PARK CITY, Utah — Tucked away a few miles east of this mountain ski town, most famous for its powder snow, challenging black diamond ski runs, and Sundance Film Festival, is a high-end resort gaining fame among HVAC mechanical contractors and suppliers. The Lodges in Deer Valley is becoming known as the place to be in late September to enhance strategic relationships and get down to business.

The 7th Annual MechanicalXchange Event was held Sept. 25-27 at the Lodges, which operates as a high-end ski resort from the first snowfall of the year until the last swoosh across the mountains. However, by the third week of September each year, the snow bunnies are gone, and the resort is crawling with executives from the top commercial mechanical contracting companies in North America, and the leadership of top manufacturing and service companies.

MechanicalXchange is an exclusive, invitation-only executive summit that has been co-sponsored annually since 2005 by The NEWS and VerticalXchange, a strategic event organizer. The 2011 MechanicalXchange event, which was also co-sponsored by Plumbing & Mechanical magazine, was attended by more than 100 hand-selected people representing 23 mechanical contracting firms and 24 vendors. The purpose of the event is to bring buyers and sellers into a setting designed for strategic business discussions that lead to strengthened relationships and future business opportunities.

Jack Mourterot, director of marketing for LG Electronics, a supplier of variable refrigerant flow products, said, “This is the third year LG has participated, and we are now beginning to really reap the benefits that an event like this provides.”

According to Mourterot, the Xchange (as it is referred to by long-time attendees) is not designed to produce immediate increases in business for a vendor. The purpose is to establish a strategic dialogue that aligns business objectives and helps foster long-term relationships over time. That is not the typical day in the life of a sales organization and a project manager, but the long-term benefits of the Xchange can certainly make their daily interactions more effective.

Jim Paulitzky, senior project manager of Coleman Spohn Corp. of Cleveland, and a repeat participant, described the biggest benefit of attending the Xchange from a contractor’s perspective. “I always prefer working with a local rep, but if my rep is having difficulty in an area it’s nice to know I can make one phone call and get us help immediately. Relationships like this mean a lot. Plus, you never know what new technology you’re going to uncover at this event.”

Kevin Leff, director of purchasing and logistics at McKinstry Co. of Seattle, noted that nearly all of his one-on-one meetings during the two days of meetings provided valuable information for his needs, and he had action plans that he expected to result in expanded business relationships with many of the vendors.

Jim Kamilis, vice president of Engineering Services at Hill Group of Franklin Park, Ill., who was attending for his third consecutive year, said, “One of the successes at the MechanicalXchange is that we’ve been able to bring back new product developments and share them with the rest of our company.”

Vendors are asked to contact the contractors prior to the event in order to narrow the focus of what will be discussed during the private 40-minute sessions. Vendors know that a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach will not work during the MechanicalXchange sessions; each mechanical contracting company has specific needs and each may conduct business quite differently. Among North America’s largest mechanicals, direct factory relationships on certain products are not unusual; yet some always prefer working with local representation for purchases.

Busy Days, Busy Nights

In addition to nearly nonstop executive dialogues for two days, participants of the Xchange had ample networking opportunities. The days started early with a 7 a.m. breakfast, and were broken up with an hour-long lunch. By the end of each day, participants were ready for cocktails and dinners at two premier locations near Park City. The St. Regis Hotel offered breathtaking views of the mountains, and the Empire Lodge served its unique menu high among the ski runs and aspen trees. The Empire Lodge, a favorite of veteran Xchange participants, always begins the evening with huge blocks of raclette cheese melting onto plates near the fireplace. When asked what raclette cheese is, the fireplace chef described it simply: “Cheese from cow’s milk.”

However, people didn’t come to Park City in late September for the great food, and it’s too early to ski the mountains — top executives from vendors and mechanical contractors came to meet each other because, for many, it was the only time they could arrange such an important high-level discussion. Kicking around at a trade show typically doesn’t yield the type of results that MechanicalXchange participants find during their annual trek. And, best of all, participants typically participate in 10 or more strategic one-on-one executive dialogue meetings. That doesn’t happen in a trade show environment.

Some say that if only one good idea is mined from a typical conference, it usually pays for the cost of attendance. The Xchange is not typical, and it’s not for everybody. Those participants who understand the value of nurturing business relationships often walk away with multiple new opportunities for expanded business in the coming years.

There is only one MechanicalXchange forum each year. The next one will be held Sept. 23-26, 2012, in Phoenix, Ariz. For more details, or to determine if your company qualifies, go to, or contact Chad Klein at; or Mike Murphy at

Publication date: 11/21/2011