All The Latest News from NECA

Oct 14

When National Security Comes Down to a White House Chef and a Pair of Spoons

by Trent Evans

Three former White House chefs opened their lively and free-ranging discussion at the NECA13 Lifestyle Program with a joke about the recent shutdown status of the federal government:

“We are now officially closed, so there’s the exit doors.”

Guy Mitchell, Woody Raber, and Julianne Koski delivered an insiders’ account of life as chefs for the leader of the free world … duties which often include much more than cooking.

Koski and Raber both described having to serve on a security detail for the President. One encounter required Koski to hide a gun under her chef’s whites, and Raber standing next to the President in bodyguard mode at a meal with other leaders abroad.

“One time in history, national security came down to Woody and a pair of spoons,” he quipped.

Working with over 50 other chefs, a select group of culinary over-achievers is culled from the ranks of the Navy. Once they make the cut, they are responsible for feeding 350-400 people per day in the West Wing from a kitchen right below the Oval Office.  The chefs worked a 12-hour shift from 3:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. when in D.C., and they were on call at a moment’s notice to travel with the President around the world.  They explained how in addition to their cooking duties, they rotated other jobs including dishwasher, waiter and maître d’.

“You might get called back to be dishwasher at the White House after having been executive chef for the President on the road the day before,” said Raber.

The chefs explained that after the events of 9/11, they could no longer have food delivered to the White House.  Currently, staff dressed in plain clothes fan out in five or six vans to different suppliers in the D.C. area. They always pay cash for their ingredients, never letting on that they are working for the President.  “No one can know who we are buying for,” explained Raber.

Throughout their lighthearted exchange, the chefs prepared recipes from the kitchen of the White House and ended the session by raffling off a taste of the presidential fare to one of the lucky attendees.

Aug 07

Guest Post: Learning Through Connections at NECA

by John Chaney, President/Co-founder, Dexter+Chaney

Throughout the year, I meet and speak with numerous folks around the country, ranging from clients and prospective clients to industry analysts. With each conversation, I learn more about the industry, get new ideas for our construction software, and understand new challenges facing contractors. However, I find I learn the most during trade shows like the NECA Show because there are so many diverse companies and individuals congregated in one place at one time.

From my experience, I’m not the only one who uses events like NECA to discover new trends, technologies, and industry news. At a trade show last year I spoke with a controller who had switched companies and was now looking at new construction management software for his current company. Even though he had been part of a software buying decision at his previous company, he commented how much had changed over the years, and how much he was learning about the latest technology.

The Importance of In-Person Connections

The number of ways to exchange and learn information has been growing dramatically in recent years – online seminars, electronic newsletters, LinkedIn groups, blogs, and so on. But they do not deliver what the trade show delivers – personal connection.

There’s no disputing that online media provides valuable tools, but I firmly believe that personal connections provide more and better information because those involved are engaged in the conversation. Responses are more than just a quick reply to a forum thread or a comment on a news article. People enter into dialogs with passion, feeling, and unscripted exchanges. And when it comes to understanding industry challenges, there can be quite a bit of feeling involved.

Spectrum software from Dexter + Chaney will be demo'ed at the 2013 NECA Show

Spectrum software from Dexter + Chaney will be demo’ed at the 2013 NECA Show

Similarly, construction software providers and other vendors at trade shows are passionate about their products and services. Everyone wants to tell their story, and trade shows provide the perfect place to do so.

This is not to say that new technologies do not provide a good medium for sharing information. I think we can all agree that because of new technology, more connections are being made and more information is being shared. But to me, really engaging someone means establishing a personal connection, and that means meeting them, talking to them, listening to their stories, and understanding what a day in their life is like. These connections help me give feedback to our product management team, which helps with developing new products and setting the direction for our company’s software.

When I’m at a trade show or other live in-person event, I can do this with many folks in one place at one time. I can get immersed in their world, which helps me serve them better when I return to my desk. So I hope that you’ll take some time to visit the vendors at this year’s NECA Convention – tell us about your challenges and learn about the solutions available to help you.

>>Got something to share with John or his company? Feel free to use the comments below to ask questions or let him know what you’d like Dexter + Chaney to discuss at the NECA Show, Oct. 12-15 in Washington, D.C.


John Chaney is the President and Co-Founder of Seattle-based construction software provider Dexter + Chaney. He can be reached at, and more information on the company can be found at  Dexter + Chaney will display its Spectrum® Construction Software at NECA Show 2013 (booth #555).

Oct 22

Guest Post: Going Green in Las Vegas

By Beth Ellis, NECA Executive Director, Convention/Expo

We talk a lot about energy solutions and green power at the NECA convention and trade show, but one of the things we don’t often mention is how much electricity and material is takes to put on a show as massive as ours.

By now, most of us are used to looking for a recycling bin before tossing out our soda cans. Some facilities like Mandalay Bay go the extra mile to help us keep waste to a minimum. That’s why I was so pleased to get NECA’s official Recycle/Waste Report on NECA 2012 Las Vegas.

It turns out that we successfully recycled over 80 percent of the materials used at NECA 2012 Las Vegas! We couldn’t have done this without you – whether you one of the 1,000 people who downloaded the NECA 2012 app to get workshop handouts or refilled your water bottle from stations around the center.

I also have to thank our wonderful exhibitors who recycled their shipping materials and relied on digital content to share information with attendees.

Let’s keep those good green habits going at NECA 2013 Washington, DC!

You can see the detailed report of our recycled materials from NECA 2012 Las Vegas as a PDF.

Oct 28

Guest Post: Mir Mustafa on Business Development at NECA 2011 San Diego

By Mir Mustafa, NECA Director, Business Development

NECA 2011 San Diego may have been my first convention as NECA’s new Business Development Director, but I immediately got a sense of renewed purpose for electrical contractors diving into new and emerging energy solutions markets. Whether renewable and alternative power generation or advanced lighting and building controls, many attendees were there to learn as much as they could about business and market development.

There were many new things about NECA 2011 San Diego. The conference hosted the first-ever NECA Energy Forum, an event that saw a capacity crowd and received a tremendous amount of positive feedback.  It would have been impossible for anyone sitting in the audience to miss one speaker after another reinforcing the same positive message: Emerging technologies represent the direction in which our industry is moving and represent a tremendous opportunity for any contractor willing to tackle a new way of doing business.

In addition to the Energy Forum, NECA also unveiled NECAWORKS™, an energy economic modeling tool. The web-based screening tool provides NECA members with the fundamental tools and resources to capture renewable and energy efficiency project opportunities by determining the Benefit/Cost Ratio. Since transitioning to a new way of doing business is never easy, even with the help of impressive tools like NECAWORKS, NECA went the extra mile in San Diego to describe the importance of business development.

IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill spent much of his time as a guest at the podium for NECA’s 2011 Board of Governors meeting detailing the IBEW’s new emphasis on business development and expressing his strong belief in its importance in recapturing lost market share and gaining new market share.  NECA President and President/CEO of Valley Electric Consolidated, Inc. Rex Ferry also stated the importance of business development for electrical contractors during his keynote address at the conference’s opening general session. Ferry spoke of how there was a new paradigm at work and that NECA members could no longer afford to sit around waiting for bids, but how they needed to proactively engage in business development to capture work.  He talked about how VEC, Inc. was doing just that.

NECA also successfully convened the first meeting of a new business development task force chaired by Daniel G. Schaeffer, NECA District 7 Vice President and President of Schaeffer Electric Company, as well as two meetings on the topic of business development. The first was an internal meeting of the business development working group for NECA and Labor-Management Cooperation Committee (LMCC) business developers, NECA chapter managers and staff working on business development, and IBEW business managers and staff working on business development. I was honored to host the meeting, and I had a great team of panelists: Jim Ayrer, IBEW International; Darlene Besst, Northern California Chapter; Jim Curran, St. Louis Chapter & IBEW Local 1, LMCC; Terry Hatch, Washington, Statewide LMCC; Bernie Kotlier, California, Statewide LMCC; Ken MacDougall, Penn-Del-Jersey Chapter; Thomas Martinez, Los Angeles Chapter & Local 11, LMCC; Jennifer Mefford, SE Michigan Chapter & Local 58, LMCC; and Karen Prescott, San Diego County Chapter.  Together, we updated the audience on our local and national initiatives and described the wide range of activities that constitute business development. James Willson, NECA Los Angeles County chapter manager, also spoke passionately at the event, as did President Ferry, reiterating his belief in the importance of business development.  The audience also deserves thanks for their interest, their questions and thoughtful interactions with the panelists.

The second business development meeting was held as a convention management seminar. Karen Prescott started off the meeting with introductions. I followed with a recap of the prior day’s meeting and emphasized the wide range of activities a successful business development program can consider.  Next, Jennifer Mefford gave an impressive presentation on the nuts and bolts of business development and how to get started when it seems like you don’t know where to begin. Bernie Kotlier closed with specific game changing examples, including the California Advanced Lighting Controls Training Program (CALCTP), the Electric Vehicles Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP), and the Sustainable Sales Placement Program which is focused on retraining highly successful sales people on the art of selling sustainable services and placing these individuals at member contractor firms.

NECA will hold its next meeting on business development at the Association Executive Institute (AEI) in at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012.  You can also expect to hear more from me on our business development blog, along with guest blogs authored by my business development peers from throughout the country. They are doing some amazing work, and they are growing in numbers. I wish all of them could have spoken at this year’s conference, but you will hear more from them shortly.

I would like to close by giving thanks to all that help raised awareness of the importance of business development at this year’s conference. Emerging energy technologies and business development truly represent a paradigm shift for our industry and NECA will do everything in its power to help members prepare.

See recent energy solutions projects from NECA Members >> Learn more about NECA’s business and new market development strategy >>

Sep 20

New at the Closing Celebration: Outdoor Venue and After-Dinner Snack Boxes!

By Beth Ellis, NECA Executive Director, Convention/Exposition

Can you believe that we are now just a month away from the NECA Convention? We have some amazing events and education that we are offering in San Diego, and we’re working hard to make sure every aspect of our convention and trade show offers the best experience for NECA members.

That’s why I want to make sure everyone understands that we are having our Closing Celebration outside the Convention Center by the San Diego Bay, starting at 8 p.m., just as the sun sets. I know the weather will be perfect, the music by Al Jardine and the Endless Summer Band will be fantastic, and the setting will be a ton of fun! We will have an area where you can spread out and dance, or sit on the grassy area on blankets or chairs we’ll have set up. There will be cash bars and cocktails tables for your convenience to have a cold beverage or glass of wine.

To add to the beverage selections this year, we are offering a unique snack box that will have a selection of cheeses, flatbread, fruit and chocolates. The only thing is, I need your orders for snack boxes by Oct. 14! Please download the PDF order form below and fax it to 301-215-4553to order your snack boxes for the Closing Celebration. Boxes are only $9 each and make the perfect  after-dinner snack while enjoying the concert!

Thanks, and l look forward to seeing you in San Diego! If you have any questions about ordering snack boxes for the Closing Celebration, feel free to email

Click here to order your snack boxes for the Closing Celebration!>>

Sep 16

Why San Diego?

By Andy Berg, Executive Manager, San Diego County Chapter, NECA

Every year at the Association Executives’ Institute, the chapter manager for the NECA Convention host city – AEI is always held in the same city, usually six months prior to the convention – is asked to give a brief introduction to the area.

Most of us have learned to include the phrase, “No, I cannot help you get baseball playoff tickets.”  Of course, this year I didn’t even have to worry about that.

Since you won’t be heading over to PetCo Park to watch a World Series game,  you can spend some of your time in San Diego thinking about what you want your company’s future to look like.  Chances are, it’s going to look a lot different than its past.

San Diego and the state of California have been on the leading edge of the green energy revolution which makes it entirely appropriate that NECA’s first-ever Energy Forum will be held in our fine city.  That’s where I will be on Saturday, Oct. 22, and you should be there as well to learn about everything from Utility Grade Wind Power to Electric Vehicle Charging Stations, and even financing options for your customers that want to “go green.” Starting Sunday morning, Oct. 23, please make sure to spend time at the NECA Show where almost 300 exhibitors will be on hand to show the latest and greatest tools and technological advancements to help make your business more successful.

Don’t worry; you will have plenty of time to explore America’s Finest City and some of its world-famous attractions such as the San Diego Zoo, Sea World and my favorite, the Wild Animal Park.  If you are looking for a great restaurant, San Diego has hundreds of them. Perhaps the easiest way to find one is just to walk up 5th Avenue into the Gaslamp District and read the menus posted in front.  You cannot go wrong eating at any restaurant on 5th Avenue.  For you golfers out there, no trip to San Diego would be complete without playing a round at Torrey Pines. But if you don’t want to challenge the course the pros play on, there are many other alternatives less than 30 minutes from your hotel.

One other thought on how to spend your free time:  Since the Opening Reception aboard the USS Midway is going to give convention-goers a behind-the-scenes look at the ship you wouldn’t ordinarily get on a standard tour, consider using free time you may have to take the water taxi to visit sites across the San Diego Bay, like the Hotel Del Coronado. You can pick up the water taxi from the terminal right behind the Convention Center or just stroll along the Bay’s pathways and bridges for a breath of fresh air.

Actually, NECA 2011 San Diego promises to be big breath of fresh air for everyone. Our industry has gone through a lot in past few years, and I always appreciate spending time with my colleagues from across the country who can give me a different perspective and some new ways of thinking about our work.  And although the nearest baseball playoff game will be in neighboring Arizona, I am sure that you will still enjoy the Convention and your stay in San Diego.  Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help make that so.

 Check out other special NECA 2011 San Diego tours >>


Jul 06

Guest Post: Calling All Future Leaders!

by Greg Mankevich, NECA Executive Director, Management Education Institute

The 2011 NECA Future Leaders Conference is now history, but NECA’s Future Leaders have a way of making sure their impact is felt well after an event.

That’s why I’m reaching out to encourage any young and emerging professionals working at NECA member companies to join the Future Leaders at NECA 2011 San Diego. Convention has added several great registration options, like weekend packages and a la carte options, for those who can’t afford to spend much money or time out of the office.

While MEI has put together an outstanding series of management seminars, it has been my experience that what matters most to NECA Future Leaders are the peer-to-peer networking at goes on at the Convention and Trade Show. There really isn’t a better time or place to start voicing your opinion about our industry that needs the Future Leaders’ insight and enthusiasm.

When we got back from the Future Leaders Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, Lake Coulson, NECA executive director, government affairs, commented that he had never heard a better discussion than the one that the Future Leaders had with NECA President Rex Ferry and IBEW International President Ed Hill. “They asked real questions about how we are going to work together in our industry,” Lake said. “They were completely focused on solutions, not blame. We could all learn something from how the Future Leaders are approaching their businesses today.”

So here we are with NECA 2011 San Diego only four months away. I hope you will use this time for two things: first, if you haven’t already done so, get involved with NECA’s Future Leaders program. Future Leaders is open to anyone under age 47 working for a NECA member contractor. We’d especially love to hear from professionals who may have just begun their career in electrical contracting (and if you haven’t already done so, check out our online MEI course, Contractor 101, for the insider prospective on what you can expect during your career). The Future Leaders program has made some incredible gains in the past few years.  Our members are now serving on national standing committees and taking a greater role in shaping the resources the association provides to support the electrical construction industry.

Second, I hope you’ll make your plans today to meet your fellow Future Leaders at the San Diego 2011 Convention and Trade Show, Oct. 22-25. We’re offering several pre-convention workshops and the all-new Energy Forum before the convention kicks off with the Opening Reception, which are a great way to capitalize on your participation. You should also plan to join the Future Leaders for an informal reception on Monday, Oct. 24 where we will announce plans for the 2012 Future Leaders Conference.

Anyone interested in receiving updates of Future Leaders activities and event announcements should contact me, Greg Mankevich, at 301-215-4550 or email

See you in San Diego!

Sep 24

Guest Post: BlueVolt’s Tips on Getting the Most from Online Training

by Lisa Bordeaux, BlueVolt

The 2010 NECA Convention and Trade Show features opportunities to discover new products and services, learn about best practices, network with your peers, boost your company’s productivity, explore new markets, and enjoy the best of Boston.

One of the best ways to boost productivity is through online training. Before you attend this year’s conference and after you’ve returned home from Boston – and for those of you who can’t make it this year – be sure to check out BlueVolt online, This is a great way to keep up with the latest training courses available in your industry. NECA’s Management Education Institute, the NJATC and many NECA exhibitors use BlueVolt as their vehicle to get training out to NECA contractors. This is our seventh year exhibiting at the NECA Show, and we’re excited to hear connect with our users face-to-face!

The term “online training” can conjure up images of complicated technology or installing confusing software programs. The truth is, contractors don’t need extensive experience with technology to start training online. BlueVolt hosts NJATC and NECA authored courses which you can take in the comfort of your own home. Now you can earn your state-approved CEUs in your slippers!

Here are some tips from BlueVolt on how to get the most out of online training:

  • Set a goal for yourself. What do you hope to accomplish by taking this course? You may wish to add a marketable skill, like green building, or improve safety on the job.
  • Understand your learning style. Put what you’re learning into real-world situations. Most importantly, go at your own pace. If it takes you longer to retain information, take the time to think about what you’re seeing. There is no race to the finish line when it comes to online learning!
  • Eliminate distractions around you. Aim to complete your online course in a quiet room with minimal distractions. Close other programs on your computer so you can focus on the course. The sooner you complete, the sooner you can go back to emailing or browsing funny videos on YouTube.

NECA and NJATC Universities’ online courses are powered by BlueVolt. We strive to make online learning so easy, that all a contractor needs to update his CE/CEUs, or learn about a new product online, is a computer and an internet connection.

This fall, BlueVolt is offering several courses for NECA members, including LEED certification, Grounding and Bonding, green building and an introduction to using NECA’s Manual of Labor Units. I hope you will come by our booth at the convention to learn how you benefit from online training.

And with the 2011 National Electrical Code changes just around the corner, it is the perfect time to start learning online. BlueVolt is teaming up with NECA and the NJATC to offer online courses on Significant Changes to the NEC.

With technology continuing to advance, contractors cannot afford to fall behind. Major changes in the 2011 NEC are expected to incorporate green technologies and alternative energy. For many in the electrical business, the NEC changes can ignite panic, confusion and, at best, annoyance. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

About BlueVolt

Portland, Oregon-based BlueVolt connects and advances participants in industries through its leading online Learning + Marketing Platform, its comprehensive, quality learning catalog, and its talented professional services team. Platform participants include manufacturers, associations, distributors, contractors, and skilled professionals in the electrical, plumbing, flooring, welding, and HVAC industries. The Platform enables online training and learning experiences including social/collaborative, blended, on-demand and live multi-camera webcast with enterprise-level functionality and performance. BlueVolt’s unique approach to training encourages learning with its proven reward program that is valuable to both content consumers and content sponsors. As of August 2010, BlueVolt delivered over 734,000 courses to over 95,000 registered users.

About NECA Management Education Institute

NECA’s Management Education Institute (MEI) is the best education resource for all stages of an electrical contractor’s career – from estimator, to project manager, to executive with corporate responsibilities. MEI’s programs are developed with leading industry researchers and skilled instructors. NECA chapters work with NECA’s national office to deliver programs locally to their members.

Aug 30

Guest Post: Kristen McDonough Offers Some Insider’s Tips to Her Hometown

by  Kristen McDonough, NECA Director, Legislative Affairs

I want to be the first from NECA to welcome you to Boston, just as you have welcomed me to NECA! As the newest member of NECA’s  government affairs team, I am so excited that my very first NECA convention and trade show will be in my hometown of Boston.

Over the past few months, I have been learning about all the incredible activities, workshops and exhibits that will be available for you. The endless opportunities at this year’s convention are bigger, better and more edifying than ever before — Lake Coulson has assured me of that!

(Lake has also had me busy helping him put together two new management workshops, based on your requests for updates on two vital legislative issues affecting our industry: FASB & the Multi-employer Pension Plan Liability Disclosure, on Sunday, Oct. 3 at 8 a.m., and our Government Affairs Update on Fall Elections, Tuesday, Oct. 5 at 8 a.m.)

In particular, I am looking forward to the First-Timer Orientation and the Grand-Slam party at Jillian’s (the real  Red Sox hot spot for Bostonians), with the President’s Reception for our ECPAC contributors and PLC members. And take it from me, you DO NOT want to try to drive or taxi to Jillian’s on a game night! Plan now to take advantage of NECA’s police-escorted shuttle bus service from the seaport hotels for those events!

Oh, and one last thing … I am sure you already know about the historic Red Sox/Yankees rivalry, but the last series of the regular season between these two adversaries is the weekend of our NECA convention, so there’s also a chance to make it to the game on Friday night. Now is the time to request some tickets. (Don’t tell anyone, but Beth Ellis has THE connection for tickets.) I know I will be there on Friday, sporting my Red Sox gear from head-to-toe. Don’t worry, I have plenty of extra Red Sox attire for anyone who wants to root for the winning team!

I can’t wait to show you the great things about my hometown and what NECA and the PLC are doing for our members! See you in Boston!