BOCA RATON, FL — Just a few days prior to the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Con-tractors’ National Association’s (SMACNA’s) 2001 convention here, anthrax had taken its deadly toll at the America Media building, located a stone’s throw from the convention site.

This was not necessarily what sheet metal contractors wanted to hear just after a travel experience that included tightened airport security — not that focusing on the economy was the perfect solution, either.

Thank goodness SMACNA opened its general session with syndicated columnist and author Dave Barry. The Miami Herald columnist did not disappoint the more than 900 people who attended the annual convention.

“I want to thank you all for being here,” Barry began. “I want to applaud you for coming. I know a lot of you had to travel, travel by air. It’s a little scary time to be traveling by air. And I admire your courage for doing it.

“I have flown a couple of times recently and I have one question: Why do they go through all of that trouble to keep you from bringing weapons on the plane and still give you a dinner roll you can kill a person with?”

Before leaving the stage, he encouraged attendees to visit Miami.

“Because you have come this far, if you get a chance, come a little bit farther south and visit my city, Miami,” he said. “This is one of the few times in history where Miami is considered a little bit safer than Boca Raton.”

Opening general session guest speaker and humorist Dave Barry had SMACNA attendees laughing. Among other zingers, he warned that drivers from Miami are so aggressive, "they will pass you in a car wash."


The next day’s luncheon speaker, Lou Dobbs, also commended those present for “conducting business as usual.”

“In light of the terrorist acts on Sept. 11, that is precisely what we must do,” said Dobbs, who appears nightly as the sole anchor of Cable News Network’s (CNN’s) “Moneyline” program.

“Business as usual does not necessarily mean normalcy,” he cautioned. “Many changes will be coming — and we think for the best. We have never been tested like we’re going to be tested. It’s now a new world.”

Dobbs predicted a crippling recession, unemployment of over 6%, with perhaps “a mid-year recovery in 2002.” He also noted that a 3% growth rate might have to suffice to be considered successful.

“It’s all about confidence,” said Dobbs. “With greater success in the military or in Intelligence, this will indicate what the consumer will do. …Patience is needed.”

Dobbs backed the government’s decision to help bail out the airlines, noting, “We are very fortunate to have George W. Bush in the White House. …They [the administration] are remarkable men doing a remarkable job.”

Outgoing president Phil Meyers (far left) recognized first-place winners of the association's 2001 Safety Statistics Evaluation and Award program. Winners included (from left) Carol Goguen, accepting for University Mechanical, Tempe, AZ; Tom Szymczak of SSM Industries, Pittsburgh, PA; Mary Vaughn of Harpring Inc., Louisville, KY; William Edwards of MESA3, San Jose, CA; and Susan Karr, accepting for Neth and son, Inc. Orlando, FL.


Thomas Mikulina, vice president of industry relations, The Trane Company, Worldwide Applied Systems Group, joined hvac industry consultant Ruth King to give service contractors a glimpse of the future. Mikulina said he expects the first decade of the 21st century to bring about more changes than any other decade, adding that these changes present the greatest opportunities for the service contractor. King focused on the technical developments.

Even residential contractors had their own forum. “Saving Energy and Providing Value in Homes Today” was discussed by John Abbott and Jay Gordon, both from The Trane Company’s Unitary Products Group. (Stories on these forums will be published in a future issue of The News).


Outgoing president Phil Meyers of Bright Sheet Metal (Indianapolis, IN) told the association, “We are stronger, more united than ever before.” He urged members to consider “every piece of sheet metal we bend as an act of defiance” in the face of adversity.

Florida member Scott Kuschel, of Kenco Industrial Equipment, Deerfield Beach, FL, said that as people continue to move to his state, there has remained strong demand for new school construction.

“They are finishing brand new high schools and having to put portable classrooms next to them,” he said. Kuschel said business overall has softened, but he expects it to return.

“At first I thought, ‘first of the year.’ Now I’m thinking first quarter. It’ll happen. It’s just a matter of time.”

Publication date: 11/19/2001