Tuesday Night Pre-Show
On the evening before the official beginning of the expo, Marvin Joles and the team behind Blacktop Banter hosted and multi-sponsored event at The Public House, within walking distance of where the convention was held. The free event was highly attended by contractors and fans of the popular blacktop-themed podcast.
The mood was energetic as Marvin pulled a raffle giveaway for a sealcoating and equipment package worth an estimated $15,000. One attendee, Marco Menna, co-owner and founder of All Out Parking Lots, said, “This is the future of the industry right here—this group of people.” He gestured around the room. “Connecting with the next generation is the most important thing.”
Wednesday, Show Day 1, Sessions
The education sessions kicked off with a broad array of classes and workshops that varied from the basic, to advanced operations and technologies, or business-related seminars focused on growth and profitability. One in particular, hosted by Pavement Advisory Board member Nick Howell, where he diagnosed and diagrammed common pavement failures with photo examples.
In the standing room only session, well over 150 contractors were shown how to examine sites for clues and evidence to determine, as well as how to treat, the causes of pavement failures as if they were asphalt doctors.
Steve Young, of Young Sealcoating Inc., hosted a three hour workshop on “Becoming a Sealcoating Pro: Sealcoating A to Z,” giving a full class detailed instructions on sealcoating types, application methods, additives, as well as strategies for successful business techniques and sales methodology.
“Be friendly, be engaged and interested, but most importantly, listen to what the customer has to say,” Young said. “Once you’ve done that, you take their needs and offer detailed explanations on how you’re going to achieve it for them. Build the value of your service with each step.”
Wednesday, Pavement Awards Ceremony
The stage was set, as the various awards winners, their teams, and their families gathered at the NPE stage in the center of the auditorium. Jess Lombardo, Amy Schwandt, and myself took turns presenting each winner with their awards and shared the stories behind the awesome jobs the contractor’s were awarded for.
Additionally, Mark McCleod was inducted into the Pavement Hall of Fame, along with Don Etnyre and Etnyre International, who were awarded the Alan Curtis Industry Service Award. Etnyre was also inducted into the hall of fame, and his awards were received on their behalf by Schwandt, and will be delivered to their offices since they weren’t able to attend this year’s show.
All of the award winners, their winning jobs, and their stories will be fully listed in the February 2023 issue of Pavement Maintenance and Reconstruction magazine. Stay tuned.
Thursday, Day 2
After some stellar morning sessions like, “Women in the Workforce,” and “The Impacts of Job Costing,” and many others, the NPE show floor opened to what one attendee describe as an “intimate” environment. There was a fair amount of foot traffic and energy from the attending contractors making their way up and down the show aisles.
One of the most exciting and different products on the floor was a fully electric sweeper, made by the Aebi Schmidt Group. The cabin is deceivingly spacious, despite what it appears like from the outside. It’s a cool design top-to-bottom, but the real factor is the fully-electric operations. It boasts a 10-hour work cycle. The company representatives said the current lead time on new orders is around 12 months.
Though, I can’t write a paragraph for every interesting product I encountered, another standout was the COBRA CURBER by Salsco Inc., which also sported one of the strangely few true-blue paving machines on the expo floor with their Mini-Track Paver (TP44-TD). The COBRA CURBER is a small, manually-directed paving machine that uses a large variety of molds to produce finely shaped asphalt curbs. It’s a small machine with a fairly niche use, but it definitely caught my attention.
Thursday, Industry Parties
As is common with any show of this nature, there are no shortage of parties and evening events hosted by the various sponsors and/or manufacturers. NPE’s official party took place at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and sported a well-lit room filled with refreshments and race cars. It was a nice addendum for expo attendees, and all that was required was your badge to get in.
Another party was simultaneously hosted by SealMaster across town at the Charlotte Beer Garden. Upon entrance to the invitation-only event (shoutout to Ethan and Hector from Royal Pavement who helped me crash it), partygoers were treated to a wall of over 400 different varieties of beer, and a nice spread of food. In the face of all that choice, I went with a Bud Light.
Friday, Day 3
By the third morning, the showroom took on a distinctly “chill” vibe. There were more great educational sessions, like: “Comparing and Contrasting: Hot Pour Crack Sealing with Pour Mastics,” and the “Environmental Benefits of Sweeping,” and the sweeping in general had a strong showing at NPE.
“Whenever you can get people together in person like this, it’s a good thing,” said Nancy Terry, the executive director of NAPSA.
“This is my 30th show,” Said Michael Nawa, who wanted to be described as a veteran of the sweeping industry. “No matter how many years you’ve been in the industry, there’s always something to learn.”
As things wound down and exhibitors began to slowly deconstruct their booth displays, things came full circle. The Blacktop Banter podcast recorded a live podcast from the Pavement Awards stage with Jacob Buck, the vice president of Buck Brothers Asphalt Paving & Concrete, and regular host Marvin Joles.
“Venues change, vendors change,” said Joles. “The thing that is always constant is the relationships and friendships built within the community that bring everyone back together year after year.”