Riddle: What can help the St. Louis economy and bring good luck to the division-clinching baseball Cardinals at the same time?

Answer: Nearly 3,300 people attending the 9th annual HVAC Comfortech Seminar & Showcase — that's what!

The event officially opened on Wednesday evening at the Grand Renaissance Hotel, as Emerson Climate Technologies hosted the largest opening party yet seen at a Comfortech. Emerson sponsored NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace posed for pictures and signed autographs most of the night, while racing fans inspected Jamie McMurray's #66 car parked in the ballroom.

The Thursday morning general session really got the party started with a bang. The Service Roundtable's Randy Hilton, and Contracting Business magazine's-editorial advisory staff sent shirts sailing into the audience with Randy's homemade nitrogen-powered launcher. One lucky person who snagged a Comfortech shirt won free airfaire and registration to next year's HVAC Comfortech in Nashville, TN, September 15 - 18, 2005.

One highlight of the morning included a keynote speech by Larry Taylor, AirRite Air Conditioning Company of Fort Worth, TX. Taylor spoke of building bridges for the people who will follow in our path in the HVAC industry. The former national ACCA president, ACCA Spirit of Independence Award winner, and Contracting Business magazine 2004 Residential Contractor of the Year award winner caught everyone's attention as he recounted the work of the visionairies of this industry and called on attendees to make their companies a better place for their employees.

The Thursday morning finale was guest speaker, General Merrill A. "Tony" McPeak. A former Joint Chief of Staff of the U. S. Air Force, McPeak told the captive audience that he wanted not to tell old war stories, but to reminisce about some old experiences that he thought would apply to their HVAC businesses. However, the story of how he matured in the military during the Cold War, to become head of the Air Force, drew smiles, laughter, and some knowing nods of appreciation.

McPeak confessed that since leaving the top post of an $80 billlion concern, he most enjoys working with small companies. "Small also means you can do things to implement change. We can resist, or work with change, exploit it, or make it a friend. That's how I faced change in the Air Force, and it's how you face it every day," says McPeak.

Throughout the four-day event, attendees chose from 32 speakers and topics, ranging from wage and hour issues to air balancing. In addition, the product showcase floor held 225 companies exhibiting the latest products and technologies.

Two special interactive areas, The Wall, an adventure in air balancing sponsored by National Comfort Institute, and Consultant's Corner were especially busy. Hundreds of contractors waited in line to attend these showfloor programs.

The jam-packed days were followed by energy-filled nights. Attendees partiedand explored the interactive City Museum on Thursday evening. Four sponsors, Emerson, Nordyne, Trane, and York hosted special rooms set up with a variety of food and activities. Friday evening was the peak of entertainment at the St. Louis Arch. International Service Leadership (ISL) sponsored the night's festivities as thousands of attendees made their way to the top of the Arch to get a birds-eye view of the surroundings.

Not only were contractors educated and entertained, they were witness to an assortment of other events that have found their way into the hub of activity that surrounds HVAC Comfortech:

  • NATE testing and competition for best technician in the country

  • National Comfort Institute training day

  • York business training day

  • RPA training

  • Nordyne distributor meeting

  • Armstrong and Air Ease meeting

  • Emerson Climate Technologies contractor council meeting

  • UNICO advisory council meeting

  • International Service Leadership (ISL) contractor meeting

  • Women in HVAC conference

  • Zoning Marketing Alliance association meeting

  • St. Louis ACCA golf tournament.

Thanks to all who attended this year, and we look forward to seeing you in Nashville in 2005.