All The Latest News from NECA

Oct 25

Steve Farber is Following Me on Twitter Now

Permit a moment of “told you so” to anyone who didn’t believe in the communication power of social media. Beth Ellis,  NECA’s executive director of convention/expositions, took the bold step of adding a Social Media Wall display to the NECA Show floor, and it has been an absolute hit among attendees, exhibitors and guests.

With four wide screens continuously broadcasting clips from the daily NECA Newscast from San Diego, ElectricTV stories, Chuck Fazio’s incredible photos of events and people from around the trade show and convention on Flickr, plus everyone who uses Twitter with the hashtag #NECA11, the Social Media Wall has been a gathering place to get the latest information about events, 140-character Tweets on sessions, and special deals from NECA Show exhibitors.

I live-tweeted some of my favorite quotes from Closing General Session keynote speaker Steve Farber from this morning’s session, and within a hour, the extreme leadership guru himself was following my Twitter account. He has multiple bestselling books. I … don’t (yet). But in the world of social media, we were able to connect and follow each other’s 140-character musings. That’s the power of social media. And I hope everyone who’s tagged a Facebook photo, added a wall post, or watched the San Diego Newscasts on YouTube enjoys the same sense of connection to their industry as I have this year.

Let us know how you’ve used social media at NECA 2011 San Diego in the comments below!

Oct 22

Greetings from San Diego!

I’m Beth Margulies, NECA’s communications director, and I’ll be live-blogging NECA 2011 San Diego this week.

Today was NECA first-ever Energy Forum, and it was non-stop action.

If you’re using social media (and who isn’t these days?) and you want to connect with fellow attendees and vendors – follow all the action by becoming and fan, liking wall posts and tagging photos at People who prefer to communicate in 140 characters can get short updated on Twitter – @necanet and @necaconvention. Mark your tweets from San Diego with the hastag #NECA11 and watch them scroll on the Social Media Wall on the NECA Show floor. You can also catch up on event recaps and photos from our blog on the Social Media Wall, too.

And of course, feel free to leave your comments and links on this blog, too. Thanks so much to everyone who’s joined us here in San Diego. Your support of this event means a lot to our industry and NECA, and I hope you’re looking forward to everything we have planned. You can tune into our daily NECA Newscast from San Diego broadcast of events on your hotel television, but nothing beats getting out there yourself.  So, enjoy the San Diego sunshine, and I’ll see you at the convention center! To those who couldn’t make it here, we’ll try to bring as much of the action to you right here!

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

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 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 11

Welcome to the NECA 2009 Seattle Live Blog!

Hi everyone!

I’m Beth Margulies, NECA’s director of public relations, and I’ll be live-blogging NECA’s convention and trade show in Seattle this week on

I hope you’ve been reading the blog to keep up with new sessions and special offers, but now with everything in full swing, we’re shifting our coverage on-site, with daily reports on sessions, speakers and scenes from the Show floor. If you see something you like here, use the Social Media tools on each post to share it on your own Facebook, Twitter or MySpace page.

But this blog isn’t the only way you can keep up with everything that’s going on in Seattle.  You can become a fan of the NECA Convention on Facebook to receive important updates before the events and while they happen.

Or follow us on Twitter, for quick updates about new blog posts, room changes, and raffle drawings.  Ginger Wilson has already tweeted tons of pictures and reports from pre-convention workshops and as the Show floor takes shape. If already on Twitter, you can tag your own tweets with #NECA09 to let your followers know you’re tweeting about NECA 2009 Seattle.

For NECA 2009 Seattle attendees who aren’t familiar with everything social media can offer electrical contractors, you might want to attend the management seminar I’m leading on Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 8 a.m., What is Social Media and How it Can Help Your Business.  Details about NECA’s own social media can be found on our website, too.

There won’t be a lot of time to spare in Seattle, so take advantage of NECA’s social media for event updates and to stay in touch!

Oct 08

That’s a wrap!

NECA 2008 Chicago closed out last night with an awesome performance by Bruce Hornsby, Ricky Skaggs, and Kentucky Thunder at the Arie Crown theater. “Best event so far!” one audience member was heard exclaiming during the multiple standing ovations that the group received.

Thanks so much for joining us in Chicago and on the NECA Convention blog this year. But don’t take us off your RSS or web bookmark just yet! We’ll have more video and photos from Chicago, 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 2008 Chicago blog, you can always reach me by email.

PS: To answer the question, “what is that tag 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. Right now, it looks like “green,” “General Session,” and “Share your thoughts” have the most posts. Clicking on a tag displays all the posts with that tag.

So click on “Share your thoughts” and tell us what you’re thinking right now!

Oct 07

Anti-Counterfeiting Panel Convened

ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR and The Electrical Distributor (TED) Magazine jointly sponsored an Electrical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Panel yesterday to discuss the widespread impact counterfeit electrical products are having throughout the industry.

“Call it counterfeiting, call it mislabeling, call it gray-market – but it’s all a crime,” said ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR publisher John Maisel. “It affects every part of the electrical products channel, from manufacturers to distributors to contractors, and especially, end-users.”

Panelists included Kevin Yates, VP Siemens Energy and automation, and Steve Litchfield, asst consul Schneider Electric-Square D, Bob Crane of Underwriters Laboratory, and Bill Feyman, VP Leed consul, Babcork Electric. They focused primarily on the liabilities presented by counterfeit products.

“The closer you are to the end of the supply chain, the more liability you have,” Yates said. “So the most liability potentially rests with the electrical contractors.”

Crane pointed out some warning signs to help contractors avoid fakes. “The terms ‘overstock’ or ‘only 50 left’ are often used to promote the sale of counterfeit products,” he said.

“In 1981, the counterfeit products were laughable,” Litchfield said. “You could tell right away that they were fakes and inferior products. But in 2004, the first products I saw from an unauthorized distributor – another tip-off that products may be counterfeit – you couldn’t tell the difference from the packaging. It was a circuit breaker, and the flaws were really frightening when we tested it.”

Panelists echoed the concern that counterfeit products are a concern for the entire electrical industry. Manufacturers have taken initiative in pursuing and suing counterfeiters, enlisting help from U.S. Customs. They’ve had to spearhead raids on plants in China. But with less than one percent of all imports coming the U.S. screened and the fact that counterfeiting is roughly a $250 billion annual business, “counterfeiting is a value proposition,” Yates said. “Bottom line, they stand to make a lot of money, and the chances of getting caught are slim.

“We have to take the initiative to protect our customers, our workers, and our brands,” he continued. “It’s going to take education to recognized counterfeits and government assistance to prosecute the criminals behind counterfeiting.”

ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR will release a special supplement to its December issue on the risks posed by counterfeit electrical products and what electrical contractors, site managers and other electrical industry professionals can do to protect themselves, their workers, and their customers.

What are your concerns about counterfeit electrical products? How much of an impact do you think it will have on the industry?

Oct 06

Guest Post: Producing Positive Local Relations

by Ellie Collinson, The Raben Group

The audience at today's general session on labor relations

The audience at today's general session on labor relations

While some attendees were enjoying Art Smith’s cooking presentation, today’s General Session focused on labor relations and highlighted the need for local control and local opportunities for partnership.

Ed Hill, IBEW International President, spoke about the importance of 8-hour days and responsible use of CW/CE classifications. Both Hilland NECA Vice President for Labor Relations (and newly inducted Academy Fellow) Geary Higgins underscored the value of communication and action at the local level to the future of building market share.

Eric Nixon of Maron Electric Company, Chicago, raises a question from the floor.

Eric Nixon of Maron Electric Company, Chicago, raises a question from the floor.

Higgins stated that it is critical to the future of the NECA/IBEW working relationship that as NECA leadership pushes for changes and cooperation at the national level, they are able to demonstrate the value of these initiatives at the local level. To the extent that local chapters and members have success stories and data to share, I hope you will keep in touch with Geary and his team. NECA members can also read and subscribe to Geary’s labor relations column Between the Lines here. Feel free to leave a comment (anonymous if you prefer) to this blog post as well.

NJATC Executive Director Mike Callanan also highlighted some of the changes at NJATC to increase local market specialization and to provide responsive flexible skill training programs in addition to increased use of technology for national curricula.

And lastly, the Ps seem to have it: members of the NECA Task Force on Labor Relations, along with Geary and Mike, all spoke on a panel and fielded questions from the audience about what issues are primarily percolating across the country. Two problems (or perhaps opportunities for change) seemed to affect members across the country: portability and pensions. Political Leadership Council leaders pushed for increased participation in future pension planning and policies at the federal level.

Maybe I’m getting punchy from trying to see everything going on here at NECA 2008 Chicago!

Members of the Labor Relations Task Force and NECA officers field questions from members.

Members of the Labor Relations Task Force and guest panelists field questions from members.