All The Latest News from NECA

Oct 11

The “Energy Manager” Revolution Begins in Boston at NECA Annual Convention and Trade Show

Thousands of electrical professionals joined the National Electrical Contractors Association for its 2010 annual convention and trade show in Boston, Oct. 2-5.

There, NECA President Rex Ferry encouraged the convention-goers to revolutionize the way they think about the electrical construction work they do. “I believe a better description for the work we do now is ‘energy manager’,” Ferry said. “We are integrating electrical systems to make buildings perform better and more efficiently than ever before. Because that’s what our customers demand from us.”

The convention and NECA Show are the premier events for the electrical construction industry, with strategies for handling the lagging construction market dominating this year’s event.

“In tough times, you have to take a step back and think about what your company’s goals are,” Ferry said. “It’s a chance to review everything you were taking for granted and maybe make some changes you wouldn’t have considered before. The contractors here at NECA 2010 Boston want to succeed, not just survive.”

NECA 2010 Boston offered the industry’s best education, networking opportunities, and market intelligence, all focused on the needs of electrical contractors working in today’s economy.

Ranging from NFPA 70E requirements to smart grid technologies to the new OSHA crane and derrick guidelines, NECA 2010 Boston offered education and insight for all building professionals, especially those looking for the latest information on green building technologies, safety innovations, and integrated systems.

Along with economic management strategies, contractors at NECA 2010 Boston are focused on the green energy market.  “Green building practices are shaping the majority of current construction projects, and smart energy choices have the greatest impact on green building,” Ferry said.

“This was my ninth NECA convention, and it was probably the best convention I’ve ever attended,” said Jeffrey P. Scarpello, Executive Director, Penn-Del-Jersey Chapter, NECA. “The programs, speakers and exhibitors were great. I heard much positive feedback from my members, many of whom are already discussing plans to be in San Diego for the 2011 NECA convention and trade show.”

The NECA Show featured over 250 exhibitors with products and services specifically for electrical contractors. The 103rd Electricians Pipe and Drum Band, sponsored by Helmets to Hardhats, opened the Show floor Oct. 3 with great fanfare.

In addition to the trade show and educational opportunities, NECA 2010 Boston also hosted NECA’s student summit, finalist presentations in the second annual Green Energy Challenge, and inspirational keynote speeches from deep-sea explorer Dr. Robert Ballard, best known for his 1985 discovery of the Titanic and soldier Michael J. Durant, author of Blackhawk Down and In the Company of Heroes.

“I particularly enjoyed listening to Dr. Ballard on Sunday morning; in fact, I could have easily spent the rest of the day hearing about his exploits,” said Rich Wynne, Manager, St. Paul Chapter, NECA.

Seminars, workshops and other events were featured on, with shorter updates posted on NECA Convention’s Facebook Fan page and Twitter. Photos of NECA 2010 Boston activities will be posted on NECA’s Flickr page.


NECA is the voice of the $130 billion electrical construction industry that brings power, light, and communication technology to buildings and communities across the U.S. NECA’s national office and 119 local chapters advance the industry through advocacy, education, research and standards development. For more information, visit

Oct 08

2010 NECA Award Winners and Michael Durant at Closing General Session

The 2010 NECA national award winners were recognized at Tuesday, Oct. 5’s closing general session. Award winners are listed below. Convention-goers also heard from NECA CEO John Grau and ELECTRI Council Chairman Mike Mazzeo. Paul Anthony, the “Voice of NECA” and general session emcee, was also recognized for his tenth appearance at NECA’s annual convention.

Former soldier and acclaimed author Michael Durant offered the event’s keynote speech. He walked the audience step-by-step through the catastrophe that changed his life 17 years ago when the Blackhawk helicopter he was piloting crashed in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Durant shared the insight about how small missteps and miscalculations can lead to great tragedies. He compared the U.S. volunteer armed services to the training and preparation performed by NECA contractors.

“When facing a tough task, practice is all the more important,” Durant said. “Dangerous things should never become routine, but they must be practices to avoid that potentially fatal hesitation – something the workers in your industry can understand.

“There’s a window of opportunity in everything we do,” he concluded. “But we should never sacrifice our credibility to go through that window. It’s a precious asset. I know you see that in your work.”

2010 NECA Award Winners

2010 Coggeshall Award ~ Howard D. Hughes

2010 Comstock Award ~ John Negro

2010 McGraw Award ~ Jonathan “Russ” Borden

2010 Association Executive Distinguished Service Award ~ James Willson, Los Angeles County Chapter

2010 Wendt Award for Exemplary Leadership and Service to the Electrical Industry ~ Michael Mazzeo

Oct 08

Fifteen Exhibitors Named Showstoppers at 2010 NECA Show

The electrical construction industry’s leading trade expo, the NECA Show, and publication, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR magazine, joined forces at the recent 2010 NECA Show to create the first-ever NECA Showstopper Showcase, where 15 stand-out products and systems were recognized as the most significant of the event.

Judged by a panel of electrical contractors and magazine contributors, submissions to the new NECA Show Showstoppers Showcasing (replacing the former New and Featured Product Room) were evaluated on the Show’s opening day, Oct. 3. ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR’s annual Showstoppers feature recognizes the most innovative products and systems featured in this year’s exhibition among many new products submitted.

“We’re thrilled to honor these innovations selected by electrical contractors around the country,” said magazine publisher John Maisel. “They represent the best in emerging technologies for our industry and add excitement throughout the show.”

Displayed at the front of the show hall with blue ribbons, this year’s Showstoppers offered diverse products, equipment and systems from a range of manufacturers and systems developers.

Siemens Industry, Inc., won for the first 600V DC enclosed solar/photovoltaic disconnect switch UL listed for use with three, separate 600V DC circuits.

“We are pleased and excited that those viewing our display recognized that our new Solar Switches represent a significant design innovation to service the emerging solar energy market,” said Dennis Krizan, product manager, safety switches, Siemens Industry, Inc.

GE Energy won for its electrical vehicle charging station, showing both residential and commercial chargers. “The key to ours is the design,” said Chris Bowler, general manager of marketing, who demonstrated the charger’s retractable cord for ease of use.

“Nobody has ever addressed the transmission/distribution contractors,” said Todd McCormick, president, McCormick Systems, Inc., whose company won with transmission and distribution estimating software.

Schneider Electric also won for its electric vehicle charging station due to become available in two to three months. Its features include a delay function for charging at specific times of the day for better energy management.

“The biggest thing is that the bending and cutting are brought into the product along with a full range of factory fittings that results in a safe, low-cost installation,” said Gregory Cambrun, RCCD, national sales manager, Wiremaid Products Vision, for its Pro-10 series cable tray.

The 2010 Showstoppers winners include:

Oct 05

Labor Relations General Session: Making the Most of CW/CE

One important annual feature of the NECA convention is the Labor Relations General Session, which brings together NECA and IBEW leadership to discuss the workforce and management issues facing NECA contractors.

This year’s session focusing on the Construction Wireman/Construction Electrician worker classification agreements. IBEW International President Ed Hill joined NECA CEO John M. Grau, NECA President Rex Ferry and NECA Vice President for Labor Relations Geary Higgins to answer questions about how and why certain actions had been taken in creating and rolling out CW/CE in terms of market-recovery initiatives.

“I’ve said several times this past year that Ed Hill gets it,” Ferry said. “What’s different about areas where CW/CE is working are two things: trust and integrity between management and labor. That’s what really makes change like this possible.”

“The agreements do not take the place of existing agreements,” Hill said. “They’re designed to help us go after work we not currently doing. Now is the time for contractors to discuss with their IBEW counterparts what are our best chances to take advantage of those opportunities.”

Four NECA contractors then offered their perspectives and insight about how CW/CE agreements were successfully implemented in their areas: Doug Palmer, Tri-City Electric, Davenport, IA; Chris Odell, Gill Simpson Inc., Baltimore; Joe Cavanaugh, Cavanaugh Electric, Wilkesbury, PA; and Martin West, Twin City Electrict, Monroe, LA.

“CW/CE’s strengths are that it works really well on the right project,” Palmer said. “The downside is our hands are tied on the type of work CWs can perform. And this concerns our workers who wonder how they’re going to get ahead.”

“One of the best aspects of the CW/CE program is the training commitments,” Odell said. “It formalizes both an education and mentoring relationship for employees and employers. There are particular types of work CW/CEs excel at – prefab and production/installer work. It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s a fighting chance.”

Oct 05

Audience Determines Winner in Chowda Smackdown

In an epic battle of two Hell’s Kitchen alumni, Jason Santos, runner up in Season 6, bested Season 5’s Andy Husbands in NECA’s Wicked Good Chowda Smackdown. The hotly contested race ended in a tie amongst the professional judges broken by the popular vote favoring Jason Santos’ more traditional take on the classic New England chowder.

Emceed by Billy Costa, a well-known Boston radio personality and food lover, the Smackdown started with a little trash-talking by the two chefs. When Costa pointed out that Santos was accompanied by a sous chef from his restaurant, Husbands shot back that he didn’t need any help. Santos replied, “Well, my employees actually want to work with me.”

The two chefs, who are good friends off-stage, continued to spar throughout the event. When Costa pointed out that Santos used to work for Husbands, Santos answered with “Yeah, and I made $4 an hour for seven years.” Husbands replied, “Well, it will be interesting to see what happens today.”

Audience members also acted as sous chefs for the two combatants. Team Andy was joined by Barb Minton Parkes and Karen Bruce, while Connie Anthony and Renee Brothers joined Team Jason up on stage. With 20 minutes to prepare and 20 minutes to cook, it was time to get the team members chopping.

Costa let each contestant explain his preparation, and while things were heating up he took questions from the audience. Questions ran the gamut from “What is your favorite brand of knives?” (Henckels for both), to “Why do you add unsalted butter to a recipe and then two steps later add salt?” Answer: since you don’t know how much salt is in the butter, it allows you to control the salt in a dish, Santos explained.

The very first audience question was, of course, about Chef Gordon Ramsey. Both men agree that away from the kitchen, Ramsey is a nice man and a great mentor. As soon as he steps foot in the kitchen, though, “the horns come out,” said Santos.

Questioned by Costa about his early ouster from Hell’s Kitchen, Husbands replied, “I proved pretty well that I can’t cook in Hell’s Kitchen. But I’ve had my restaurant for 14 years, and I’ve proved pretty well that I can cook in Boston.”

As the chowder simmered, each chef demonstrated a favorite recipe for the crowd. Husbands went first and made chicken chicharrones and salsa, a favorite at his restaurant, Tremont 647 in Boston. He stressed the importance of buying locally so that the ingredients are as fresh as possible. When cooking, “think about what you like in food and go from that,” he said. Santos then prepared the lobster risotto that Ramsey has Hell’s Kitchen participants cook every season of the show.

After the demonstrations were over, it was time for chowder judging. Executive Chef Chris Pulling of Levy Restaurants and the great lunches at the NECA Show, Executive Chef Bill Starbuck of Lucky Strike Lanes and the wonderful food at the opening celebration at Jillian’s, and Chef Michelle Jones of Boston’s Summer Shack were joined by NECA members Barbara Cogburn, Jan Boyd and Becky Grenis.

While the judges deliberated, bowls of chowder were passed out to the crowd for a blind taste test. When the judging panel ended in a 3-3 deadlock, it fell to the audience to pick a winner, and in a very close vote, Jason Santos took the title of champion of the Wicked Good Chowda Smackdown.

Recipes from Santos, Husbands and Starbuck, along with chefs from Boston area restaurants built by NECA contractors, were included in this year’s special commemorative gift for convention-goers, “The Wicked Good Chowda Smackdown Cookbook: A Taste of New England Cuisine.”

Oct 04

2nd Annual 2010 Green Energy Challenge Winner Announced!

The winners of the 2nd Annual Green Energy Challenge were announced yesterday at the NECA Student Chapter Summit. First-time participants from the Milwaukee School of Engineering were selected by the judges as the top winners of this year’s student design competition.

The entry from the University of Washington won second prize, and Youngstown State University came in third. The judges were effusive in their praise of all the teams innovative solutions and especially on their work with clients in their respective communities to determine their projects’ energy efficiency needs.

“This really is the absolute best experience for any student thinking about a career in electrical construction, or really any sort of electrical technology,” said judge Tim McBride, Southern Contracting, San Marcos, Calif. McBride’s company donated additional prize money for the finalist teams.

The Green Energy Challenge invites teams of students studying electrical construction, engineering, design and management to conduct an energy audit of a nearby commercial or institutional facility in need of energy-efficiency improvements. Based on their energy audit findings, teams then submit a preliminary design of an energy retrofit that could include alternative energy sources.

YSU student team member Brittany Stillwagon lead off the team’s presentation yesterday, describing their client’s energy needs and the retrofits the team recommended. “We really wanted to find solutions that fit M-7’s requirements and offered opportunities for integrated growth.” The YSU project focused on the M-7 Technologies manufacturing facility, which has significant energy demands in manufacturing and repairing large-scale industrial products through the application of advanced digital measurement equipment and database technology. The students devised a plan for M-7, which is located just a few miles off campus, that incorporated lighting retrofits along with new wind, photovoltaic and hydroelectric power systems.

Oct 03

Nine New Fellows Inducted into Academy of Electrical Contracting 2010

The 2010 induction ceremony of new Fellows into the Academy of Electrical Contracting was held at today’s Opening General Session. Academy Chairman Milner Irvin introduced the nine new Fellows:

George Adams

EC Company

Portland, Oregon

Michael Bender

Bana Electric Corporation

Farmingdale, New York

Russ Borden

Tri-City Electric

Miami, Florida

I. Steven Diamond

Malko Electric

Morton Grove, Illinois

Charles Freeman

Gulf Electric

Mobile, Alabama

John Lambert

L&O Electric, Inc.

Austin, TX

David E. Morse

Morse Electric

Beloit, Wisconsin

Gary Tucci

Potelco, Inc.

Sumner, WA

Bruce Young


New Hope, Minnesota

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 2010 annual meeting, a list of Fellows and a complete archive of papers by Academy Fellows is available on NECA’s website.

Oct 03

2010 NECA Show Opens!

The 2010 NECA Show, featuring over 250 exhibitors with products and services specifically for electrical contractors, opened today immediately following the Opening General Session. The 103rd Electricians Pipe and Drum Band, sponsored by Helmets to Hardhats, led the crowd, and thousands of attendees flooded the halls to see the latest and greatest.

We know it’s going to be tough to see everything in one day. That’s why the NECA Show is open for three full days, to allow Show-goers enough time to meet the vendors and try out the products.

Exhibitors are also sponsoring a ton of giveaways on the Show floor, and the easiest way to keep track of everything is by following NECA Convention on Twitter, Ginger Wilson is tweeting some of the exhibitors that catch her eye there, and she gets the first scope on cool prize giveaways at the booths, but you need to be on Twitter first! Once there, use the hashtag #NECA10 with your NECA 2010 Boston tweets.

Technical workshops will be going out during the NECA Show as well, so it’s a good idea to plan your schedule in advance. Don’t forget the new Showstopper Showcase that combines ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR’s Showstopper Awards with the NECA Show’s New and Featured Product Room. It’s a great chance to browse new items and updated services at your convenience, and follow up one-on-one with the exhibitors at the Show.

Oct 03

Grand-Slam Night Out at Jillian’s a Huge Success!

NECA 2010 Boston attendees and their guests got an unexpected treat when the Friday, Oct. 1 game between the Red Sox and Yankees was rained out, resulting in a double-header between the two rivals on Saturday, Oct. 2, the evening of NECA 2010 Boston’s opening celebration at Jillian’s.

Four floors of fun greeted guests who braved Boston’s game-day traffic with a little help from local police escorts. Between the bowling, pool games, dancing, fabulous food and drinks – the event even boasted a costumed monkey who patiently posed for pictures – the Grand-Slam Night Out won’t be an opening event soon forgotten!

Oct 03

Unlock Imagination to Make Great Discoveries

“Most of my greatest discoveries have been accidents,” said deep sea explorer Dr. Robert Ballard, the keynote speaker at NECA’s Opening General Session, Oct. 3. “We’ve been to the moon, we’ve been to Mars, and we’ve barely touched the unknown parts of our own planet.”

Ballard gave an in-depth talk about the value of venturing into the unknown, even when conventional wisdom says there’s nothing to be found there. “Most of our planet lives in eternal darkness, under the ocean,” Ballard said. “We actually only live on 18 percent of our planet. So you have to expand your thinking to embrace the possibilities that maybe we don’t know everything. And then you have to be willing to try something new.”

Ballards’s message was especially timely for electrical contractors who are facing the toughest market conditions in recent memory. NECA President Rex Ferry echoed Ballard, saying, “We can no longer think of ourselves as ‘just’ electrical contractors. We need to be energy managers. We need to offer our customers a total, integrated solution to their power, lighting and system needs.”

There’s no benefit to staying in the comfort zone, Ballard said. “I never know what I’m going to find when I go out on my ship, the Nautilus. But I know that we have to keep looking. We have to keep opening doors and showing school children the amazing things that make their jaws drop open.” He then flashed a picture of middle-school students watching a live feed from the Nautilus’s roving underwater submarines and his Center for Ocean Exploration and Archaeological Oceanography, an organization devoted to bringing underseas discoveries into the public realm and schools. “There’s your next scientist or engineer. There’s your next electrical contractor.”

Check out Ballard’s live feed to his ship’s exploration >>