Advance promotion for NECA 2012 Las Vegas proclaimed that, “Our schedule is filled to bursting with rewarding activities.” No kidding! And no hyperbole.

There almost is too much packed into the National Electrical Contractors Association’s convention, trade show, and surrounding events for any one person to be able to take it all in. But that person can choose from an amazing menu of educational opportunities-—and opportunities for inspiration, networking and fun—and be rewarded with an experience that coincides wonderfully with his or her interests and needs as a participant in the electrical contracting industry. It’s as if the people who planned the offerings in Las Vegas had that specific individual in mind.

Of course, what the planners actually kept uppermost in their thinking is the nature of the electrical contracting industry itself. The words “diverse,” “varied” and “changing” apply to the markets available to us, the customers we serve and all the different types of work we perform. Services and specialties vary widely among different electrical contracting companies. That’s why NECA’s big annual happening offers so many choices.

NECA has categorized the strategies, best practices and technical updates from the industry’s leading experts into five distinct themes that run from preconvention workshops to the management seminars to the technical workshops on the NECA Show floor: Electrical (on-the-job technology and best practices), Energy Solutions (green electrical construction and alternative-energy opportunities), Line Construction, Management, and Safety. There is plenty to choose from and plenty of ways to crosstrain company personnel. And don’t forget: The NECAShow offers thousands of options from more than 275 of our industry’s leading suppliers.

The NECA Energy Forum is a great opening act for NECA 2012 Las Vegas. In a sense, every electrical contractor is an energy contractor, whether we work on major projects involving alternative-power sources and long-range conservation strategies or solve energy needs one customer at a time by integrating all the systems in their premises to perform and interact optimally and use energy most efficiently. The Energy Forum is for contractors who are interested in growing their businesses by expanding into the energy solutions market and, therefore, need industry-specific information about the market opportunities and business processes related to such topics as building automation and controls, energy efficiency, electric vehicle charging, energy storage, lighting retrofits, smart grid technology, and solar and wind generation.

However, the term “energy solutions contractor” does not conform to any one-size-fits-all definition, and the Energy Forum makes that clear. For example, it includes a session where NECA contractors from across the country discuss the ways their companies implemented business development programs to pursue and get energy solutions work. No two methods are exactly the same. Each strategy reflects the unique strengths and goals of the individual contractor.
This magazine recently commissioned research that further highlights the wide-ranging mix of services electrical contractors offer. I am referring to the 2012 Profile of the Electrical Contractor, published in the July issue and available in full at www.ECmag.com/research.

The Profile shows that 95 percent of survey respondents reported performing traditional power and lighting work in 2011, but electrical/power distribution work accounted for only 39 percent of average revenue. “Electrical/power distribution” has dropped steadily in survey results since 2004 when it was 69 percent of revenue. Obviously, ECs are finding work in other service areas.

Indeed, about 60 percent of the contractor respondents in the Profile worked in power quality, communications systems, connectivity, and/or commercial/industrial/institutional automation and controls in 2011. About 50 percent worked on residential automation, controls and/or varying aspects of green and sustainable building or alternative energy. In all, the Profile lays out 35 distinct types of work electrical contractors perform, and that’s not counting the types of work in the “other” category.

I’ll have more to say about the Profile in subsequent columns. My point is, from one Profile to the next, it is clear that the definition of “electrical contractor” is changing, and the scope of the work performed within our industry is expanding.
That’s why it’s so appropriate and pleasing that NECA 2012 Las Vegas truly offers something for everyone. Every element on the agenda is intended to help participants make change work to the advantage of their companies—changes in the economy, technology, the business environment and customer demands—regardless of what branch of the industry they occupy, and it’s all geared to help participants increase their success.

I applaud everyone who attends. I hope you learn a lot. I hope you have a rewarding experience. I hope to see you there!