Officials from SMACNA think Washington, D.C., is an ideal location to hold their 60th annual convention.

Washington, D.C., was not the first choice of the founding fathers for the nation's capital.

New York, Philadelphia and even Princeton, N.J., all hosted the U.S. Congress before it was decided that this 65-square-mile area bordering Maryland and Virginia would become the government seat of the fledgling United States of America in 1790.

The location seemed ideal to legislators of the day: The Potomac River was a natural divider between the northern and southern states and the land was near then-President George Washington's home in Mount Vernon, Va.

Officials from the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association also think it's an ideal location to hold a convention: SMACNA will hold its 60th annual gathering here Sept. 28-Oct. 1.

Perhaps its not surprising then, that politics will be a major theme this year, with a planned educational seminar on the 108th Congress and an address from former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich to open the convention Sept. 28.

Gingrich is expected to draw parallels between the digital and industrial ages, providing a distinctive view of the way current changes will affect tomorrow's reality - as consumers, as citizens, as businesspeople and as families - according to a SMACNA press release.

A member of Congress for 20 years and House speaker from 1995-1999, Gingrich is now CEO of The Gingrich Group, a communications and management-consulting firm. In addition, Gingrich is a news and political analyst for Fox News.

He is recognized as the chief architect of the Republican "Contract with America" as well as the key strategist and leader behind the 1994 Republican victory that created the first GOP majority in Congress in 40 years. Named Time magazine's "Man of the Year" in 1995, Gingrich is the author of several books, including the best sellers, Contract with America and To Renew America. His first work of fiction, Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War, was released in June.

Still a very political and sometimes polarizing figure, Gingrich continues to serve as an advisor to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, as well as several GOP organizations.

A very different kind of celebrity will close the convention Oct. 1. For the closing ceremonies, SMACNA officials have hired comedian Rita Rudner. The former Broadway dancer has been a success on the comedy club circuit for more than 15 years. Rudner has appeared on "The Tonight Show," "Late Night with David Letterman," and has starred in several cable television comedy specials.

She recently signed a long-term contract with New York-New York Hotel and Casino to appear exclusively in its $1.2 million Cabaret Theatre.

In between Gingrich and Rudner, SMACNA has planned seminars and discussions on some of the issues most on the minds of HVAC and sheet metal contractors. Here are some of the events planned.

Tyler Kannon

Mold messages

The debate may continue for years about the public health effects of mold exposure, but for those in the construction industry, mold-related lawsuits are already proving to be potentially fatal. During "Mold Litigation: A Prevention Plan," Tyler Kannon and Jim Berriatua of Gallagher Construction Services, a Chicago-based consulting firm, will talk to contractors about ways to minimize mold-related threats to their economic health. Design materials, building maintenance and employee training are among the topics to be discussed.

The discussion is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. Sept. 29.

A related seminar, "Mold and Moisture Control," will cover the problem fungi from an engineer's perspective. Dennis Stanke, an applications engineer with Trane Co., will talk about what building owners can do to prevent mold. Stanke will also tell what risks mold posses for contractors and give tips on what to do if mold is discovered in a building.

Stanke's seminar is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. Sept. 29.

Bob Langdon

Proper planning

Many experts say lack of proper planning is one of the major reasons many businesses fail. During "Strategic Planning for Your Closely Held Business," scheduled for 8 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. Sept. 29, Bob Langdon, a certified public accountant and the author of Managing Your Business for Profit, will explain how contractors can make themselves stand out in an ever-crowded marketplace. He says business owners need to have a plan to target the desirable, upscale, service-oriented customer.

Fabrication challenges

Anything that is made of metal is a potential project for custom fabricators and manufacturers. But experts say there is more to a successful fabrication business than just securing a job. During the Custom Fabricating and Manufacturers Forum, 2:15 p.m. Sept. 29, Janet Sanders, founder of the Novi, Mich.-based Clayton Group Services, will explain the marketing skills needed to secure work and profits in "How to Market a Custom Fabricating Specialty Shop." The forum will conclude with a round-table discussion of custom fabricators.

Profit issues

Selecting the right projects to bid on, lowering estimating costs and reducing risks: they all help fatten the bottom line. Virginia Tech Professor Flynn L. Auchey, a licensed professional engineer, will talk about SMACNA's New Horizons Foundation project and how it can help contractors shore up their bottom lines during "Improving Profit Margins by Identifying, Evaluating and Mitigating Contract Risk Factors."

Auchey's seminar is planned for 8 a.m. Sept. 29.