Next year’s meeting in Washington promises “something completely different.”

A large and enthusiastic crowd attended a breakfast program sponsored by the ASA Industrial Piping Division. They heard Dr. Jeff Dietrich from the Institute for Trend Research discuss the troubled U.S. and global economies.

Trade associations have so much going on it’s risky to shine a spotlight on any single thing. But I’ll walk on that wild side by saying potentially the most significant development at the 39th Annual Convention of the American Supply Association was a sneak peek at “Fast Track,” a new educational tool set for debut in January 2009.

“Fast Track” was developed by the ASA Education Foundation to teach employees how products are used in their applications. The first module presents a 3-D schematic showing how products are used in a typical single-family home. By clicking on various rooms in the house, students will be able to examine how products are installed, what they’re used for and how they work with other components of an overall system. Additional modules to come will cover commercial and industrial applications.

Besides a training tool, Fast Track is envisioned as a sales aid to help salespeople explain to customers how products and systems operate. It will be especially helpful in overcoming language barriers.

Keynote speaker for the convention was Ken Schmidt, former communications director of and author of a book on Harley-Davidson.

Besides Fast Track, here are some other highlights coming out of ASA’s 39th annual meeting.

  • The Education Foundation also developed another online program, the “Essentials Sampler,” as a 15-minute synopsis of some of the critical lessons in its popular “Essentials” courses. It can be accessed 24/7 through the ASA Web site.

  • After recruiting 38 new members, 2008 marked the first time in memory ASA realized a net gain in membership.

  • Winner of the first IPD Award of Excellence was Tim Arenberg (second from left) of Chicago's Columbia Pipe & Supply. He is flanked on the left by incoming IPD Chairman Pat Adams, and on the right by Incoming Vice Chairman Guy Mersereau (presenting the award) and current Chairman Dennis Niver.

  • ASA’s Government Affairs Program has been reinvigorated with an emphasis on proactive vs. reactive lobbying. That is, ASA directed its efforts into anticipating future legislative and regulatory developments that impact the industry and members. A Legislative Fly-in last spring in conjunction with HARDI, PHCC and ACCA enabled ASA representatives to meet with 32 U.S. House and Senate members to present ASA’s position on nearly a dozen issues. They also met with officials from the EPA, DOL and OSHA. Growing out of these connections, EPA Chief Administrator Dr. Stephen Johnson was a guest speaker at one of this year’s breakfast sessions. (See following story.)

  • ASA lent its support to “Homes for Our Troops,” a charitable organization with a mission of building specially adapted homes for severely wounded veterans. Homes for Our Troops seeks donations of money, labor and materials to build these homes, and ASA will act as a conduit putting the organization in touch with people able to help with this worthy cause.

  • Sales motivation speaker/author Jeffrey Gitomer conducted one of the best attended and popular educational programs at the convention.

    A New Beginning

    ASA’s 2009 Convention, slated for Oct. 14-17 in Washington, D.C., will be the first in quite a few years not held in partnership with PHCC-NA. Organizers are billing the gathering as “NetworkASA” and will introduce what they call the “Industry Interchange” as an alternative to the traditional trade show or conference booth program.

    Details are still being ironed out, butSupply House Timeshas learned that an effort is underway to capitalize on the venue in our nation’s capital by tying the event to some concerted government action activities. An ASA officer told me they are counting on “something completely different,” and they would welcome suggestions from the membership about ways to make next year’s event most meaningful.

    PHC employment specialist Mike Mayberry taught ASA members some valuable tricks in a program titled "How to Find and Hire Good People."

    ASA's 2009 Officers

    Chairman- Jeff New(Mid-City Supply, Elkhart, IN)

    President- Joe Poehling (First Supply LLC, Madison, WI)

    President-elect- Frank Nisonger(Slakey Brothers, Sacramento, CA)

    Vice Presidents- Robert Christiansen (Chris-More, Memphis, TN) ; Frank Finkel (Davis & Warshow, Maspeth, NY) ; Richard Schwartz (WinWholesale, Dayton, OH) ; Robert Vick (Legend Valve, Birmingham, AL) ; Scott Weaver (APR Supply, Lebanon, PA) ; Mark Whittington (Elkay Manufacturing, Oak Brook, IL)

    Treasurer- William Kenny (Kenny Pipe & Supply, Nashville, TN) .

    Secretary- Michael Adelizzi (American Supply Association, Chicago, IL) .