The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), rebounding from a painful decision to cancel its 2005 Convention and Trade Show in New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina, is on track to hold the meeting in Boston next year.
“Everybody has been very understanding,” says Beth Margulies, director of public relations for NECA (www.necanet.org).
NECA has not yet nailed down the exact convention center in which the conference will be held, but it does have the dates solidified. “We will be there Oct. 8, 9 and 10 in 2006,” says Margulies.
The decision to cancel the show in New Orleans was not an easy one. The association represents the $100 billion industry responsible for lighting, power, and communication systems in buildings and communities across the United States. NECA’s national office and 120 local chapters advance the electrical contracting industry through advocacy, education, research, and standards development. NECA celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2001.
The annual show is designed to give attendees valuable insight on a wide array of electrical contracting management issues, and tips on how to stay ahead of technology trends. It enables decision-makers from electrical contractor agencies to come face to face with manufacturers, utilities, consultants, engineers, and distributors across the nation.
NECA made the decision to postpone the show on the evening of August 31, and announced the decision on Sept. 1. The association later decided to cancel the show for this year.
By the time the hurricane struck New Orleans, some exhibitors had already shipped materials to the convention center. Margulies says it is unknown if those exhibitors were able to get back, or will be able to get back, the shipped items. Only exhibitors whose goods were still in transit to New Orlean, were able to definitely get their items back.
“We did everything we could to track down people,” says Margulies.
The decision to cancel was a costly one for NECA. Margulies says the final cost has not yet been tallied. “A whole lot had been invested in that (show),” says Margulies. “A lot of people had made registrations and plans, and their money was used for deposits, speaker fees, reservations, and so on.”
Representatives from NECA have now responded to the roughly 5,000 people who registered for the New Orleans conference. Many have been reimbursed for their advance registrations. “If they made a registration by credit card, they have already been reimbursed,” says Margulies.
In the days following the hurricane, NECA received invitations to hold its conference this fall in several cities. But Margulies says NECA could not possibly find an alternate week that would work out for the majority of attendees.
“People had scheduled that weekend, and any other times they would have been busy,” says Margulies. “Even if we had been able to handle the logistics of the meeting, it would have been very possible that nobody could have been with us.”
Ironically, many contractors who would have attended the New Orleans conference are in New Orleans now. Margulies says New Orleans now desperately needs contractors to restore power and communication systems in storm-damaged buildings.
“A lot of people went to New Orleans anyway because of all the work,” says Margulies. “The line contractors who do high-voltage work went there to help the emergency crews. They may not have been there for the formal convention, but at least our members were there to restore electricity,” she adds. “They were showing people what NECA is all about that way.”