With the holidays behind us and the 2010 season not all that far around the corner, the upcoming National Pavement Expo , Jan. 20-23 in Nashville, provides an opportunity for paving and pavement maintenance contractors to get a jump on their competition by attending NPE's educational sessions and by visiting the exhibit floor to learn about new materials and kick the tires of equipment. I'm not going to use this space to pitch NPE to anyone -- it's the industry trade show and if you're involved in the industry it's a show you need to attend -- but what I will do over the next few weeks is alert Roundabout readers to some of the speakers and/or educational sessions they might otherwise overlook. Let's start with Tom Skinner, former dean of the renowned Road Institute at Blaw-Knox/Ingersoll-Rand before it all became Volvo. Tom now teaches independently and he's one of those speakers NPE is fortunate to have on its agenda. Like John Ball and Jim Scherocman, Tom has been around and I just can't emphasize enough the value he adds to both the NPE program and potentially your paving business. This year Tom kicks off NPE on Jan. 20 with "Make Big Paving Profits on Small Paving Jobs" and "Taking Full Advantage of Your Free-floating Screed." The "paving profits" session was created specifically for the NPE paving audience who work in small, tight spaces when paving driveways and parking lots. Tom will show you how to become more efficient, how to control your costs (specifically your labor costs), how to plan the work effectively -- and all while producing quality work. Later the same day Tom will discuss how contractors can take more advantage of their "free-floating screed." While this session is something NPE hasn't tried before -- covering a specific aspect of a specific piece of equipment -- paving contractors and consultants tell us that most contractors get only a fraction of the benefit they could from their free-floating screed. Apparently having a free-floating screed on your paver is one thing; using it effectively takes some know-how -- and that's what Tom will provide. Check him out.