The first big meeting of any kind held in San Antonio was between the Mexican Army and a group of stubborn Texans in 1836 at a site called the Alamo. Currently, the Alamo is one of the many tourist attractions in the city not far removed from the San Antonio River Walk and several large hotels. One wonders: What would Davy Crockett say about visitors eating Mexican food at the Alamo Café after visiting the site of his death?
NRCA convention attendees first met in San Antonio in 1983. The speaker at the Opening Luncheon was former President Gerald Ford who, to be escorted to the head table, had to walk through the convention center's kitchen. A Secret Service agent confided: "If it were anyone else besides President Ford, we could never allow this. But no one threatens him anymore."
NRCA set a record that year with a 545-booth trade show. The show had seen dramatic growth in recent years with the advent of single-ply roof systems; SPRI celebrated its first anniversary not long before the show started. But the single-ply movement hadn't quite taken over; the exhibit hall also included large displays of asphalt kettles and tankers.
We met again in San Antonio in 1993 when new Occupational Safety and Health Administration fall-protection rules headed the list of educational program topics. Some things never change.
The Secret Service, however, did change. And in 2002when we were in San Antonio againformer President George H.W. Bush was the keynote speaker. This time, the message from the agent in charge was: "At the first sign of anything unusual, we'll have him out of the room before you know what happened." And yes, they conducted background checks on our Executive Committee.
And so we return, 30 years hence, as an industry that has changed radically. We won't have tankers on the show floor, but we will have racking systems for rooftop photovoltaic assemblies. You won't find many felt layers, but you will find software developed from aerial photography that allows for office-based estimating. And that 545-booth show will be approaching 1,000 with all sorts of new products, services and equipment.
Some of the industry's faces will have changed, too. But ours is an industry hungry for knowledgeand camaraderieand there's no better way to begin the new year than by going to NRCA's convention. I look forward to seeing many of you there.
Bill Good is NRCA's executive vice president.