“San Antonio Stroll” was a No. 1 country hit for 20-year-old Tanya Tucker in 1975.

Members of the Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors’ National Association members will have their own chance to stroll through the historic city Oct. 12-15 when the group holds its 71st annual convention at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country.

Organizers have scheduled a bevy of educational seminars as well as entertainment throughout the four-day event to keep attendees informed and active.

This year’s featured speaker is Olympic champion Danny Mack “Dan” Gable. SMACNA members will have a chance to hear from the man himself when Gable speaks during an Oct. 13 lunch program.

The 1972 Olympic gold medal winner is also one of the most successful college wrestling coaches in history and has been the subject of numerous books and was picked by Sports Illustrated as the greatest sports figure to come Iowa. Even Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri — aka the Iron Sheik from World Wrestling Entertainment — honored Gable in his induction to the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.

Best known as the head wrestling coach at the University of Iowa from 1976 to 2011, he amassed a dual-meet record of 355 wins, 21 losses and five ties. From 1978 through 1986, the Iowa Hawkeyes won the NCAA title each year. His teams included 152 all-Americans, 45 national champions, 106 Big Ten champions and 12 Olympians who won four gold, one silver and three bronze medals.

Gable’s talent for wrestling was discovered early. He became a state champion as a high school sophomore and was undefeated during his school days.

As a wrestler for the Iowa State University Cyclones, he helped his squad win two NCAA titles. His college record was 181-1.

In addition to his long college coaching career, he worked as head coach for the U.S. Olympic freestyle wrestling team in 1980, 1984 and 2000.

‘Mike & Molly’ co-star to appear

The convention’s Oct. 12 opening session has been engineered for laughter with the booking of comedian Billy Gardell.

Fans of the CBS-TV show “Mike & Molly” will recognize Gardell as the co-star of the popular situation comedy.

He’s an actor with a long list of dramatic and comedic TV roles, including appearances on “The Practice”; “Yes, Dear”; “Lucky”; “Bones”; “My Name is Earl”; and “The King of Queens.” He has also appeared in the films “Bad Santa” and “You, Me and Dupree.”

Born in a Pittsburgh suburb, Gardell grew up in central Florida. He started cleaning bathrooms at a local comedy club, eventually working up the courage to take the stage at an open-mic night. He appeared at military bases, clubs and small lounges. Eventually, he would perform as an opening act for nationally known comedians such as Dennis Miller and the late George Carlin.

He has said Jackie Gleason, Jim Belushi, John Candy and Richard Pryor are among his comedic influences. Expect his appearance to include stories on his childhood and crazy teen years. 

The Oct. 14 spouse breakfast will feature safety expert David Teater.

You may never reach for your cellphone while driving again after you hear from the Michigan resident and National Safety Council’s senior director of transportation initiatives. Teater lost his 12-year-old son in a 2004 car crash caused by a distracted driver.

A Hummer driven by a 20-year-old woman hit Judy Teater’s Chevrolet Suburban after the woman ran a red light. Joseph Teater was sitting in the front passenger seat, which took most of the impact from the crash.

After their son died, the Teaters began working to educate the public about dangers of using what was once called a car phone while behind the wheel. Today, he stars in educational online videos explaining why most people are not as good at multitasking as they believe.

Teater’s presentation will trace the history of mobile communications and the still-emerging science on the distractions caused by them.

Closing the convention will be singing star LeAnn Rimes.

Many people know Rimes for the many country and pop hits the 32-year-old has had since her 1996 breakthrough album “Blue.”

With Rimes’ three-octave range, critics and fans at the time compared the precocious then-13-year-old to the late Patsy Cline. SMACNA members will have a chance to hear the diva for themselves Wednesday night during the convention’s closing festivities. 

But Rimes has shown she is much more than just the heir apparent to a country music legend of the 1950s.

She’s an accomplished actress, having appeared in television shows such as the soap opera “Days of Our Lives,” drama “American Dreams,” comedy “Moesha” and reality programs “I Get That a Lot” and “Extreme Makeover Home Edition.”

Her most recent series, “LeAnn & Eddie,” debuted in July on VH1. Rimes, who is no stranger to the tabloids, said she and husband Eddie Cibrian wanted to produce and star in the reality TV show to take their lives back.

Rimes has sold more than 40 million albums and won two Grammy Awards, three awards from the Academy of Country Music and 12 Billboard Music Awards. Thirty-two of her songs have been on Billboard’s country music singles chart, 12 of which hit the Top 10. Her 1997 single, “How Do I Live?” was a crossover smash, staying at No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 pop chart for four straight weeks and stayed on the chart for a record 69 weeks.

Her most recent album, “Spitfire,” reached No. 9 on the country album charts.

Rimes has written or co-written four books, including the children’s books Jag and Jag’s New Friend, the novel Holiday in Your Heart and the inspirational What I Cannot Change. 

Before Rimes ends the convention in song, SMACNA will present a number of educational seminars and an expanded product show Oct. 14 that will feature some of the major manufacturers of HVAC and sheet metal equipment. This year’s product show includes two meals and presentations on some of the latest industry technology.

Here are some of the topics and sessions scheduled for discussion.

This year’s HVAC Contractors Forum, at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 13, will focus on mobile applications and Web-based services available to contractors.

James Benham, president and CEO of JBKnowledge Inc., will define “the cloud” and what it means for sheet metal contractors.

SMACNA engineering director Mark Terzigni will discuss what’s new with the Round Industrial Duct Construction Web-based application at 9:45 a.m. during the Industrial Contractors Forum. A demonstration and discussion are planned.

Ryan Wilbanks and Nicole Drusch from ISNetworld will share information on the growing use of third-party contractor verification.

Are you interested in learning about lean manufacturing but don’t want to put your company on a “diet”? SMACNA members are invited to attend “Company-Wide Lean: What You Can Learn from One Contractor’s Lean Journey” at 2 p.m. Oct. 13.

Jeff Higdon, Dynamic Systems’ vice president of pre-construction services, will explain learn how lean works, how it was implemented, and how they can apply lean principles and techniques in their own organizations.

The construction recession really is over. Now is the perfect time to rebuild your sheet metal or HVAC company, according to Thomas Schleifer, Ph.D., an author, management consultant, research professor at the Del E. Webb School of Construction at Arizona State University.

During “The Successful Contractor of the Future: How to Prosper in a Cyclical Industry,” at 2 p.m. Oct. 14, Schleifer, Ph.D., will explain how successful contractors will be able to weather market conditions, instead of struggling to maintain volume.

Another session designed to help contractors benefit from the industry’s upswing will be presented at the same time.

According to T. DeWayne Ables, the next year to year and a half is an ideal time to invest in growing your sheet metal company. Pent-up demand is creating real opportunities. During “Five Critical Elements for Growing Design and Construction Firms,” Ables, the founder and president of Pioneer IQ, will explain the top challenges facing the industry and how to ensure your company grows.

Attendees of this year’s Residential Contractors Forum, at 2 p.m. Oct. 13, will be encouraged to go “beyond the box” in looking for work. Mike Rogers of OmStout Consulting says the average house has about $80,000 in IAQ and related work for the HVAC contractor.

During “Beyond the Box: HVAC to Home Performance,” Rogers, a former Environmental Protection Agency employee, will explain what these opportunities are and how SMACNA members can take advantage of them.

More details about this year’s convention are available at www.smacna.org/annualconvention.


Sidebar 1:

SMACNA president travels around the world from Iowa on behalf of association

By Michael McConnell

Randy Novak

If you asked Randy Novak what was his favorite part of the job of SMACNA president this year, the 48-year-old’s answer might surprise you.

It wasn’t the travel. It wasn’t the chance to take in a game in a ballpark far from Hiawatha, Iowa, where his company, Novak Heating and Air Conditioning, is based.

Nope. It was meeting other SMACNA members and discovering firsthand just how diverse the association and the sheet metal industry really are.

“It gives you really a deep respect for this industry as a whole,” Novak said in an interview conducted a few months before his term as 2013-2014 association president ends.

“(This industry) amazes me,” he said. “You think you know his industry and you think you know your business. You don’t really know it until you get out and see it and meet these people who live it and make money out of it. It just fascinates me.”

As someone who runs a residential and light-commercial HVAC business, Novak said he is in awe of the SMACNA members who specialize in architectural and industrial work, including specialized fields as nuclear power plants — such as incoming SMACNA President Tom Szymczak of SSM Industries Inc. 

In his year as president, Novak said he got to visit regions of the country, such as Boston, San Francisco and New York City, where some members find themselves with almost more work than they can handle. Hospital and university construction is especially busy in New England and the Bay area, Novak said.

“They’re just exploding with man-hours,” he said. “They’re really, really doing well. They’re doing some great things out there and there’s a lot of construction.”

Visiting places where many members have smiles on their faces makes the job of SMACNA president easier, Novak said, quickly adding that a lot of places are still struggling as well. 

Contractors everywhere are attempting to embrace the “new normal” of more competitive bidding.

“Right now, people are fighting for margins,” he said. 

He encouraged members to continue trying to find ways to win work and maintain profits in today’s ultra-competitive business environment. 

“If you’re not evolving, you’re probably not keeping ahead,” he said. “We’ve got to keep getting educated and keep learning.”

And SMACNA provides a lot of opportunities for members to become better contractors, Novak said.

 

“I’m just humbled to be a part of this thing, and I feel like it’s a privilege to be a part of the organization,” he said.


Sidebar 2:

Association picks history-packed Texas city for conference

This modern city of 1.3 million (the second most populous in Texas and seventh most in the U.S.) has been booming for more than 20 years.

With its Spanish heritage and architecture, as well as landmarks such as the Alamo, San Antonio attracts an estimated 26 million tourists, according to tourism officials. In addition, the city is home to a number of Air Force bases and U.S. Army operations.

But it also holds the distinction of being one of the nation’s oldest communities, having been established in 1691. Native Americans likely lived there for thousands of years before the Spanish build the fort that would become a colonial city.

The city was named after a Portuguese Catholic priest, known as “Anthony of Padua” or sometimes “Anthony of Lisbon.” By the end of the 18th century, it was the largest Spanish settlement in the Texas territory. By 1860, 15,000 people called San Antonio home.

Erection of railroads throughout the Southwest and across Texas in the 1880s led to huge population growth for landlocked cities such as Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio. But that growth would seem small compared to the explosion the city experienced between 1970 and 2005, when it went from 650,000 to more than 1.2 million in just 35 years.

Today, the city, which maintains a large Hispanic presence, is one of the most cosmopolitan in the Lone Star State. Skyscrapers and other modern structures mix with buildings hundreds of years old in a way that is rare in the region. 

Unlike some cities that seem eager to tear down its history and landmarks, San Antonio embraces its past. This is perhaps best demonstrated by the world-famous Alamo, the site of a famous 1836 battle. Many first-time visitors are surprised to see that the Alamo is not just a small building that once served as a Catholic mission chapel but a whole compound. It was originally known as the Mission San Antonio de Valero. At various times, it was used by the militaries of Mexico, Texas and the United States before being abandoned in 1876.

In an early example of historic preservation, the Alamo’s restoration was championed by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and by 1912, the state allocated funds to repair and enhance the landmark.

The building and surrounding plaza sits in the heart of San Antonio’s downtown. The Alamo Mission is a certified historic landmark that has a long history as a tourist attraction. It is open for tours daily.

Another historic attraction in this city not far from the Alamo is the Buckhorn Saloon and Texas Ranger Museum. This 132-year-old historic building, which contains a saloon, shooting gallery, restaurant and gift shop, has a large collection of stuffed trophy animals and many artifacts relating to the law enforcement history of the Texas Rangers. The museum also includes a recreation of San Antonio circa 1900.

Next to the Alamo, the Riverwalk — also known as the Paseo de Rio — may be the city’s most famous attraction. It winds its way along the San Antonio River just a block below street level, and is packed with bars, restaurants and shops. Originally created after a 1921 flood destroyed much of the area, the Riverwalk has become a destination for people the world over. Boat tours also run up and down the river. 

Fans of Mexican cuisine, as well as the hybrid known as Tex-Mex, should find plenty to like, whether dining along the Riverwalk or throughout the city. From high-end steakhouses with “Texas-size” portions to small cafes serving up fine wines and cheeses, dining options are endless.

For many families visiting the region, SeaWorld San Antonio is often a must-see attraction. SeaWorld offers numerous aquatic-themed amusement park rides along with its famous shows with trained seals, dolphins and killer whales.

The Six Flags amusement park chain has an outpost in the city — Six Flags Fiesta Texas. It is one of the Southwest’s most popular amusement parks, with roller coasters such as the 70 mph Iron Rattler, the Goliath and the Road Runner Express. An adjacent waterpark, White Water Bay, features the Bahama Blaster, among the steepest water slides in the world.

 

It should be noted that the region sports numerous opportunities for golf lovers, from public courses to professionally designed private clubs. It also boasts botanical gardens, a historical park, children’s museum and an Imax theater. SMACNA members will find plenty to do.