SMACNA’s Annual Convention is near and dear to my heart. Over the years, I have gone from being a kid at the kids’ table, to accepting the nomination as SMACNA’s president this past October. No matter what my role is or was, I always learn something new at every convention. The SMACNA convention consistently serves as an opportunity where I can reconnect and strengthen old friendships while making new ones.
I am amazed how the educational programs at SMACNA’s convention are always on the topics we, as contractors need most. The technology sessions always hit the mark and this year was no different. Each of the Market Sector Council sessions were well attended, and the HVAC forum was full of people — to the point many had to stand in the hallway. The Product Show was a bigger than in years past, and the vendors saw a lot of traffic. I know I had lots of good conversations with several vendors as I made my way through the show floor.
I have made it a point over the past ten years to introduce myself to new faces I see at the convention. This year, my wife Shannon and I sat at a table on opening night onboard the USS Midway Museum with a group from northern New Jersey. We did not know anyone in the group before the convention. However, by the time the night was over, we had introduced a young lady working in her family’s business to Carol Duncan and Angie Simon -- both are on the Women in Construction Leadership group. This young lady was passionate about the business and passionate about the industry and wanted to find a way to get more involved and I was happy to have the opportunity to make that happen for her.
The benefits go both ways. We engage the next generation and they get more involved in the association and then they help lead the industry to greater heights in the future. I therefore encourage every person reading this to introduce yourself to at least one first-timer at next year’s convention, find out why they are there and see if you can help them connect with other members. The benefits will be awe inspiring!
After many conventions, I still find myself looking forward to Chapter Night — the one night of the convention where we gather as a group from our local chapters. It’s a unique setting in that most contractors in each chapter know each other — and compete with one another. Yet as a group, we are one, fighting for the unionized sheet metal industry. Through these events and our common bonds, many of us consider the other contractors in our area to be friends more than competitors.
Chapter Night is unique because it gives us the opportunity to get together in a social setting away from convention and away from the contractor meetings to spend time together…to get to know each other better. For the first time as far back as I can remember, the Oklahoma City contractors did something more than just going to dinner. We combined with several other chapters and rented out the House of Blues and hired an 80s hair band. The combination of great food, great friends, and incredible entertainment formed a common bond for many of us that we still speak about today.
It is an honor for me to serve as SMACNA’s president during SMACNA’s 75th anniversary celebration which will culminate at next year’s annual convention in Austin, Texas. This year-long event gives each of us the opportunity to reflect on the past but focus on the future through increased engagement and communications. It is my hope that we can all leverage this unique opportunity and use it to grow our businesses.
Nathan L. Dills