Is there anyone reading this who doesn't rank hiring, retention and training as among the thorniest business issues? Ask the manufacturers who need engineers to help them design products and processes, and intelligent production workers capable of operating computerized machinery. Talk to the distributors who constantly scramble to develop everyone from managerial ranks to reliable warehouse workers. Listen to the engineering firms that increasingly must hunt overseas for people capable of designing and specifying complex plumbing and heating systems.

It's time to put our heads together and examine what's out there in the way of solutions. That's the point of the program being spearheaded by SUPPLY HOUSE TIMES and our associates with the BNP Media Plumbing Group of magazines.

“Innovative Thinking 2006: Hiring-Retention-Training” is a conference taking place June 12-13 at the Emerald Pointe Resort outside of Atlanta. In this conclave you'll find some prominent VIPs from the PHCP distribution industry specifically addressing our industry's hiring-retention-training issues. We're also bringing in some people you probably haven't heard of, but whose insights about the topic are provocative.

For instance, the conference's keynote speaker will be Ricardo González, founder and CEO of Bilingual America, who will also be presenting a seminar on “Success With Hispanics,” an in-depth look at how to understand and work with Hispanic people, the fastest growing minority group in this country and a key component of today's and tomorrow's labor force. I've heard Ricardo speak, and you won't find many people taking bathroom breaks while he's at the mike. His company has worked with prestigious companies such as Masco, Certainteed, Georgia Pacific and many other prestigious organizations. What he has to say about this subject will knock many of you for a loop.

Besides Hispanics, there's another segment of society that the industry has largely slammed the door on. And they constitute around half the population. “Old Dogs vs. New Chicks” is the title of a no-holds barred panel session featuring successful women from various segments of the industry. Modern Supply and former ASA President Dottie Ramsey will be one of the participants, as will Ila Lewis, Chairman of Gerber Plumbing Fixtures Corp., current PHCC President Jo Rae Wagner, Uponor Senior Marketing Manager Ingrid Mattsson and service technician Jennifer Courchaine. They will talk about the barriers they had to overcome, how to get rid of them and how to make our industry a more attractive career option to millions of individuals who now turn a cold shoulder to it.

Of particular interest to PHCP distributors will be a session conducted by Dr. Leslie Pagliari, program coordinator of the Distribution and Logistics Program at East Carolina University and Castle Supply's Megan White, who will share secrets about recruiting and training top-notch young managerial talent for the industry.

Another program you don't want to miss comes from human resources consultant Jesse Elliott, who will talk about the “Cost of Turnover.” Elliot will examine how to identify your key people, why they choose to leave and what employers can do to change it. Elliott has spent more than 30 years dealing with human resource issues as a manager and consultant. Trust me on this one. He is a personal friend of mine with a sterling reputation in the human resources field. He speaks with considerable expertise about addressing people problems in organizations large and small.

The conference will also take a close-up look at the industry's best product training tools - the American Supply Association's “Product Pro” self-study series, and SUPPLY HOUSE TIMES magazine's College of Product Knowledge. There also will be programs addressing the problem of hiring, keeping and training service technicians.

All of it will take place in a relaxed, luxurious setting with plenty of opportunity for mingling and networking. Emerald Pointe Resort & Conference Center features 216 rooms and suites and an 18-hole golf course. Guests have unlimited access to a 24-hour fitness center, jogging trails and heated swimming pool. Private massage and spa treatments are available by appointment. The resort is located on Lake Lanier Islands, about a half-hour drive from Atlanta.

Manufacturers, reps, wholesalers, contractors and engineering firms alike can benefit from attending this first of its kind event in June. For more information or to register call 1-888-530-6714 or visit