Archive for the tag “Teresa Witham”

NAEC in Hawaii

Last week some 200+ elevator types basked in the warmth of Waikiki for 4 days of education and comradery as NAEC sponsored its annual Mid-Year elevator convention.

So you gotta know that my sweet wife Teresa officially named this event the NAEC Spring Educational Conference back maybe 10 years ago – and is still trying to get all of us old-timers to refer to it as such – but that’s just not happening. Much to her consternation, we will always call it the Mid-Year. We enjoy teasing her.

Despite nearly gale force winds at times, the temps were typical Hawaiian ideal, and the great weather was really appreciated by those of us just emerging from a brutal winter. Along with the really well attended education sessions were the normal golf outing, as well as an NAEC sponsored catamaran cruise.

There were a million pics taken but I don’t have them. I’ll try to come back and post some after they have been shared.

Most of the attendees took advantage of being so far away by either arriving a bit early, or sticking around a couple of days after. Not so for us. After a final night’s dinner with our friends Greg and Maria Carlisle and their crew (Murphy Elevator), and Ken and Barb Garst (Great Lakes Elevator), Teresa and I both red-eyed it out of there on Weds.

Yes, the hours in the air were a sacrifice, but education at 85 degrees just seems to be absorbed better than education at 35 degrees. I took a poll – everyone agreed. Imagine that.


Euro Lift 2015

Spent last week in Kielce Poland working a booth at EuroLift 2015. This trip is always fun – the business? – a challenge to say the least.

We (Teresa joined me this year which made the trip especially nice) traveled overnight Saturday thru Amsterdam to Warsaw where we took a day and a half to adjust to the European time. We had a chance in Warsaw to have dinner again with Tom Sullivan a long time, good friend, of my son Dustin. This year his wife Sarah also came out. They are a neat couple – Americans who have been living in Warsaw for some 5 years now. They now have their first bambino and are beginning to look forward to transferring back to the good ole U S of A.

Warsaw is a beautiful city. The weather was October perfect on Monday – sunny with maybe a high of 70. An ideal day for touring an interesting city. There is a mix of new high-rise, modern architecture, which is within blocks of the re-built old city with traditional streets and squares. There are many excellent restaurants, the people are terribly friendly, and there is virtually no language barrier – everyone there speaks English fluently. Don’t miss Warsaw if you ever get the chance.

On Tues AM, Peter Ackerman, owner of Lifts & More, and Hollister Whitney’s representative in Poland, picked us up for the 2 hour drive to Kielce. He and I spent the day setting up the booth. We needed to overcome some self-inflicted difficulties, but with Doug Dietrich of Hollister providing long distance technical support, pulled it together and had two running Rope Gripper demonstrators before the sun went down. Ahh – the glamour of business travel.

Peter Ackerman and me in the Lifts And More booth

Peter Ackerman and me in the Lifts And More booth

An aside – On Tues, thanks to my son Dustin (Midwest Elevator in St Louis) and his sweet wife Lauren, Teresa and I became Grandparents again – Joleen Elizabeth – all happy and healthy.

Weds, Thurs, and Friday were show days – 10 till 5. The show is very well organized, and the facility is as good as any anywhere in the world – but this is really a regional show and it doesn’t demand 3 days – 2 would be great. There were 115 exhibitors (slightly down from last time) working booths that ranged from very modest to really elaborate. Don’t know the final attendance numbers, but it seemed to us that it might also have been less than 2 years ago.

Brian Farley (Hudson Elevator), President of NAEC, was in Prague visiting his Daughter who is in school there, flew over and joined Teresa for meetings with Polish Lift Association. They reported that their talks were very interesting – both associations trying to figure out if there are things that they could do better. Teresa felt like they fielded many more questions than they had a chance to ask – so be it – new contacts made – our elevator world continues to shrink.

When working the booth, language can become a stumbling block. I was very happy to have Peter there to back me up. The Rope Gripper is technical enough that it’s hard to get features and benefits translated. Even though A17 code and EN81 code are essentially the same, the terminology is very different and subject to interpretation even when being discussed in the same language. Makes working the booth fun and challenging.

Rope Gripper banner in Polish

Rope Gripper banner in Polish

In Poland, the contractors use bi-directional safeties and a solenoid pin through the governor wheel to address the Ascending Car Overspeed and Unintentional Motion issues. Rope Gripper is a much more elegant solution but their market doesn’t demand it. They have no rules to prevent slipping traction. We have taken our at-bats here, Peter Ackerman is a conscientious and competent representative. I doubt if I will return to EuroLift.

Catching Up

So once again it has been way too long since I got around to keeping up this blog. I am going to make another commitment to keeping it current and if I find I can’t do it, I am going to call it off altogether.

Since last I typed, I have been to many elevator industry events, had a million personal and professional wins and losses, traveled thousands of miles, and made lots of new friends.

Looking at my calendar – There was the Anderson Elevator golf and drink fest. I don’t know of another company who does this stuff. The Gibbs clan, supported by some Krygowsky and Chmielewski types, invite a group of customers, consultants, employees and suppliers for a full day of complete insanity over in Michigan City Indiana. Anderson Elevator does it right.

In the same week, Chicago Elevator Association held their annual golf outing to support the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation. Glen Duncan – Parts Specialists – was, per usual, the master of ceremonies. I would try to name the whole committee but there is too high a risk of leaving a deserving someone out. I was told that attendance was down some, but that the financials were robust as ever. Going to Chicago is like old home week for me. Good fun with good friends – and oh ya, they also happen to be good customers.

I spent the Thursday between these two events doing some promotion of, and troubleshooting on GALaxy Controls issues with various Urban Elevator types. I’m a peddler, so no one is going to allow me to climb on elevators unescorted. For this outing I was shepherded by Carl Burch – by acclamation, this is one of the genuine good guys in our industry. Carl plays both a tech support and sales role for GAL – and does both spectacularly. He is a pleasure to work with and does GAL and Hollister Whitney proud every day.

I left Chicago Saturday AM for our home in Georgia. My / our world went into a tailspin when Teresa’s dear mother passed away on Sunday. There is no way this sort of event can be related in this blog. Granny Annie was the matriarch of an extended family and a loving soul who had become friends with many of our elevator friends. The outpouring of warmth from the industry, and the number of elevator types who came to Granny’s wake to support Teresa, still brings tears to my eyes.

From this emotional nadir, a week later, Teresa and I went, along with Dick and Carol Vinciquerra (AFD Industries) up to visit our great friends the McDuffys (Pine State Elevator). Steve and Chris are the consummate hosts at their ‘camp’ on Long Island – offshore from Portland Maine. It’s always crazy fun to get together with them and this year was certainly no exception. I cannot imagine an atmosphere more full of laughter from sun up to sundown. Some of the things that happen in Maine just have to stay in Maine.

My “check liver light” had just quit flashing when the next week, a group of friends snuck into a quiet, quaint little B& B in Pennsylvania to surprise Rick Kennedy (Kencore Elevator) by announcing that he would be this year’s recipient of the William C Sturgeon Award. He was so caught off guard. Marv Schumacher (Schumacher Elevator and awards committee chair) made the formal introduction. He was followed at the mic by daughter Karen Dodds who gave us the personal side of this guy – whew – she is impressive in her own right. Cas (wife) and all of Ricks kids were there, along with his ‘adopted’ exchange students and quite a gathering of well-wishers. Mike Pashke and Bob Kazar (Canton Elevator), Dick Vinciquerra (AFD), Pete Meeks (Delaware Elevator), Phil Reid (Premier Elevator). I know I left some out. This was the first time I have ever seen Rick at a loss for words. A fun fun evening to honor a great man and good friend.

Teresa and I, along with a contingent from the Kennedy / WCS surprise group drove the next day up to casa Witham in New Jersey, changed clothes, and got a car service to take us down to (and more importantly back from) the annual cruise around NY sponsored by the NY chapter of the International Association of Elevator Consultants. It was a beautiful night on a great yacht – to cruise down the Hudson, out to the Statue of Liberty, around the tip of Manhattan, up the East River past the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge, and then turn around and do it all again in reverse – all in the company of some 300 elevator types – all of whom were enjoying spectacular food and drink. If you are part of the elevator industry in any fashion, put this excursion on your bucket list. Magical.

A week later – the Friday of Labor Day weekend, my mom had a heart attack. All is well now, she is recovering fine, but I needed to shoot out to San Diego to be with her for several days and help get her out of the hospital. Whew, at this stage I’m saying to myself “stop the world, I want to get off” – but no time to rest yet.

I got back from San Diego to LaGuardia at 7:00 PM Weds, shot home, repacked, and flew to San Antonio for the 65th annual NAEC convention and trade show at 7:20 AM on Thur. What a great gathering. Teresa and her staff pull this off with ever-increasing finesse every year. Some 2000 attendees, 200+ exhibits, banquets, parties, meetings, exhibits – an absolute whirlwind of elevator activity spread over the four or five days.

I get a chance to see, hug, toast, and break bread with many many very long time friends. I enjoy nothing more that being a representative of GAL and Hollister Whitney at the NAEC. We showcased lots of new and innovative products. This year there were 13 of us who pulled out all the stops to show off our equipment and to throw a proper GAL / HW party to say thanks to our customers.

GAL HW Award Winning Booth at NAEC

GAL HW Award Winning Booth at NAEC

So here’s the payoff – after I’ve been running full tilt boogie for 3 – 4 months without much of a breather, the crazy good crew from GAL, GAL Canada, and Hollister Whitney wins the award at the NAEC for the best island booth. Grins all around. Life is very good.

I promise, I will either blog more frequently so they are not novel length, or I will give it up. Stay tuned and soon you will know.

NAEC Educational Seminar

I am writing on the last day of the NAEC Midyear Educational Conference in Sanibel Fla. It has been a great week of education and camaraderie. My sweetheart Teresa, along with Faye, and Shawn, the NAEC staff on-site, pulled this event off in flawless fashion and the Sanibel Harbor Resort proved to be an outstanding venue.

After several solid days of education, a fishing foray, a couple of very fun nights and few chances to tee up that little white ball, I hate to see it come to an end. Brian Musholt, Mark Yako and I have been here representing GAL and Hollister Whitney, and we were joined for two days by Walt Glaser, Paul Seifried, and James Varon who shared the customer contact responsibilities and enjoyed a much needed break from the cold weather up north. Steve Husband, from GAL Canada, is on the NAEC Board of Directors and so his attendance is mandatory. On top of this crew, Tony Glick from GAL did an educational session on the installation and adjustment of the MOVFR and MOVFE door operators.

I chaired a committee for NAEC to develop a specification data base. With tremendous help from Amanda Smith at NAEC, we wrapped up our task, and I had the pleasure of introducing it during the supplier general session here. It was really well received and I think it will become a key member service from the association. If you need an explanation, just call Amanda at NAEC.

The weather came and went thru the week with some days being warm and sunny while others were cool and overcast. On Sunday I went backwater fishing (we caught maybe 35 fish) with my Ohio friends, Dick Vinciquerra of AFD, and Mike Paschke and Bob Kazar of Canton Elevator. Got a bit too much sun without realizing it. So Monday, as luck would have it, it was pretty much cool and cloudy, and I stayed in the educational sessions without missing any of the sunshine.

The official golf tournament is this afternoon and the day looks great for it. I have a reunion foursome set up, Dickie V, Perry Burch from Nashville, and Jack Higgs from Quality Elevator in the DC area. The four of us have teed it up frequently over the last 30 years. John Curzon, Ensota from the UK, has a bum shoulder and can’t play so he is renting a pontoon boat and taking a bunch of ladies for an excursion – can you sing ‘a three hour cruise?’ I’m trying to get someone to label the boat The SS Minnow.

Anyhow, great interaction, friendship, education and recreation in Sanibel Florida with a record number of attendees, in a great setting – way fun. If you don’t have the NAEC Midyear Educational Seminar on your radar, you are missing a grand industry event. You need to be part of it.

Site Visit to San Antonio

It’s always fun to watch Teresa work.

Last weekend I accompanied her on a site visit to San Antonio TX to check out the location of the NAEC Annual Convention and Trade Show this fall. John and Andrea Sweeney, current NAEC President and First Lady, also came along. John will preside over this convention and become what is affectionately called a ‘has-been’ at its conclusion.

You can’t believe the effort that goes into this sort of preparation. This contract is signed – it’s going to happen in San Antonio some 6 mos from now. Teresa is there doing what she calls the ‘broad brush’ stuff. She will go back and pass her notes onto Kerrie Rebmann who is the staff meeting planner. Kerrie will go on site a couple of times between now and then to do the tie-down details.

So, you ask, “what’s the broad brush stuff”? I’m gonna tell you. In both the HQ hotel and the overflow hotel, we looked at guest rooms, breakout rooms, meeting rooms, banquet rooms, ball rooms, bar rooms, and public spaces –we talked about décor, views, acoustics, lighting, seating, bedding, breakfasts, lunches, hors d’oeuvres, dinners, food stations, buffets, cocktails, patios, average temperatures, plan B’s, and plan C’s. We met with the hotel management and food service manager , the Chef, the Sous Chef, and the banquet sales types.

At the Convention Center where the trade show will be, we also had a run thru of capabilities. We saw and talked about registration, entry, security, loading docks, layout, floor loading, ceiling heights, power, lighting, heating, cooling, set up, and tear down. The Convention Center has its own set of management and sales types all of whom could not have been more helpful.

Three hours were also made good use of by representatives of the SA CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau) who gave us a soup to nuts tour of the city – quite an up-and coming area – already the 7th largest city in the country.

And this is the broad brush sort of stuff? I cannot imagine what the rest of the NAEC staff goes through as the event draws near.

There is a two week long rodeo festival that we were lucky enough to get in on – hint – try the Texas wine. We walked thru only one of the three buildings full of anything southwestern – whew – hundreds of vendors. Each of us bought components of what will be our outfits for the “Diamonds and Denim” event in September. The Diamonds and Denim event is going to replace the formal dinner dance which has been a part of NAEC conventions since forever. (BTW – this is the NAEC’s 65th birthday year)

Beyond that – and I know this will shock those who know me, as well as Teresa, John, and Andrea – we put the bar and restaurant scene to a severe test. San Antonio has a unique feature – a river that runs right thru the town – The Riverwalk – Sidewalks on both sides – packed with bars and restaurants. Private barges and water Taxis travel up and down the river at all hours, taking revelers from top to bottom. Andrea said she could do it backstroke but we didn’t allow her to show us.

The American Culinary Institute has a campus and restaurant where we had dinner – Yum – crazy different fare. Restaurants from dive to divine (we checked em all out) are lined up one after the other. For the most part it is a get your boots on, get a buzz on kind of place.

So here’s the upshot. San Antonio – go there and have some fun. Don’t miss the NAEC this fall.

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.


NAEC Board of Directors


Ken Garst (Great Lakes Elevator), Doug Witham (GAL), Hugh Bertschin (Premier Elevator) enjoying some down time

I am very privileged once every year to be able to accompany Teresa to her Mid-Year Board of Directors Meeting. The members of the BOD have 3 meetings a year, one each during the Spring Conference and the Convention and this Mid-Year (half way through the fiscal year) Meeting. This is the only time a BOD and spouses are together separate from the general membership.  It is the NAEC’s way of saying ‘thank you’ for all of the volunteer time and effort that the board members expend during the year. Read more…

Murphy Celebrates 80th Anniversary

The “Murphy Elevator Family”

What a night – and for good reason. Murphy Elevator of Louisville KY – the epitome of an Independent Elevator Contractor – hit its 80thanniversary – and they did it in grand style.

Greg and Maria Carlisle – the current generation in charge – brought together a great mixture of family and friends for a night of reflection and revelry. Family included both the Carlisle clan, literally family, and the Murphy Elevator family – the extended company family who are making Murphy Elevator what it is today. Read more…

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