All The Latest News from NECA

Sep 17

Wrapping Up NECA 2009 Seattle

Everyone at the airport yesterday seemed to be a face I recognized from the past four days at NECA 2009 Seattle. We were all sporting bags from NECA Show exhibitors (ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR’s bag seemed to be the most popular), and we all looked pretty tired, but happy.

NECA 2009 Seattle closed out on Tuesday with an awesome performance by Cirque Dreams at McCaw Hall. There were lots of “ooo’s and ahhh’s” and spontaneous applause during their gravity-defying feats and high-energy performance.

Thanks to all the NECA members and chapters who joined us in Seattle and on the NECA Convention blog this year. But don’t take us off your RSS or Twitter feed just yet! We’ll have more video and photos from Seattle, along with copies of presentations for downloading. Don’t forget to retrieve your CEU certificate either!

If you have any questions about anything we covered in the NECA 2009 Seattle blog, you can always reach me by email. And check out the new site we’ve already launched for NECA 2010 Boston, Oct. 2-5, 2010.

[To answer the question, “what is that group of words thing over there in the right column?” That’s called a “tag cloud” and it’s generated by the “tags” or keywords we assign to each post. As more posts with certain tags are written, that tag shows up as bigger within the cloud, so you can tell at a glance what we’ve written about the most.]

Please click on “Share your thoughts” and tell us your favorite part of NECA 2009 Seattle! Thanks for helping us make it a great event!

Sep 15

2009 Award Winners and Erik Weihenmayer at Closing General Session

The 2009 NECA national award winners were recognized at this morning’s closing general session. (There’s a list of winners below this post.) We also heard from NECA CEO John Grau, ELECTRI Council Chairman Bob Mike Mazzeo, and President Rex Ferry.

Blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer offered today’s keynote speech. He shared some great stories about his quest to climb the world’s seven highest summits – a quest made even more challenging by his lack of sight.

“You can’t retreat and just focus on survival when times are tough,” he told attendees. “I believe there is something inside each of us – a light that feeds on frustration and setbacks. And it’s that light that gives us the power to be stronger and better.”

Weihenmayer likened his own pioneering spirit to the work done by NECA contractors. “You have to embrace new ways of doing more with less and transforming how you do business. The adventure lies in building new strategies.

“There’s a direct correlation between innovation and adversity,” he continued. “You have to square off with adversity to achieve greatness.”

2009 NECA Award Winners

Coggeshall Award: Ben W. Nevers, Sr.

Comstock Award: Dillard R. “Rod” Borden

James H. McGraw Award: Max L. Landon

NECA Association Executive Distinguished Service Award: Robert G. LaLumiere

ELECTRI International Wendt Award: Jack McCormick, McCormick Systems and Giovanni Marcelli, Accubid

Sep 14

Buy a Picture, Help Send a Child to School

NECA and ELECTRI International are running a special benefit for the Sandy Bay Alternative School in Roatan, Honduras, at the 2009 NECA Show.

Installing a solar photovoltaic system at Sandy Bay Alternative School was the student service project during this year’s Cross Border Meeting – a project that went on to win recognition from the Clinton Global Initiative.

art EDIT
Students from the school sent several pieces of artwork to share at NECA 2009 Seattle in gratitude. But with the students’ permission, NECA and the Foundation are taking donations for the school in exchange for their beautiful tropical drawings and paintings.

The recommended contribution is $15 for each picture, an amount that will help educate at child at the school for over half a year. Please help us support Sandy Bay Alternative School by visiting the art display at NECA (booth 10007 on the skywalk) and taking home a special memory from Seattle.

Sep 14

Working Together: Local LMCCs in the Spotlight at Labor Relations Special Session

Today’s special session on labor relations focused on the good work being done by local Labor Management Cooperation Committees around the country, and the role LMCCs have in raising market share and recruiting new talent to the industry.

Labor Relations Special General Session PanelEDIT
Rex Ferry, NECA President, John Negro, NECA Vice President, District 7, and Geary Higgins, NECA Vice President, Labor Relations, opened the session with reports on NECA’s work to improve and promote positive labor relations on the national level. NECA and the IBEW have held two joint NLMCC retreats this year, focusing on where the industry is, and where it needs to go.

“[IBEW International President] Ed Hill gets it,” Ferry said. “Together we’ve been able to create programs like the Code of Excellence and agreements to recapture small work. However, he’s not going to force anything on his members. So we have to work at the local level to make any real impact.”

To discuss those local efforts, chapter managers and contractors from the four NECA regions each described the own LMCC activities.

Jeff Collins and Dan Neal described the community outreach programs the Western Ohio LMCC has sponsored and the how they have united labor and management outside of work in service projects. “You have to include everyone,” Neal remarked. Neal also advised getting professional public relations help on communication projects. He reports that the area has seen a 12 percent increase in market share.

Dan Schaeffer and Doug Martin portrayed the St. Louis LMCC, the Electrical Connection, as the public face of the industry. The organization’s +5 homeowners protection plan led to greater involvement in community building and service projects, at the mayor’s request. “Such projects helped erase negative impressions that people had about union contractors,” Martin said.

Gary Neil and Chase Pendergraft explained the importance of both doing good work and then telling people about the good work you’ve done. Pendergraft played a radio ad that the East Tennessee LMCC produced that named the NECA member contractors who had worked in the community’s Habitat for Humanity program and how they could be trusted to do work for home and building owners, too.

Jeff Zuniga and Don Campbell reported that  Northern California LMCC efforts on meeting very specific local, regional and statewide needs. “We reach out to local school districts with information,” Campbell said. “We are the best and first resource for electrical construction information, and we do whatever it takes to things right for the client.”

Q&A followed the brief presentations, with many NECA members praised the high level of organization and collaboration the profiled LMCCs activities demonstrated.

A download of the special session slides will be available on NECA’s website following NECA 2009 Seattle.

Sep 14

Sniff, Slurp and Sip: A Taste of the Pacific Northwest

By Ginger Wilson

Bet you didn’t know that there’s a right way to taste coffee. That’s okay, most of us don’t.

So we were happy to have Major Cohen, a art teacher-turned-Starbucks Coffee Educator, brew 500 cups of coffee using French presses give us a lesson on the finer points of tasting at this morning’s Lifestyle session.

You might feel a little strange the next time you head out for your caffeine fix, but you should taste your coffee much the same way you taste your wine: sniff, then slurp. Slurping your coffee allows the brew to hit your entire palate so you can experience the full acidity and the body of the coffee. Today’s selection was Starbucks La Candelia, a Costa Rican coffee farmed by the Sanchez family.

One more hint from Cohen? Coffee is only good for seven days. It’s a fresh food, and there’s nothing you can do – including putting it in the freezer – to make it last longer.

After the coffee tasting, there was wine. David LeClaire, a certified sommelier and Washington state wine expert, led the group through sampling several local varietals. Washington offers some wonderful wines from nearly 600 wineries, owing to the fact that area east of the Cascade Mountains has long, hot summers and very little rain.

LeClaire’s number one tip for tasting wine? Try more than one sip. Your mouth is never ready for that first sip, so a wine that seems too sharp at first taste might be just what you’re looking for on the second try.

What are your favorite coffee or wine choices? Let us know in the comments below.

Sep 14

What I Learned About People at Starbucks

Coffee is everywhere in Seattle, and as in most cities, Starbucks seems to dominate the market for caffeine-seekers. We had a great opportunity to hear from Howard Behar, the man who oversaw much of Starbuck’s stellar expansion, at yesterday’s opening general session.

Following his second retirement as Starbucks’ president in 2003, Behar put nearly 50 years of lessons on business leadership he’d learned into a book, It’s Not About the Coffee. He brought those insights into an industry-tailored message for NECA members.

Given the tough economy so many NECA members are currently working in, Behar’s message of putting people first was especially timely.

Behar pointed out that Starbucks made the commitment to its workforce early in the company’s history. “People are the glue that hold an organization together,” he said. “You have to care about every person in your organization, and every person you serve.”

He encouraged NECA members to define their values – the ideals that define their businesses – and then be prepared to pay the prices to remain true to those values.

One of Behar’s key points was “the person who sweeps the floor should pick the broom.” He echoed the same commitments NECA members make to workforce training and learning from other companies’ best practices, but encouraged the audience to not walk away from new ideas, especially new ideas that come from the field.

Leadership guru Howard Behar Keynotes Opening General Session
“Leading with compassion never stops,” Behar said. “As leaders, we must show we care about the people first, not protecting our own backsides. It’s a non-stop responsibility, but it’s worth it.”

What do you think about Behar’s message that real business leaders care about people? How do you show this in your own company?

Edited to Add: Check out PaulsonElectric’s tweet about the session!

Sep 13

2009 NECA Show Opens!

The NECA Show featuring over 240 exhibitors with products and services specifically for electrical contractors was unveiled today immediately following the Opening General Session. The Northwest Naval Band, sponsored by Helmets to Hardhats, opened the Show floor today with great fanfare, and thousands of attendees flooded the halls to see the latest and greatest.

NECA Show Opens to Fanfare
Couldn’t make it to Seattle? Check out over 100 products in the virtual New and Featured Product Room online. Ginger Wilson is also tweeting some of the exhibitors that catch her eye on Subscribe to her tweets today — she gets the first scope on cool prize giveaways at the booths, but you need to be on Twitter first!

Sep 13

Nine New Fellows Inducted into Academy of Electrical Contracting

The 2009 induction ceremony of new Fellows into the Academy of Electrical Contracting at the Opening General Session marks the 41th anniversary of this exceptional organization. Academy Chairman Milner Irvin introduced the nine new Fellows:

Scott Bringmann
Alcan Electrical & Engineering, Inc.
Anchorage, Alaska

Kenneth Hart
Dynalectric Company ~ Washington, DC
Dulles, Virginia

Stephen J. Kohnen
Kay-Bee Electric Company
Florissant, Missouri

Craig Martin
Frost Electric Company, Inc.
Aurora, Illinois

Ben Nevers
Nevers Electric
Bogalusa, Louisiana

William A. Powell, Jr.
Chewning & Wilmer, Inc.
Richmond, Virginia

Daniel G. Schaeffer
Schaeffer Electric Company
St. Louis, Missouri

Chris Schoolcraft
Shawver and Son Inc.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Lanny Thomas
Allison-Smith Company
Atlanta, Georgia

New Fellows Inducted in Academy of Electrical Contracting

Since its founding meeting in 1968, the Academy has served as the “voice of experience” for NECA and ELECTRI International – The Foundation for Electrical Construction, Inc. Fellows of the Academy are invited to join the organization based on their exceptional service to the electrical contracting industry. Each Academy Fellow authors a white page on their area of industry expertise, and they participate in issue analysis to determine trends within the industry and make recommendations.

More information about the Academy’s 2009 annual meeting, a list of Fellows and a complete archive of papers by Academy Fellows is available on NECA’s website.

Sep 13

University of Washington Wins First Green Energy Challenge

Following presentations from the three Green Energy Challenge finalist teams yesterday, the entry from the NECA student chapter at the University of Washington was selected as the winner. The results were announced at the NECA Student Chapter Summit today.

University of Washington 1st Place in Green Energy Challenge

Oregon State University placed second, and The Pennsylvania State University was third.

UW team leader Joey Berger was also recognized for his excellent presentation skills.

“I have a great deal of admiration for all the work the student teams put into their projects,” said Challenge juror Tim Ehmann, a senior project manager with Rochester Solar Technologies. “They brought a fresh perspective to some of the major work going on in electrical construction today.”

Penn State 3rd Place in Green Energy ChallengeOregon State 2nd Place in Green Energy Challenge

A full report of the Green Energy Challenge submissions will be available from ELECTRI International soon. More information about the Green Energy Challenge can be found on NECA’s website.