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NECA 2018 EC&M Faces In the Crowd

NECA 2018 Convention Sees Record Turnout Amid Construction Boom

Oct. 5, 2018
Association welcomes President Trump for keynote address.

David Long, president of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), welcomed President Donald J. Trump to the stage at this year’s NECA 2018 Closing General Session in Philadelphia on Oct. 2. Long presented the President with a special hard hat, featuring the Presidential Seal, an American flag, and the NECA convention logo. Prior to putting the hat on, the President joked, “I don’t want to put it on because I’m afraid I’ll mess up my hair.” This, of course, drew widespread laughter from the entire audience.

The President’s 38-minute speech touched on many topics; however, his comments on job growth and vocational training are key issues for NECA and its members. For example, earlier this year, President Trump established the National Council for the American Worker. The Council is charged with developing a national strategy for training and retraining workers needed in high-demand industries. Companies and trade groups were invited to sign a Pledge to America’s Workers — committing to expand programs that educate, train, and reskill American workers from high-school age to near-retirement. NECA was one of those organizations that committed to help create 60,000 new jobs in the next five years.

Trump’s keynote address highlighted a busy 2018 conference for NECA. Several exhibitors and presenters said the 10,000 attendees at the show was a record, and NECA reported that on the first day of the show more than 2,500  electrical apprentices toured the 300 exhibits on the trade show floor.

If the show’s booth exhibits and technical sessions had a prevailing theme, it was about ways for electrical contractors to deal with the shortage of workers, whether by improving hiring, retention and training practices or by using new products and technologies to do more work with fewer people.

NECA’s Techtopia pavilion offered quite a few sessions for attendees who want to learn how to harness digital technologies to operate more efficiently.  In “The Job-Site of the Future is Paperless,” Drew DeWalt of Rhumbix, said the idea behind his business is to get all of the key players on a job-site pulling all digital project documents in the same place, or as he likes to say “working from the same version of the truth.”

Bringing this information together in a web environment saves time and can help subcontractors get paid for their work faster. DeWalt say that’s important because industry data shows 88% of contractors wait more than 30 days for payment and 46% of them have to tap a credit line to float payments.

Cody Nowak of DisruptAED also offered attendees some ideas on using new digital technologies to operate more profitably. He has helped construction tech companies adapt BIM, artificial intelligence, IoT sensors and drones to  their businesses and construction projects. Opportunities for vendors of this equipment are ramping up fast. “It’s the Wild West out there,” he said.

NECA attendees also had the opportunity to learn about the latest technologies and new markets. In just a few short years drones have mature from a gadget-enthusiast toy to a tool for saving money on inspections on job-sites, and several exhibitors and educational sessions offered ideas on how to profitably adapt drones as solutions to job-site challenges.

AR/VR (Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality) was also a hot topic at the show. Attendees could experience AR/VR in the BIM Cave by putting on AR/VR glasses to walk through a three-dimensional mock-up of an electrical system in a hospital room.