NATM Convention heads back to Charleston, South Carolina, after three years west of the Mississippi

WHEN the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM) last took its convention and trade show to Charleston, South Carolina, the economy had tanked and spirits were not high.

Now, after visiting Reno, Albuquerque, and Fort Worth, the convention is returning to Charleston from February 20-22 at the Charleston Area Convention Center.

After courting the western trailer manufacturers, NATM hopes to gain an audience with more eastern manufacturers during this 25th annual convention.

“Last year, we had more trailer manufacturers than we've ever had, so we hope to maintain that and add traffic we get on the East Coast that we don't get on the West Coast,” says Pam O'Toole Trusdale, NATM's executive director. “We sent out postcards to every trailer manufacturer within a 500-mile radius of Charleston. We hope we get some good on-site registration. That gives us new manufacturers attending the convention, and it gives our vendors potential new customers — and they are potential new members for us if we can attract some people for the trade show and workshops that aren't members and don't usually attend. Hopefully, we're getting that uptick in attendance when we go to the East Coast.”

If nothing else, they will have happy golfers.

The golf tournament is returning after being eliminated from the program due to concerns about inclement weather.

It will be held February 19 at the Charleston National Golf Club, with a shotgun start at noon featuring a four-person scramble with teams consisting of both manufacturers and suppliers, and cash prizes awarded to first, second, and third place, closest to the pin, longest putt and longest drive.

Rated by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine as the best non-resort course in the Charleston area, Charleston National is a Rees Jones design in suburban Mt Pleasant. The course is carved along the intracoastal waterway, through natural wetlands and lagoons and through a pine- and oak-tree forest.

Charleston National was originally designed to be an exclusive private country club in the manner of Augusta National. It is a par-72 course that stretches just over 7100 yards from the tips. The finishing holes, set along acres of golden marshland, are among the most distinctive in the region.

The cost is $150 per attendee and includes green fees, lunch, and drinks. Club rental is $35 per set and is available through Charleston National. Cash prizes and lunch will be sponsored by KampCo Steel Products.

For those who pass on golf, the convention starts Wednesday, February 20, with the Board of Directors meeting from 8-10 am.

The convention features another round of the educational workshops that are one of the most popular events at the convention.

The schedule:

  • “Compliance,” Wednesday, February 20, 10-11:30 am and Friday, February 22, 1:30-3 pm. Presenters: Allison Malmstrom, Clint Lancaster, Peter Zongora.

    Zongora is a mechanical engineering technologist who has been employed with the federal government for more than 25 years, starting in the vehicle emission test labs before ending up as a regulation enforcement officer with the Road Safety Directorate of Transport Canada. Throughout his career at Transport Canada, he has used his experience to resolve various issues that the industry was experiencing with the regulatory requirements in a manner that met the needs of the industry and government. Examples include the development of the generic air brake testing and rear-impact guard program for heavy-duty trailers, encouraging truck manufacturers to take a more active role assisting final-stage manufacturers with their certification responsibilities — especially in the area of the addition of lift axles to increase load-carrying capacity — and developing systems to cope with the recent onslaught of motorcycle and scooters imported into Canada from Asia. Last year, Zongora spoke to the convention about the pre-clearance system as it applies to manufacturers and importers of trailers and RVs. A year has gone by since the program was started, and Zongora will provide an update on the progress and speak about the future plans for the project.

    Lancaster has been with NATM since August 2006 and is the director of technical services. He oversees all association technical-related activities and committees and answers NATM members' technical questions. He serves as the technical liaison to the government affairs committee, keeping current on new laws and regulations affecting the trailer industry. Lancaster is leading the development of an industry standard to establish performance criteria and testing procedures for trailer brakes. He also is the chairman of the SAE Trailer Committee's task force, which is updating the J684 standard for couplings, hitches, and safety chains.

    Malmstrom is the NATM's member services director and has been with the association for over 10 years. She oversees the association's member programs, including managing the annual convention and trade show and coordinating government affairs activities. She is also the assistant treasurer for the NATM Political Action Committee (PAC).

  • “Trailer Wheels and Tires: The Platform for Your Products,” Wednesday, February 20, 10-11:30 am. Presenters: Joe Ostrowski, John Cook.

    Ostrowski is the sales manager for Americana Tire & Wheel, a division of Kenda Corp. He has more than 25 years of tire sales experience providing products to the trailer industry.

    Cook is the general manager of Dexstar Wheel, a division of Kenda Corp. He also has more than 25 years of experience in the trailer wheel industry and is responsible for the engineering and construction of domestically produced wheels for the trailer industry.

    The purpose of the workshop is to make attendees more aware of the significance of wheels and tires and the part they play in the trailer industry — how ST tires are constructed, how trailer wheels are constructed, the significance of DOT information stamped on the side of every tire, how that information is obtained, what contributes to the good or bad performance of the tire in field, what the trailer manufacturer can do to insure that his dealers and, in turn, end users are informed of what to expect regarding tire and wheel performance, proper tire choice (bias or radial), and normal quality issues presented by end users.

  • “Maximize Outputs,” Wednesday, February 20, 10-11:30 am. Presenter: Dave Vedera.

    There's only one way to achieve high productivity over the long term: make it about results. At the individual level, this means that every worker must always have clear expectations, control of their necessary resources, and immediate constructive feedback.

  • “How to Sell NATM to Your Insurance Company,” Wednesday, February 20, 1:30-3 pm, and Thursday, February 21, 10-11:30 am. Presenter: John Kerr.

    Kerr, CIC, Certified Insurance Counselor, has worked in and around the insurance industry for the last 15 years. As a legislative advisor, Kerr spent his early years working with the United States Congress to enact pro-business insurance reforms into law. Kerr left Washington in 2000 and in early 2001, began building his career in insurance. Over the last 11 years, Kerr has focused his insurance efforts as an advisor to manufacturers throughout the country. He is a certified insurance counselor with Haake Companies, A March & McLennan Agency, and continues his practice as a leader in the manufacturing industry.

    Kerr will address the fact that a membership in NATM immediately distinguishes a business from other trailer manufacturers and signifies to an education underwriter that it is a “Best of Class” risk. The workshop focuses on how NATM members can take advantage of their NATM membership to reduce their insurance rates and improve coverage.

  • “Social Media 101: The Basics of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Wordpress,” Wednesday, February 20, 1:30-3 pm. Presenter: Beth Ziesenis, Your Nerdy Best Friend.

    Ziesenis keeps up with all the new online applications and downloads that can help you look like you're working with a team of marketing, computer, and productivity experts, even if you suffer from a shrinking staff and a disappearing budget. She loves to share her tools online via the blog and in person at presentations. Ziesenis is an author and speaker technology consultant. Since her first Commodore 64 computer, Ziesenis has been fascinated with technology and computer shortcuts that make people's lives easier. From her home base in San Diego, she helps computer users all over the country filter through thousands of apps, gadgets, widgets, and doodads to find the perfect free and bargain technology tools for business and personal use through presentations and her book, Upgrade to Free: The Best Free and Low-Cost Online Tools and Apps, available in electronic and print editions on Amazon.com and other online outlets.

    Should you post a tweet or tweet a post? What's the difference between Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook? The session deciphers free and bargain-basement social media tools your business needs to survive in today's technology chaos. She'll provide the basics of four common tools and how they can work to find and keep the clients.

  • “Regulatory Update,” Wednesday, February 20, 1:30-3 pm. Presenter: Darrell Conner, K&L Gates.

    Conner will provide a legislative update and review of 2012 projects and initiatives.

  • “Brake Panel,” Thursday, February 21, 10-11:30 am.

  • “Legendary Customer Service,” Friday, February 22, 1:30-3 pm. Presenter: John Martin.

    Martin has over 40 years in the refinish coatings industry, with experience in paint sales, hands-on technical training, business development, distribution management, curriculum instruction/design, and presentation delivery. He received his BS in Human Resource Management and Masters of Science in Organizational Leadership degrees from Geneva College. In 2012, Martin founded Eagle TD (Training & Development) to fulfill his passion of working with organizations to maximize human performance in the workplace.

    He believes that in today's competitive marketplace, measuring typical customer satisfaction is not enough. Think about it: When was the last time you made a significant buying decision? Were you satisfied? Even if the answer is yes, did this experience translate into making you a loyal customer?

    He provides a highly interactive seminar that challenges you to think about and measure customer satisfaction in a whole new way. Explore what it takes to turn satisfied customers into loyal customers through Legendary Customer Service.

  • “Innovation Engineering Management,” Friday, February 22, 1:30-3 pm. Presenter: Chris Wayne.

    Wayne has 20 years' experience in product and process development in consumer electronics, electronic components, business machines, high-speed manufacturing, and textiles. He is knowledgeable in lean product development, product portfolio management, project management, innovation management, and enterprise development. In addition, he is Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, licensed SC Professional Engineer, and certified PDMA New Product Development Professional.

In a recent survey of over 3000 business owners, more than 80% said they need help with innovation, but fewer than 20% thought they could be successful. US companies are under tremendous global and domestic competition, price erosion, loss of market share, and easy knock-offs. However, there is hope for even the most commoditized companies. Hundreds of small to mid-sized companies across the US have learned how to innovate reliably and profitably while thousands of their competitors have continued to weaken.

Wayne will explain how these proactive companies became innovative, regained their competitive edge, and jump-started their profitability. The answer lies in the way we think as individuals, the way we communicate as teams, the way we manage risk as companies, and the way we create as inventors. By combining the teachings of the world's most influential leaders on innovation, such as Clayton Christensen, Tom Peters, Doug Hall, Edward De Bono, Art VanGundy, and many others, Wayne will provide a nearly foolproof process for rapid and effective innovation.

Find more convention preview information for the 2013 NATM Convention: December 2012 issue

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