BOCA RATON, Fla. – It was perhaps the most solemn period ever in SMACNA’s 58 years. And yet, those who attended the annual convention held here in south Florida in October expressed optimism, and hope.

At the product show is Rick Monahan (left), J.E. Monahan Sheet Metals, shown with Novell Clearie of Ductmate Industries.
BOCA RATON, Fla. – SMACNA President Phil Meyers, Bright Sheet Metal, Indianapolis, Ind., told contractors here “We are stronger, more united than ever before.” He urged members in his opening remarks to consider “every piece of sheet metal we bend as an act of defiance” in the face of adversity.

It was perhaps the most solemn period ever in this Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association’s 58 years. And yet, those who attended the annual convention held here in south Florida in October expressed optimism, and hope.

There were four days of socializing and learning covering many facets of hvac and sheet metal manufacturing and contracting: architectural, industrial, custom fabrication, computers, residential service, indoor air quality, safety awards, a fundraiser for political action, etc. The annual product show had nearly 30 exhibitors. Even the annual golf and tennis tournaments were held, dodging frequent Florida raindrops.

A mini-health fair sponsored by SMOHIT offered the opportunity to check your blood pressure and cholesterol.

And special guest speaker, columnist and author Dave Barry brought some much-appreciated humor to the hard-working crowd. On the wonders of living in Miami, Barry commented that “hurricane season runs from June to the following June.” Drivers are so aggressive they will pass you in the car wash, he said. The city has an aggressive new marketing plan to attract tourists, he added. Its theme is: “Come back to Miami. We weren’t shooting at you.” He spoke more expansively on his first days in journalism, and ended with a tongue-in-cheek comment that he hoped he’d been able to shed some light on hvac and sheet metal.

In the aftermath of the tragic terrorist attack on America and current economic uncertainty, most contractors remained upbeat. Most noted some softening in the market, but there was a consensus that things will only get better – exactly when is the only dilemma.

Scott Kuschel, Kenco Industrial Equipment, Deerfield Beach, Fla. (see sidebar) said that as people continue to move to Florida there has remained strong demand for new school construction. “They are finishing brand new high schools and having to put portable classrooms next to them, “ he said. However, Kuschel said business overall has softened but he expects it to return: “At first, I thought ‘first of the year.’ Now I’m thinking first quarter. It’ll happen, it’s just a matter of time.”

Most major equipment manufacturers and distributors agreed business had softened, but not as much as in some industries. Some big equipment purchases are on hold, but as one put it, “If you need a thousand dollar piece of equipment, chances are you’re going to buy it now, not put it off.”

Next year’s convention is at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. More convention coverage will appear in next month’s Snips.

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