Archive for the month “June, 2013”

NAEC Site VIsit in Grand Rapids

I had a great experience on Wed, Thurs, and Fri last week. I went to an NAEC site visit with Teresa and a group of other volunteers – in Grand Rapids Michigan – really. I can hear you asking, “what’s an NAEC site visit all about?” and “why Grand Rapids?”.

Here’s the way this stuff works: NAEC has a specification for its convention. Costs, meeting space, show floor size, load bearing capacity, ceiling height, room cost, booking policies, contract stipulations – and on and on and on. They utilize a site selection company to narrow down any potential convention sites, and then also to negotiate the necessary contracts once a site has been selected. Connie Bergeron of Site Selection Solutions is a pro at this stuff and has worked very effectively for NAEC for years.

So this year, Connie comes up with Grand Rapids Michigan as fitting the bill – a qualified option for an NAEC convention – and believe it or not, there aren’t that many. Grand Rapids seems like a weird place for an elevator convention, so Faye from the NAEC office goes and checks it out. Faye reports that, as strange as it sounds, Grand Rapids really looks good.

Teresa, knowing that a city like Grand Rapids is bound to be met with some degree of skepticism, gathers a cross section of NAEC membership to come with her to do some close quarters inspection. The thought process is that if this group buys in, everybody will – and NAEC will have a group of members out there already sold on the idea that this is a really good place to hold the convention. The exact same process resulted in our going to Cincinnati a couple of years ago – and by acclamation, it was one of the best convention venues NAEC has ever visited.

So off we go – with the city of Grand Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau – called Experience Grand Rapids – picking up a substantial portion of the expense. It’s John Fichera of TEI from New York, Ken Garst of Great Lakes Elevator from Chicago, Erik Bleyle of Bleyle Elevator from San Francisco, Mike Klehr of MEI from Minnesota, Mike Paschke of Canton Elevator from Ohio, and our token Kanuk – Steve Husband of GAL Canada – and me.  How would you like to try to ride herd on that crew?

The attention that was paid to our every question was total. Although I think we rubbed shoulders with just about everyone who works in the hospitality industry east of the Mississippi, our primary care takers were Bob Snyders from Experience Grand Rapids, Heather Bacle who is Sales Manager for the Amway Hotel Collection, and Kathy Bart and Kristy Doak who are both attached to the convention Center. This quartet is an amazing combination of competency and warmth – and Kristy was shrugging off the fact that her first born is due next week.

Mike, Mike, John, Bob, Heather,Ken, Teresa and me. Missing are Erik and Steve

Mike, Mike, John, Bob, Heather,Ken, Teresa and me. Missing are Erik and Steve

Teresa put us through the paces. Over the three days, we heard about, drove by, walked through, looked at, talked over, tried out, questioned, ate, drank, and absorbed everything that Grand Rapids Michigan had to offer. And you know what? Pretty neat place. We all agreed that if NAEC can come to terms with Grand Rapids, it would be a really good venue. NAEC contractors and suppliers from every corner of the country are going to enjoy this city.

The convention Center is modern, well organized, close to all of the right hotel space, and within walking distance from a plethora of independent bars and restaurants. If Grand Rapids happens, the HQ hotel would be The Amway Grand. Very nice place, affordable by almost any standard, great lobby, bar, restaurants, and exercise room. And another thing that you couldn’t miss – the people of Grand Rapids are friendly…..and,,,, they want our business. In some cities, our show is considered a very small piece of business. In Grand Rapids, we are exactly the size they are looking for. We would fill a good deal of the two major hotels and have the entire convention center to ourselves.

Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan with close to 1 million in the greater metropolitan area. Depending of the time of year, there are 10 airlines that fly into GR and these fly nonstop from as many as 19 different cities.

For dinner on the final night our merry band was joined by a couple of the heavy hitters in Grand Rapids promotion sphere as well as a group of local elevator types. Cal Rogler – Chief Inspector for the State of Michigan, Dave Flint from U of Mich, Bob Schumacher from Mich State University, and four of the McNally clan from McNally Elevator all joined in the merriment. We had a great meal amongst great company.

I suspect there will be an NAEC Convention held in Grand Rapids at some point – maybe 2019 – Go – you’re gonna like it.



Elevator U at Ames

I spent last week in Ames, Iowa – Iowa State University – at the annual gathering of Elevator U. This is a hybrid group of elevator types. All are involved with large numbers of elevators – mostly on university campuses. Some are advisory and some have crews who do maintenance and repairs on their equipment.

This is a great group of people for GAL and Hollister Whitney. They tend to like the same things that we are good at. High quality, non-proprietary elevator equipment is important to the people charged with keeping this equipment running economically and for a full life expectancy. I was joined there by Mark Yako of GAL and Brian Musholt and Doug Deitrich of Hollister Whitney. At our booth, we had a really good opportunity to spread the news about all of the new products and product improvements coming out of both of our companies.


Marv Schumacher and I look over a Hollister gearless machine in the Schumacher factory

On Tuesday, all of the attendees took a road trip to Denver Iowa and the Schumacher Elevator headquarters and factory. These guys have been great customers and friends for more years than I can remember. Marv, Helen, and Jeff Schumacher, Mark Treatow and all of the folks at Schumacher made us very welcome and gave us a close look at their very impressive manufacturing operations. I know, because Hollister is also in a remote location, how fun it is to show off when you get the rare opportunity to have visitors. These guys get it and pulled out all the stops – good stuff for everyone.


The whole crew shows up at Schumacher Elevator

43 suppliers set up their booths to show their stuff to some 150 attendees – a record attendance number for this event. A social event – cocktails and dinner –  held right on the expo floor on Weds night was really well received and gave everyone a chance to mingle and talk – making a neat combination of party and product. During the night, a silent auction was held for the benefit of the EESF – the bidding wars generated a lot of friendly chuckles.

Congratulations go to Don Neilsen and his cohorts at Iowa State University for hosting a very organized and well orchestrated event on their campus. And kudos also to Terri Flint, Steve Pydynowski, Brad O’Guynn, Don Ross, Ed Jaskowak, Tom Sybert and Glenn Duncan who all contributed to making this happen. Nice work all around.

CECA At Niagara Falls

The Canadian Elevator Contractors Association (CECA) held their annual gathering in Niagara Falls Ontario last week. The unanimous feeling was that this was an over-the-top event for CECA.

Everything on their agenda was extremely well received. Some 235 attendees got to see and interact with 56 suppliers who brought their booths and equipment to display in an excellent, well organized venue.

Steve Husband, VP of GAL Canada, and his team, handled the logistics, set up, and break down of our booth and, as usual, ours was one of the most impressive on the floor. We were showing an advanced look at the GALaxy IV which is getting close to introduction. Hollister Whitney had their 1:1 PMAC machine on display and we also introduced a new door lock monitor and Ropegripper controller that can be added to older controls. CECA serves a buffet lunch on the show floor both days and this works really well for their size – everyone mixes among the booths while enjoying sandwiches and soup.

I wish I could remember the name of the illusionist that performed during breakfast one day  – he was absolutely stunning. Everyone was amazed –  and again, because of the size of the organization, everyone had a great seat near the stage – way fun. Same goes for the dinner dance night – the band was very accomplished and versatile – lots of dancing.

One night, the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation conducted a “Billiards for Children” fund raiser. Two person teams played pool in a single elimination tournament – good fun for a good cause. It was hotly contested and Paul Seifried beat Gaetano Soldano by just one revolution of the cue ball.

Paul & Gaetano Celebrate

Paul & Gaetano Celebrate

It was great to see Ken Anderson, his wife Louise and the rest of his family. Ken retired and sold his business several years ago. He played a key role in both CECA and EESFC for years and he was presented this year with an honorary membership to CECA. Well deserved – Ken is one of the good guys.

The Canadians have a uniquely warm and welcoming atmosphere at their events, and this one was certainly no exception. With this year’s convention, they have really raised the bar. If you can, you ought to make your way to Quebec City next year.

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