From slight-of-hand magic tricks to technologically advanced miracles, attendees of the 2017 annual Mechanical Service Contractors of America (MSCA) Connect conference were introduced to this year’s theme of “The Possible” on a number of different levels.

The four-day event consisted of keynote presentations, educational workshops, peer group forums, and numerous other activities ranging from packaging more than 60,000 meals for Convoy of Hope to rockin’ out at Party Possible.  


“The opening was the bomb,” said Dalton Wright, W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractors Inc., Jacksonville, Florida. “It was absolutely remarkable.”

Vinh Giang, entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and magician, used personal stories, human psychology, and the art of illusion to kick off the conference, proving to audience members they can turn the impossible into the possible.

“Magic is just a problem you can’t solve,” he said.

To prove his point, Giang called an unsuspecting “volunteer” on stage to play a game of “Where did the tissue go?” Giang crumpled up a tissue in front of her and asked, “Which hand is it in?” She couldn’t solve the problem even though everyone else in the room could. From her perspective, she simply couldn’t see that he was throwing the tissue behind her rather than placing it in his hand.

“What I’ve realized as an entrepreneur, a human being, and an individual is that every single time  there was a problem I could not solve, the reason I could not solve this problem was not because there was no solution but rather because I fell victim to silo mentality,” said Giang. “I started to believe that the only reality that existed was the one that I see.

“But, perspective is power,” he added. “And we are better together.”

Giang encouraged attendees to surround themselves with people who align with their beliefs and lifestyles, to be open to new perspectives, and to work strategically toward achieving their goals. He quoted Jim Rohn when he said, “You are the average of the top five people you spend the most time with.”

His message really hit home, according to Wright.

“I always heard birds of a feather flock together, but he really put it into perspective,” he said. “He had so much insight to offer; I had to write it down because I’m going to take it back home and use it.”

While Giang was a hard act to follow, Mick Ebeling, American film, television, and commercial executive producer; author; entrepreneur; and philanthropist, took the stage on day two, demonstrating how technology can be used for humanity.

Ebeling is a Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year Award recipient and listed as one of the most influential creative people by The Creativity 50’s. His award-winning ocular tracking device, the EyeWriter, enables individuals with paralysis to communicate and create art using only the movement of their eyes. He invented this device because he had to — he promised it to someone before it even existed, before he even knew if it was possible.

“What I learned that day is that from a human standpoint, when you see something that’s wrong, you commit, and then you figure out how you’re actually going to pull it off,” he said. “I can’t tell you what a powerful way that is to operate.”

Ebeling asked the audience to name something that’s possible today that wasn’t impossible before.

“Good answer,” was Ebeling’s reply to audience’s silence. “Everything that surrounds us, at one point, was impossible until it became possible. Impossible is a temporary state of being. It’s just impossible for right now; it’s not impossible forever.”

The conference closed with a presentation by John Ratzenberger, multi-Emmy-nominated actor, screenwriter, director, producer, and author. He is a man who needs no introduction because everybody knows his name from his role as Cliff Clavin on the hit show “Cheers.” But what a lot of people don’t know is that Ratzenberger was a carpenter long before he became a mail carrying know-it-all. He has built an entire house and everything in it with nothing but his hands, tools, and skills.

He’s an advocate for the trades and has worked tirelessly for the past 20 years to support the skilled workers who he believes are the foundation of our economy. Ratzenberger was recently appointed to the Presidential Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion, and he spoke to the MSCA conference attendees about his passion for “Making America Skilled Again.”

Ratzenberger described his childhood as a time when people didn’t call repairmen.

“Everybody had a skill, and that’s the world that I understood,” he said. “We never had the repairman come to the house — there was never a truck pulling up — because if you didn’t know how to do it and your father or uncle didn’t know how to do it, then the guy down the street knew how to do it. Whatever it was, somebody knew how to do it.”

He touched on several topics facing the industry, especially the labor shortage. But, he did so in such a way that all of his stories reinforced the idea that in life, and in the HVAC industry, the possibilities are endless.

His passion for the trades that was ignited when he was just a small boy never fizzled out. In the face of the skilled labor shortage, Ratzenberger is delivering funds through the Foundation for America, a nonprofit whose mission is to beat the drum of skilled trades and their decline, to re-ignite individuals’ passion for blue collar work, and boost U.S. manufacturing.

“Everyone should have a skill,” he said. “Manufacturing and the use of tools is the backbone of America.”


An emotional Chris Carter, vice president of service at Murphy Co., St. Louis, and chairman of the MSCA board of managers, joined Ebeling on stage at the end of his presentation to announce Stuart “Skip” Smith, service technician, Enginuity, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, as the fourth annual Everyday Hero Award winner.

“The award was created to recognize an employee from one of our member companies who, in his or her own extraordinary way, quietly gives their time and skills to benefit others,” said Carter.

Smith was nominated by his employer on behalf of his strong work ethic, the positive attitude he exemplifies despite any obstacles life throws his way, and because he is an admirable foster parent.

Smith serves as an active role model to the four children he and his wife have adopted in addition to the two foster children they are in the process of adopting. All the children have special needs and come from abusive or troubled backgrounds.

Smith and his wife humbly accepted the award and a $5,000 check from MSCA.

“We have made the impossible possible,” Smith said. “I can’t have children,” he said as he glanced over at his wife.

“We have children,” he continued. “If anybody cannot have children, there are other ways. You can adopt, you can foster. Kids need it — they really do.”


In addition to the impressive lineup of keynote speakers, MSCA Connect 2017 had a lot more to offer.

Educational workshops administered by industry and business professionals were offered daily and included topics, such as Labor — Management Partnership: A Game Changer for Market Share, Achieve Financial Stability — Leveraging Planned Maintenance Agreements, Culture of Innovation, Built for Growth — The Value-based Company, Trends and Forecast for Mechanical Service Industry, Make Time Work for You — Control Your Workday Clock, Bringing the Possible to Life: Influencing Decisions Across Your Business, and Hug Your Haters.

Afternoons were reserved for peer group forums that ranged from Conversations with First Timers to Using Social Media for Marketing Impact to Driving Costs Down and Profits Up. It was clear that one of the major concerns in the industry is the lack of skilled labor available as the Recruiting and Training for a New Generation of Technicians forum had over 60 participants, leaving standing room only.

And between the sun run, morning yoga, chartered fishing expedition, catamaran cruise, MSCA/Dewalt golf tournament, and the everglades airboat tour, there was plenty of time left over for attendees to enjoy the beautiful city of Boca Raton, Florida.

“Come out here even if you’re a rookie and don’t know anything,” said Shawn Sylvia, account manager, W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractors Inc., Jacksonville, Florida. “This is an experience — there’s no reason not to come.”


During the closing ceremony, Carter spent his last few moments on stage as MSCA chairman in an interesting way. In what seemed like a typical fashion, Carter announced Jaimi Lomas, vice president of service at A. O. Reed & Co. in San Diego, as the first woman chairman of the MSCA board. Lomas presented Carter with a certificate of appreciation and invited the Milwaukee TOOL Shed Band on stage. The band, which consists of Milwaukee Tool Corp. employees and their spouses, sang Carter a fond farewell, and Lomas presented him with a guitar as a token of appreciation from all MSCA members before he walked off stage with what looked like tears in his eyes.

Kip Bagley, vice president of service at EMCOR Services, Mesa Energy Systems, Irvine, California, will serve as vice chairman; Steve Smith, senior vice president of ACCO Engineered Systems Inc., Glendale, California, will serve as treasurer; and Carter will now serve as past chairman.

As a female in a male dominated industry, Lomas is focused on building an inclusive and diverse organization that reflects the community and allows individuals to contribute and reach their full potential.

Publication date: 12/4/2017

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