techniques,” Travis Hall, Alliance Elevator Solutions
  • “Changing Codes — Various Views”
  • “Where Is the Industry Headed,” panel discussion

VIEEW Meets in Montreal

On Monday afternoon, more than 30 members of the Vertical Initiative for Elevator Escalator Women (VIEEW) met in the Westin’s Palais Room for their annual meeting. Hosted by Delaware Elevator and led by VIEEW President Martha Hulgan, the meeting began with introductions all around, revealing a number of first-time attendees with many years of experience in the industry and varied backgrounds and expertise.

Hulgan said more than 260 people now receive the group’s newsletter. Its members range from those working in family companies to OEMs, and fill roles from human-resource managers to mechanics to business owners.

Conversation then turned to the pressing topics of the day: first, codes and standards, on which the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Geraldine Burdeshaw fielded the group’s questions knowledgably. Delaware Elevator’s Lindsey Meeks then discussed her journey through the Certified Elevator Technician (CET®) program, which she plans to complete in April 2017. Meeks acknowledged there are still few women in mechanic roles, but for her part, feels there is definitely a place for them. “It takes a special person to be able to do this, but it is an awesome job. If you don’t mind getting dirty, it is a terrific career,” Meeks said.

As the meeting wound down, Hulgan brought up the idea of incorporating the now eight-year-old informal group. A vote was taken, and all in attendance were in favor of exploring the idea of incorporating. The VIEEW’s next meeting will take place in New York City at the Elevator Conference of New York’s Supplier Showcase on April 5, 2017.

Bridgebuilders 2016

by Ricia Sturgeon-Hendrick

At one of the largest gatherings in many years, the Bridgebuilders meeting included: Geraldine Burdeshaw (American Society of Mechanical Engineers); Kevin Brinkman (National Elevator Industry, Inc.); Karen Penafiel (NEII); Terri Flint (Elevator U); Ed Morris (Elevator U); Jim Lawrence (International Association of Elevator Consultants); Achim Hütter (VFA/Interlift); Joe McNally (National Assocation of Elevator Contractors); Teresa Witham (NAEC); Craig Zomchek (NAEC); Robert Shepherd (National Association of Elevator Safety Authorities International); Emerald McGehee
(NAESA); Andrew Reistetter (National Elevator Escalator Association); Zhi Xifeng (Shanghai Elevator Trade Association); Carmen Maldacena (Subir and Bajar); Nikole Gore-Layton (Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation); Tom Sybert (The Elevator Radio Show Podcast and EESF); Zhang Lexiang (China Elevator Association); Brian Elliott (Canadian Elevator Contractors Association), Steve Boisvert (CECA); Catharine Bothwell (CECA); Pedro Oughourlian (CECA) and your author (Elevator World, Inc.).

The purpose of the Bridgebuilders is for associations to inform one another of the activities in their sphere to avoid overlap and encourage collaboration. Notes are not taken, and it is not the intent for those attending to decide on a coordinated direction; however, at the United Bridgebuilders meeting, it was agreed that finding and training new people for the industry was a priority for all attending.

Related Tags

Elevator World Editor / VP of Editorial

Elevator World | December 2016 Cover