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 top 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.

Contractor learns a lot, sees a lot in his year as association head

A year as SMACNA president keeps you on the road, right up until the term ends in October.

Just ask Guy Gast, the Iowa division president of Des Moines, Iowa-based Waldinger Corp.

In the final months of his presidential term, he visited Michigan, St. Louis, Chicago and California, among other cities and states.

But the 62-year-old Gast said he enjoyed it.

“I think it’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s been interesting. I met a lot of different people — a lot of new people.”

Members “welcome you with open arms,” and he was glad to get a chance to find out their perspectives on the industry.

“I learn something everywhere I go . . . from a lot of other smart people in the business,” Gast said.

His travels around the country showed that, in some regions, the sheet metal and HVAC industry is very healthy, such as New England. Others, not as much.

“It should not be surprising to people that there are areas of plenty and there are still areas in need,” he said.

The issues that concern members vary as well. Some SMACNA members told Gast they were concerned about government regulations affecting their businesses. Others are worried about finding qualified workers.

“It’s not just necessarily trade craft,” he said. “It’s not just a concern that we can’t find enough sheet metal workers. I think there’s concern that there aren’t enough people to do BIM (building information modeling) work. There aren’t enough highly skilled people to manage projects.”

For Gast, managing his Waldinger duties was usually not too difficult, thanks to the ability to work remotely over the internet.

“In today’s world, you have no excuse to not be connected to your business,” he said. “Technology has made it possible for me to receive everything that I might need. Occasionally, yes, I might prefer to have meetings face-to-face, but you can stay connected. You can conduct business. You can return phone calls to customers.”

Gast is SMACNA’s sixth president from the Hawkeye State.

The city has a rich history as a favorite convention destination of the Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors’ National Association. The group held its 2006 and 2010 annual conventions at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge, which is near the upscale community of Scottsdale, Arizona.

This year’s conference takes place Oct. 16-19. The association has lined up a number of experts on sheet metal products and business issues, and hired the 1970s southern rock band the Doobie Brothers to close the event.

SMACNA’s expanded product show will take place Oct. 18. In addition to plenty of HVAC construction products, organizers have also booked a number of new-technology sessions hosted by representatives from industry manufacturers.

Here are some of the events scheduled. More information, including specific times and the full itinerary, is available at www.smacna.org/annualconvention.

The convention will start Oct. 16 with a 5:30 p.m. appearance by Ryan Hamilton, named a “comic to watch” by Rolling Stone magazine. Hamilton has appeared on Conan O’Brien’s “Conan,” NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” “Comics Unleashed,” and “The Late Late Show.” 


The next day will include an 8 a.m. presentation by Jake Appelman of FMI Corp. During “Leadership and Strategic Thinking,” he will explain how to take the concept to a new level. Attendees will learn practical skills to help them plan for major construction trends.

The same day, Michael McLin, managing director of Maxim Consulting Group, will speak to the HVAC Contractors Forum at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 17. Among the topics he will cover is value-stream mapping.

The Industrial Contractors Forum, “What Could Possibly Go Wrong? An Overview of Industrial Ventilation Design,” will take place at 2 p.m. Monday.

Industrial ventilation experts Gerry Lanham and Dale Price will explain the key design issues that plague unsuccessful installations. You’ll learn how to identify potential problems before they develop, officials said.

Lanham, a licensed professional engineer, has more than 50 years of experience and has taught at several universities.

Price is president of M&P Air Components Inc., and he has taught ventilation classes for more than 20 years.

Building enclosure expert Colin Murphy will discuss the commissioning process and how it relates to overall building performance during “How Building Envelope Commissioning Supports a Functioning Building,” as part of the Architectural Contractors Forum at 2 p.m. 

Products and more

The next day will start early with the annual product show opening with breakfast at 7 a.m. Oct. 18. In recent years, the expanded show has featured technology sessions from manufacturers. Among the companies offering seminars are Carlisle HVAC, which will talk about its Cartridge Killer extrusion gun kit at 8 a.m., and Federated Insurance, which will discuss cybersecurity threats to your business. 

At 9 a.m., Mike Bailey, vice president of sales and new-product development for Mestek Machinery, will talk about HVAC lean construction methods and contract drawings, shop drawings and remote applications during “Solutions from the Office to the Field: Win the Work.”

At 11:15 a.m., Steve Butler of Autodesk Inc. will explore building information modeling during “Enhancement in BIM for Contractors.” The session will explore ductwork fabrication equipment manufacturers and HVAC market contractors that are taking BIM to new levels.

After the product show concludes at 1:30 p.m., business book author Bob Langdon will present “From Hello to Sold” at 2 p.m. He will explain how to boost margins in an industry where competition has never been fiercer.

Another profit-oriented discussion will  also take place at 2 p.m., “Reap the Reward: Federal Laws That Can Boost Your Bottom Line.” Former International Revenue Service Commissioner Mark W. Everson; Ronald J. Eagar, a certified public accountant and chief operating officer at Grassi & Co.; and Reed Showalter, managing director of Alliantgroup, will explain how to apply for the research tax credit, bonus depreciation and other tax credits.

On the last day of the convention, SMACNA will do its best to predict the fall elections with lobbyists Stan Kolbe and Dana Thompson. The two will host “Policy and Politics: The Roller Coaster Ride of 2016” at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 19.

The session will discuss the association’s legislative priorities for 2017 and how its issues fared in 2016.

Also at 1:30 p.m., “Making a Difference: Women in Construction Leadership and Global Development.” Julie Lewis will talk about the need for women in the construction industry and how to succeed in it.

The convention will conclude with an appearance by the Doobie Brothers. Expect the 1970s and early 1980s hit makers to perform songs, such as “Taking it to the Streets,” “Rockin’ Down the Highway,” and “China Grove” after dinner, which starts at 6:45 p.m.