Optimism abounds at EETC conference


EETC HONOREES: Mike Goad, outgoing president of the EETC, far left, and EETC Executive Director Jim Roche, far right, form bookends around this year’s EETC annual award winners. Pictured left to right are as follows: Mike Goad; Allan Spence, Hinds Community College, co-School of the Year; Tom Beheler, Hydro-Gear, Spirit Award; David Smith, Rotary Corporation, Director’s Award; Jim Starmer, Dixie Sales Company, President’s Award; Kerry Malkerson, Marr Brothers, Distributor of the Year; Charles Miller, Greater Altoona Career & Tech Center, co-School of the Year; and Jim Roche. Not pictured are Earl Miner, Oregon Cutting Systems, Manufacturer of the Year, as well as Andy Sadlon, Florida Outdoor Equipment, Service Manager of the Year, both of whom were unable to attend.By Dave Worden

The Equipment and Engine Training Council’s (EETC) 14th annual conference — which was held Wednesday, April 7, to Saturday, April 10, 2010, in Greensboro, N.C. — was filled with optimism even with the economy still shaky for some. Dixie Sales Company served as the conference host, with additional support from John Deere Turf and The Toro Company.

On Thursday, the EETC Executive Committee held a strategic planning meeting and the Certification Committees went right to work on the seven certification tests areas: 2-Stroke, 4-Stroke, Compact Diesel, Driveline, Electrical, Generator, and Reel Technology. Hey, this sounds like (EETC Executive Director) Jim Roche and the 7 Certs! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs parallel, although comparing Jim, who is 6-foot-8, to Snow White may be a stretch — no pun intended!)

On Thursday evening, Dixie Sales hosted a welcome reception and barbecue at its facilities. The time spent looking at the way parts orders are received and handled was enlightening and mind boggling. It is amazing when people who are mechanically inclined and really have a passion for the industry salivate when just looking at parts and how they are sent out. The other area for all is a common bond they share when it comes to taking parts and service calls, and the story that comes with them. No matter what part of the country you are from, you all have the “difficult” customer; however, you still are glad to have them!

On Friday, the Education Committee and the Turf Committee worked on their projects while the Certification Groups continued to review the study guides and tests. The EETC Board of Directors met as well and reviewed several areas. The good news from the certification side was that more than 1,500 tests were administered last year and that says a lot about their value and the industry’s commitment to provide quality technicians.

The board was also pleased to announce that Ed Cole of the Toro Company has joined the Executive Board and Pete Fernald of Maruyama U.S. Inc., Kerry Malkerson of Marr Brothers, and Trence McCoy of Louisiana Technical College-Shreveport, were added to the general board.

Another item of business, which began with this year’s conference and seemed to work well, was having a primary conference host and location and then other member companies share the costs so that no one company bears the burden and expenses. As Mike Goad, outgoing EETC president and service manager for Dixie Sales Company, stated, “It shows fiscal responsibility and cooperation within the industry and all members — large and small alike — can take part.” The EETC’s 15th annual conference will be held in Milwaukee, Wis., April 6-9, 2011, with Briggs & Stratton serving as the primary host and its training facility being the host site. The EETC board agreed to survey its members for future locations and to continue to hold seminars that are pertinent to what the dealer and educational members need to stay on top of the ever-changing landscape of the power equipment industry.

On Friday evening, Hydro-Gear sponsored an EETC outing to a minor-league baseball game of the Greensboro Grasshoppers (the Single-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins). It just so happened to be opening day for the Grasshoppers and those who went were treated to a good game and a very impressive fireworks display.

Saturday started out with the general session, with Jim Roche reconfirming the programs and where the association was heading. There was also a bit of sad news with the announcement that one of the EETC’s founding members and strongest supporters, Tom Kane, had passed away in January. John Chocholak gave a very endearing and brief memorial, and he closed by saying that Tom will be missed. Mike Goad followed with an overview of the Strategic Planning Committee, noting that the EETC has more than 80 accredited schools and more than 200 additional schools had taken or purchased the EETC’s accreditation manual. That speaks volumes to the industry, that schools see the value in getting certified techs in the field and that the work that the association has done is meaningful and an important link to that education. Jim Roche again provided a brief update. Yours truly, Dave Worden, then gave a brief presentation regarding some Workforce Ready Assessments that I have worked on as program director for SkillsUSA, giving SkillsUSA and the EETC another tool that dealers and educators might be able to add to their portfolios. Anyone interested in more information may log on to www.workforcereadysystem.org.

The keynote speaker was Jim Starmer, executive vice president of the host Dixie Sales Company. He gave a very strong and thought-provoking view on the industry and the EETC’s importance to the industry. Jim was one of the founding members of the EETC in 1996, and he is still an advocate of the association. He spoke about how the manufacturers at the educational level share a common goal and a vital need to have qualified and responsible technicians providing the service necessary when a customer comes across an issue. Working as a group, we can do so much more than working as individuals, he emphasized. When you see Jim, ask him to share his story about the United States and China and a rowing competition; it will underscore the importance of working as a team.

Then, after a break, the members broke into groups for several informative workshops. There were sessions for both the manufacturers and dealers, as well as a session for the educational groups. Presentations were given on oil and fuels, as well as from Tom Beheler of Hydro-Gear on zero-turn hydrostatic transaxles. While that was going on, there was also additional time for the certification committees to fine-tune the study guides and the certification tests.

And the winners are…

The awards dinner took place Saturday evening. As always, since Jim Roche gets overcome with emotions when announcing the winners, he turned to the EETC’s very own MC, Brian Kassel of The Toro Company, to do the honors. This year’s recipients were as follows:

Manufacturer of the Year

Oregon Cutting Systems shares a long history with the EETC not only in support of its mission, but also as an active member of the association. As a matter of fact, this was the first EETC conference that it was unable to attend in more than 10 years due to Earl Miner having to attend a European Conference being held at Oregon’s headquarters in Portland.

Distributor of the Year

Marr Brothers has quietly served and supported the EETC since the association’s inception in 1996. The company has always exhibited such a can-do attitude and represented the best of the best. Kerry Malkerson has also been appointed to the EETC Board of Directors.

School of the Year

With so many EETC-accredited schools that continue to exceed expectations, it’s a challenge to choose only one for this award, so two winners were chosen this year. The first School of the Year is lucky to have an instructor so dedicated to its kids — someone who would do almost anything to see them succeed. Chuck Miller of Greater Altoona Career & Tech Center was present and accepted the award with the EETC’s greatest admiration.

The second School of the Year has the good fortune to have a fighter as its power equipment instructor. Allen Spence of Hinds Community College makes sure that his students are exposed to a wide variety of industry experiences and events. He believes that their classroom has no walls.

John Thompson Memorial Service Manager of the Year

This award is named in memory of John Thompson, who was the service manager at Eagle Distributing in Gilbert, Ariz., and passed away suddenly more than 10 years ago. John was a true leader, and we miss him to this day. This year’s recipient was Andy Sadlon of Florida Outdoor Equipment, who is a former member of the EETC’s Board of Directors, but still a member of the EETC family. To this day, he continues to promote technician certification and speak on behalf of the EETC whenever and wherever needed. Andy could not attend this year’s conference, so the award was sent to him with the EETC’s best wishes.

President’s Award

Mike Goad presented this award to his mentor and friend and the conference’s keynote speaker, Jim Starmer of Dixie Sales. Jim has been instrumental in his never-ending support of the EETC’s goals and values. Through his continuous vision and ideas, Jim has promoted the EETC wherever he goes, and he is always looking at what he can do to instill the need for certified technicians.

Director’s Award

You may not be aware that the EETC award recipients are selected by a committee consisting of the association’s president, vice president, and immediate past president. New this year, the Director’s Award is one that Jim Roche has wanted to present in recognition of an individual, school or company that may not fall into the other categories, but supports the EETC’s goals in both words and deeds. This year’s EETC member does both — with a smile on his face, passion in his heart, and a commitment to better our industry. The first Director’s Award went to David Smith, director of purchasing for Rotary Corporation.

Spirit Award

The last award of the evening was the EETC Spirit Award. It was created to honor an EETC member or company that exceeds the EETC’s expectations in support of its mission. This year’s winner and his company have been there since day one. Several times during the conference, we were reminded of Andy Kuczmar’s admonishment that we should all leave our egos at the door. Well, this year’s Spirit Award winner does just that. He is all about helping in any way he can, he is all about training, and he is all about giving back to others. It is with great joy that the EETC presented the 2010 Spirit Award to our good friend, Tom Beheler of Hydro-Gear.

 Dave Worden is program director for SkillsUSA and current president of the EETC.

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