Like a gambler who just wants one more roll of the dice, you can’t keep SMACNA away from Las Vegas.

The desert gaming oasis has been the site of many Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors’ National Association events, including several annual conventions and Partners in Progress meetings with the Sheet Metal Workers union.

SMACNA is returning to Las Vegas Oct. 14-17 for its annual convention. And after holding the last few of its Vegas conventions at Caesars Palace, the association is moving a little south on the Las Vegas Strip to the equally opulent Bellagio casino resort.

The group has scheduled many educational sessions on topics such as safety, selling and new technology. It has also slated a product show for Oct. 16, which will again feature a special section on the newest software and other technology products for sheet metal contractors.

But SMACNA also knows that its members don’t like to travel all the way to Las Vegas and not have some fun, so its schedule includes time for golf and entertainment as well as a little gambling, if members so desire.

Among the highlights are humorist Dave Barry, who will open the convention, and 1970s hit makers K.C. & the Sunshine Band, who will close the event when they perform Oct. 17.

Busy schedule

Here is a list of some of the sessions and seminars scheduled. For the full agenda, go to

The conference will officially start with humorist Barry, making his first SMACNA appearance since 2001, at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 14 as the opening session speaker. A former newspaper columnist, Barry won a Pulitzer Prize for his commentary in 1988 — and many people are still trying to figure out why, he says.

For decades, Barry has been one of the nation’s most popular humor writers. For over 20 years, his syndicated newspaper column, written for the Miami Herald, attracted millions of readers. Even now, his collection of previously published columns remains a popular section on the newspaper’s website. 

On a more serious note, SMACNA contractors can hear what lies ahead for energy-efficient buildings from an energy expert at the HVAC Contractors Forum session, “The Drive Toward Energy Efficient Building” at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 15.

Federal buildings use about 56 percent of the federal government’s total energy consumption, according to Kevin Kampschroer, director of the U. S. General Services Administration’s Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings. In his session he will discuss how his office is coordinating federal efforts in building sustainability and what this means for contractors.


The future is not easy to predict, but John “Jay” Bowman, senior consultant at FMI, will give it a try during “HVAC Industry Futures Update,” based on a SMACNA-affiliated New Horizons Foundation study at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 15. The effects of economics, politics, regulations, labor, competition and technology will be explored.

The session will repeat at 1:45 p.m. the same day.

Creating the right compensation plan can be a powerful weapon in the war for attracting and retaining future talent, experts say.

Sal DiFonzo, the managing director of FMI’s compensation division, will explain “Contractor Compensation and Rewards Overview,” at 10:15 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. Oct. 15. DiFonzo says designing the perfect plan alone won’t guarantee success. He’ll explain what works best during his talk.

During “Strategic Thinking for Contractors” at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 15, construction industry expert Ted Garrison will offer a preview of a New Horizons Foundation project and will share how strategic thinking should be an integral component of contractor planning.

If you are bidding everything in sight with little success, struggling to keep profit margins up, and frustrated that you are forced to bid work with past clients, then this program is for you, Garrison says. It repeats at 1:45 p.m.

The doctor is in

For this year’s Oct. 16 spouse lunch, SMACNA has booked health and lifestyle reporter Dr. Christine Dumas. The former national spokesperson for Kellogg’s Healthy Beginnings campaign currently serves as a senior adviser to the Center for Health Transformation in Washington, D.C. She will discuss her tips for living a better life.

The presidential election will only be a few weeks away by the time SMACNA holds its annual meeting. During “Balance of Power: The Issues and the Candidates in the 2012 Elections” at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 17, Stan Kolbe, SMACNA legislation director, and Dana Thompson, political affairs director, will brief members on issues and give their opinions on where the nation’s capital is headed.

The conference will close Oct. 17 with a performance by K.C. and the Sunshine Band, the popular 1970s disco group whose hits include “Boogie Shoes” and “Get Down Tonight.”


Well-traveled St. Louis executive to be association president

It can be hard to be in the sheet metal and HVAC business these days and stay upbeat, but Howard Stine manages.

The 68-year-old vice president at Charles E. Jarrell Contracting Co. Inc. exudes a positive attitude, whether talking about his job, family or his upcoming year as SMACNA president.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Stine said of his upcoming year as the association’s unofficial ambassador. “I’ll get to see a lot of people that I have used as my local contacts and local contractors.”

As SMACNA president, Stine will represent the contractor group at sheet metal shops and industry functions across the United States and into Canada.

Travel is something Stine said he is used to. He grew up as the child of a career military officer. His father was a World War II Air Force pilot who was a prisoner of war in France. He lived in six different states and in Germany between 1951 and 1954, and served in the U.S. Army as an intelligence officer in the late 1960s.

During his term as president, Stine said he plans to continue the work of recent SMACNA presidents in getting out the association’s message and working effectively with the Sheet Metal Workers union.

“This is the toughest of times for both entities,” he said. “And these difficult times is going to demand a little more integrated working relationship, a lot more flexibility and a better understanding of each other’s goals.” 

Stine has had a 40-year career in the sheet metal industry, 20 of them at Jarrell, which is based in the St. Louis area. Graduating from the University of Missouri-Rolla with a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics, he went on to earn a master’s in engineering management, and eventually a management engineering professional degree.

But sheet metal wasn’t necessarily where he thought he was headed.

“After I graduated with my master’s, I had many opportunities to choose different industries,” he said. “Petroleum was big back then. I had a couple of marketing opportunities. But Trane Co. recruited at Rolla for a new program that would be a  marketing-sales position in the sheet metal and HVAC industry.”

He took the job. Stine went to Trane’s LaCrosse, Wis., headquarters for training before returning to the St. Louis area. It was during this time that he met his wife. For several years, he was a manager at Progress Air, a local sheet metal contractor. Then he took a position at System Air, another area contractor where he stayed for the next 20 years. Then he took a position at Jarrell, where he has been ever since.