Political commentator Bob Beckel will open SMACNA’s 67th convention.

Cal Thomas will also open SMACNA’s 67th convention along with Bob Beckel.

SMACNA is returning to familiar ground for its 67th annual convention.

The contractor group will convene Oct. 10-13 in Phoenix at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge. It last held its convention at the resort in 2007.

This year, the Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors’ National Association will offer sessions designed to help members that are struggling in this economy, along with its usual mix of seminars on new technologies, industry changes and politics.

For this year’s convention opening, SMACNA has booked two popular commentators from both sides of the political spectrum to demonstrate there are issues that most people can agree on.

Bob Beckel and Cal Thomas, authors of a USA Today column, “Common Ground,” will kick off the convention at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 10. These savvy and politically different analysts - Beckel on the ideological left and Thomas on the right - try to find the “common ground” that unite all Americans. The goal of their column is to show audiences and Americans that bridges can be forged between differences and agreements can be made.

Their book, Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America, calls for liberal and conservatives to work together to end the philosophical battles that divide the country and to get the United States back on track.

Beckel worked on Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign, was a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Carter administration and was campaign manager for Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale. He appears regularly on cable TV’s CNN and CBS’ morning news programs.

Thomas writes a twice-weekly column that appears nationwide and is a panelist on the “Fox News Watch” show. A veteran of broadcast and print journalism, he has worked for NBC, CNBC, PBS and Fox News, and is the author of 10 books, including Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America? and Liberals for Lunch.


In addition, organizers have booked a busy convention schedule of educational seminars and sessions on subjects such as mentoring, building information modeling, avoiding embezzlement and geothermal systems. Here is a list of some of the convention’s scheduled events.

At 7:30 a.m. Oct. 11 will be:

• “How to Get into the Energy Audit, Assessment and Retrofit Market,” part of the HVAC Contractors Forum. A panel of experts will discuss what this market can mean for the HVAC contractor, how one contractor is succeeding in this market and how SMACNA members can avail themselves of tools to gain a foothold in it.

Participants will also learn how legislative and regulatory energy-efficiency initiatives and mandates, along with a collective “green consciousness” focusing on efficient technologies and applications, are creating lots of business for the SMACNA HVAC contractor.

• Jeffry Ceruti, P.E., a senior principal at multistate construction firm Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, will present “Metal Roofing Underlayment: Tips on Choosing the Best System” at the Architectural Contractors Forum. That will be followed by Terence Parker, United Solar Ovonic’s applications marketing manager, with “Metal Roofing and Solar Applications.”

Parker, an expert in flexible photovoltaic products and applications, will discuss solar laminate products and their building and performance characteristics.

• “Successful Exit Strategies.” Contractors will learn the various equity transfer planning alternatives including employee buyouts, third-party sales to a strategic or financial (private equity) buyer, employee stock ownership plans, public offerings and other available options.

Marketing, lean

At 9:45 a.m., these are scheduled:

• Sales and marketing expert Matt Michel will teach participants how to attract customers and keep them during the Residential Contractors Forum. In this seminar, participants will learn straightforward ways to acquire and retain more business.

• The Industrial Contractors Forum will include presentations on “Kaizen events.”

Quality Support Services Inc. President Dennis Sowards will present “Lean Kaizen Blitz Improves Productivity in the Shop.” This session will focus on lean principles based on the “Kaizen blitz,” the subject of a recent New Horizons Foundation project. Using examples from industrial sheet metal shops, attendees will learn about specific processes that can be applied to industrial contractors to improve their operations and productivity.

• “The Basics of BIM” is designed for SMACNA contractors who are eager to learn the essential concept of BIM (building information modeling), what’s needed to get started, and where BIM is heading. Matt Cramer and Steve Hunt, both of  Michigan’s Dee Cramer Inc., will address the BIM process details and how BIM equates to faster, better and lower cost projects resulting in satisfied customers.

At 2 p.m. Oct. 11, sessions include:

• “Embezzlement, Fraud and Identity Theft: How It Happens and How to Avoid It.” Edward McMillan will walk attendees through scenarios based on actual cases, discuss what was on the mind of the perpetrators, how they were discovered and what could have been done to prevent their crimes. An in-depth questionnaire designed to help you gauge the adequacy of your own internal controls and vulnerability to identify theft will be reviewed and discussed in detail. There will be a discussion of what steps you should take if you should unfortunately find yourself the victim.

McMillan is an expert and national authority on fraud prevention. He has developed a national reputation for fraud investigation and has written two bestselling books on the subject.

Modeling issues

• Contractors will learn how to use BIM to streamline work processes, maximize efficiency, and reduce risk at the convention session “From Design to Fabrication: Utilizing BIM to Maximize Overall Efficiency.”

Owners not only are beginning to expect, but demand, that BIM be used on their projects. Bob Mauck, an industry-recognized leader in integrating virtual design and construction, will illustrate how project teams have realized the opportunities of using 3-D-enabled delivery to streamline their work from design to fabrication.

• At 10 a.m. Oct. 12, management consultant Thomas C. Schleifer, Ph.D., will return to SMACNA’s convention to share his projections on when this economic downturn will end. Schleifer will define and classify market cycles and explain the difference between this current phase and prior cycles. He will forecast the length of this market slowdown and its impact on the construction industry, including unprecedented aggressive pricing, changes in owner attitudes, evolving delivery methods and declining margins.

• At 1:30 p.m. results of the latest study from the SMACNA-affiliated New Horizons Foundation study, “Mentoring and Coaching - A Guide to Growing Managers in Your Company,” will be explored.

The session will cover all of the reasons for the benefits of developing mentoring and coaching programs. Jake Appelman will describe the various mentoring and coaching approaches, including formal and informal programs, group approaches, cadre coaching and other approaches used within the industry.

• “The ‘Whys’ and ‘What Fors’ of Geothermal Applications” at 2 p.m. Oct. 13, will provide information on why customers are choosing to buy and install various types of geothermal systems including vertical wells, horizontal boring, open loop, lake/ponds and horizontal trenches.

In addition to providing the details of each application, speaker John Suzukida will cover what makes for good - and bad - installations, what should be avoided and where the market for geothermal systems is going.

Jim Boone

Association to present new president by Michael McConnell

Possibly the most common question Jim Boone gets asked is “What the heck is New England Sheet Metal doing in Fresno, Calif.?”

Fortunately, the president and CEO of the family-owned mechanical contracting firm has a good explanation: In the early 1900s, Armenian immigrant Arakel K. Yazijian came to the United States, settling in Worcester, Mass., and tried to earn a living as a metalworker.

The harsh New England winters were difficult for Yazijian, and relatives suggested he relocate to central California’s San Joaquin Valley, where the temperate climate was similar to that of his homeland. An Armenian population was already established in the city of Fresno.

So in 1920, he opened his own sheet metal shop in an empty horse stable adjacent to Fresno’s downtown. Even though he was thousands of miles from Massachusetts, Yazijian decided one thing would not change: the company’s name.

And that’s how New England Sheet Metal Works came to California.

“It can be an icebreaker and an interesting topic to discuss,” Boone said.

And it’s a story he may be telling more frequently in coming months, as Boone prepares to take over as SMACNA’s 2010-2011 president following an Oct. 13 ceremony. In the next year, the 60-year-old will be traveling across the country as the association’s representative, meeting with contractors, sheet metal workers and politicians as he discusses the state of the industry and the issues of top concern to SMACNA members.

Coming into the presidency at a time when sheet metal contracting is experiencing one of the deepest recessions in U.S. history wasn’t what Boone expected when he agreed to take a turn as SMACNA president, but he said he knows how important the association and its services are right now.

“It would be less difficult for anyone going in as president if everything was booming,” he said, adding that now “the focus needs to be on survival mode. Contractors need us (SMACNA) more than ever.”

That’s why he sees an important part of the job of president as helping to keep member’s spirits up during tough times.

“It’s going to be a tough year,” Boone said. “The important thing is to reassure them that state and local SMACNA chapters are here to help them.”

The industry’s troubles have not escaped central California or New England Sheet Metal Works, Boone said. Currently, the company employs about 130 sheet metal workers, plus 100 or so plumbers, and expects to end the year with $35 million to $40 million in revenue. A few years ago, annual revenue topped $50 million.

“The only thing that saves us is the basis of our economy is agriculture” and people have to eat, he said.

Fresno is among the largest farming communities in the United States, representing more than $3.5 billion in activity for the region’s economy, according to the website City-Data.com.

Boone said he figures any real sustained improvement in the construction market in the Golden State is about a year away.

But he added that New England Sheet Metal is faring better than some other companies because it offers design-build among its services. The need for hospitals and other public buildings to regularly upgrade to meet new seismic building standards to withstand earthquakes has also helped keep the company busy.

Boone has been working at New England Sheet Metal since 1976. He came to the company through his wife, Kathy, whose father, Ara Yazijian, was company president at the time.

Boone acknowledged he didn’t know anything about sheet metal contracting or HVAC beyond the thermostat on a wall. His college degree was in business administration. But he took a correspondence course in mechanical engineering through the University of California-Berkley and worked his way up.

He eventually became president-CEO of New England Sheet Metal after the passing of his father-in-law, eventually growing it from a $10 million company to where it is today. His son, son-in-law and nephew all work there today.

Phoenix offers many attractions for attendees

When Phoenix was officially established in 1881, some probably couldn’t have predicted that this city in the Sonoran Desert would become the sixth largest in the United States, let alone a tourist destination.

Known by some as the “Valley of the Sun,” Phoenix has a rich history dating back to early Native Americans, as well as U.S. settlers who saw the land as ideal for farming. Visitors to the area will find plenty to feed their historical curiosity. But the city also offers an array of leisure activities, from the symphony to shopping.

Octobers in Phoenix can hit a high of 88ºF, so when SMACNA holds its convention this week, get ready to enjoy the heat, as well as everything else this metropolitan community has to offer.

For visitors who want to delve into Phoenix’s past, one of the first stops should be the Heard Museum. The 130,000-square-foot museum offers a number of galleries devoted to the art and culture of Native Americans. The sight provides a look at early artifacts, as well as the work of several Native American artists.

The Deer Valley Rock Art Center also offers a look at early civilization in Arizona. The center is the location of the Hedgpeth Hills petroglyph site. Petroglpyhs are prehistoric designs that have been carved or engraved into rock and stone. More than 1,500 such ancient drawings can be found at the art center.

For a more traditional look at history and art, there is the Phoenix Art Museum. The facility houses a variety of art, including modern and contemporary art, and American, Spanish, Asian and Latin American art. The museum also has a collection of fashion designs from the last three centuries, as well as a room of miniatures.

A history of firefighting is also a highlight in Phoenix. The Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting offers close to an acre of exhibits with over 90 restored pieces of firefighting equipment. Some of the equipment dates back to the 1960s, while other pieces are from the 1700s. According to the museum, most of the equipment is from the United States, but there are also rare pieces from England, France, Austria and Japan.

There are plenty of opportunities for visitors to enjoy the great outdoors in Phoenix. For example, Camelback Mountain provides hiking trails for beginners and experts. The most difficult hiking trail will take you up 1,200 feet above sea level. The mountain gets its name because it looks like the shape of a camel lying on its stomach.

Papago Park, which is the location for the Hall of Flame, also offers hiking trails. Visitors will also find fishing spots and the Desert Botanical Garden. The garden contains 50 acres of outdoor exhibits, including a desert discovery trail, a variety of desert plants and wildflowers, and a desert house and garden library.

If golfing is your idea of enjoying the outdoors, Phoenix has several options. According to the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau, there are more than 200 golf courses in the area. The bureau also reports that peak golfing season is in November, with shoulder seasons in May and September through October. Some of the most popular golf courses include the course at the Four Seasons Resort in Scottsdale, the Sedona Golf Resort and the Sanctuary Golf Course at Westworld.

Billed as “90 blocks of urban lifestyle,” Copper Square is the place to go for shopping, dining, entertainment and more.

The Arizona Center can be found in Copper Square, which is the location for three acres of shopping and restaurant choices. The center has more than 30 boutiques and stores, a movie theater, seven full-service restaurants and a coffee house.

For sports enthusiasts, Copper Square is the location for the BankOne Ballpark, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the America West Arena, where the Phoenix Suns hold court.

If you’re traveling with the kids, Phoenix offers activities that the whole family can join in on. The Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix boasts 300 hands-on exhibits in five galleries. The museum aims to educate through interactive exhibits.

To catch a glimpse of 1,300 different animals, head over the Phoenix Zoo. The zoo is also home to 200 endangered or threatened birds, mammals and reptiles from around the world. In the past five years, the zoo has introduced several new habitats, including the Monkey Village, the Wallaby Walkway and the Leapin’ Lagoon water play area.

If you’re willing to travel outside the city limits, a number of day trips are within reach. The most popular is, of course, the Grand Canyon. The canyon is billed as one of the world’s seven natural wonders and it’s a five-hour drive northwest of Phoenix. Nature walks and mule rides are available at the Grand Canyon. According to the convention and visitors bureau, the North Rim of the canyon is open through October depending on weather conditions.

Just two hours outside the city is the Apache Trail. This trail, originally a stagecoach trail, was used by the Apache Indians to gain access through the Superstition Mountains. There are several points of interest along the paved trail, including the Roosevelt Dam, the Tonto National Forest and the ghost town of Goldfield.

Other points of interest outside Phoenix include Sedona and the Oak Creek Canyon, the White Mountains, and Lake Powell.

Lastly, fans of great architecture may want to visit Taliesin West, a 600-acre complex designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Scottsdale. Built by 1937, all buildings on the property were designed to complement each other and the surrounding desert. It served as Wright’s winter retreat and an architecture school.