A record number of attendees participated in the 17th annual Mechanical Service Contractors of America educational conference, held Sept. 29-Oct. 2 at the Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas Resort on the outskirts of Las Vegas.

, The conference kicked off on a Sunday evening with the exhibitors' display and opening reception. Thirty-four industry suppliers showcased their wares.

, Don Batz, chairman of the MSCA board of managers, welcomed participants during the opening session held Monday morning. Batz compared the somber attitude of last year's conference to this year's "atmosphere of hope, resolve, and rebuilding, in addition to a renewed sprit of patriotism."

, He pointed out that, "In spite of a faltering economy and downturn in business in some areas of our country, this is our most well-attended MSCA conference ever, with over 500 attendees joining us here in Las Vegas."

, Batz also reported that MSCA experienced tremendous membership growth in the past year, with an increase in new members and National Agreement signers of more than 10%.

, He introduced the 10 students attending the conference from the Greater Michigan MSCA Student Chapter of Ferris State University and labeled them the "cream of the crop."

, Batz presented the 2002 D.S. O'Brien Award of Excellence to Kenneth Wohlfarth. "He will forever be known as one of the founding fathers of MSCA as well as the National Service and Maintenance Agreement since his involvement and participate dates back to the early days of our association over 25 years ago."

, Wohlfarth spent 10 years on the MSCA board of managers and served on every MSCA committee, serving as chairman of each at some point.

, At Wednesday morning's session, Batz introduced new MSCA board of managers members Wayne Turchetta, HMC Service, Louisville, Ky., and Thom Brazel, Herre Brothers, Enola, Pa. He also bid farewell to outgoing board member Stanley Berger, Arista Air Conditioning, Long Island City, N.Y. He then turned over the chairmanship to Robert Malia, Thermo Air, Hollywood, Fla.

, Special guest speaker Richard Bensinger, former organizing director for the AFL-CIO, presented a special session on the status and role of organized labor in current times. He discussed how unions need to change in order to adapt, survive, and prosper.

, Local MCA-affiliated association executives and local union officials were provided with a preview of the new Joint UA/MSCA Service Technician Recruitment Program. The goal of the program is to assist local MSCA chapters, contractors, and UA locals in effectively recruiting the workers they need for the service industry.