As I am writing this aboard a Southwest Airlines plane, I am concluding a 10th week in a row where I have traveled to at least one industry event.

My travels have covered who-knows how many miles now. I do know I’ve been in all the time zones, dealt with at least four cancelled Southwest flights, saw a cat walk down the aisle on one of the planes that wasn’t cancelled (ask me about that some time) and got to experience snow in Denver in May — following snow in Las Vegas in February.

Travel sure ain’t glamorous.

But you know what? This industry sure is. Anybody that walks around saying otherwise probably needs a talking to. During these recent travels I’ve learned quite a bit.

The independent distributor is alive and well. Want evidence of that? In May, Robertson Heating Supply held its 85th anniversary celebration in its headquarters city of Alliance, Ohio. If you’ve never seen Robertson’s headquarters campus in Alliance, you are missing out on a treat. It’s one of the best I’ve seen in the business and demonstrates this PHCP distributor means business. I’ll have more on Robertson and 85 in an upcoming issue.

Also alive and well are the independent manufacturers representatives. I visited three reps in about a six-week stretch, including Kent, Washington-based Hollabaugh Brothers & Associates, the 2019 Supply House Times rep of the year. Check out my story on Page 26 to see how HBA is absolutely killing it while covering one of the largest territories in the country.

I’d also like to call to your attention a special roundtable interview I did with four reps last fall in Napa, California, during the AIM/R conference. If you haven’t read it, head over to and key in “Reps speak out” on the search bar to see some candid comments from reps about the current state of their industry. I’ll be doing another one of these during this year’s AIM/R shindig in Orlando, Florida.

The American Supply Association is firing on all cylinders when it comes to its Women in Industry and Emerging Leaders divisions. This year’s Women in Industry event in San Diego had more than 200 attendees with 91 of them (91!) being first-timers to the event. If you are a company that is an ASA member and have not sent someone or multiple someones to this event, what are you waiting for? It also was cool to see NIBCO’s Ashley Martin win the group’s first woman of the year award, named after Martin’s late mother, Alice.

Coverage of the Women in Industry event can be found on Page 36, and board members Christen Allen (Elkay) and Mary Burke (Burke Agency) wrote a neat column on travel safety on Page 113.

The Emerging Leaders showcase in Denver once again combined a ton of networking and educational opportunities. This event has the yearly unique component of attendees being able to go on a tour of the host manufacturer’s headquarters or manufacturing plant (as long as they are not with a competing company). This time, we were able to see Viega’s brand-new headquarters and world-class training facility in Broomfield, Colorado.

You know what else stands out to me during my recent travels? The fact there is plenty of American manufacturing going on in our industry. During a recent one-day stretch, I visited three PHCP-PVF manufacturers that all had manufacturing facilities. American-based manufacturing is a big deal and our industry is filled with company’s doing just that. Next time you are in a U.S. factory, shake a manufacturing employee’s hand and thank them for what they do. You’ll see more examples of Made in the USA manufacturing in upcoming issues.

So while the travel has presented its challenges over the last few months, I come off the road (for about 10 days), with an even greater appreciation of what our industry and the people who work in it is all about.