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Total Solutions Plus 2023, New Orleans: “amazing”

The NTCA Technical Committee met Saturday afternoon, pre-conference in New Orleans.

About 600 members of the tile industry descended upon the Hilton Riverside in New Orleans, La., for the annual Total Solutions Plus event, the all-industry conference hosted by The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), Tile Council of North America (TCNA) and Tile Contractors Association of America (TCAA), which took place October 22-24. Many industry members came in early to attend association and organizational meetings, the NTCA Technical Committee meeting that gathered on Saturday, October 21, and other pre-conference activities.

The event – in its 14th year — combines business and technical education, a mini trade show in the Table Top event, keynote speakers, and a fun dinner-dance that gives attendees an opportunity to kick back and dance. The glory of TSP is a format that is designed to foster interaction and networking.

Raven Hoffman, Syverson Tile & Stone

“TSP is amazing,” said Raven Hoffman CIT, senior estimator with Sioux Falls, S.D.’s Syverson Tile & Stone — and national vice president of National Association of Women in Construction. “It’s an opportunity for us to interact with everyone across our industry –to make connections that we wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to make and have some great educational opportunities. And have a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the tabletops….[I got to] see a lot of new technology and a lot of new and innovative ways to do things and really cool booths.  I got to reconnect with people I haven’t seen in a few years, on top of making a lot of new connections.”

Women In Tile

The Women in Tile group embarked on a riverboat cruise with plenty of opportunity to network and make new connections.

On Sunday, October 22 after morning NTCA board and association meetings, the Women in Tile group enjoyed a riverboat cruise on the Creole Queen, giving about 23 industry women a chance to network. The cruise was sponsored by NTCA, LATICRETE, Floor & Decor and Daltile. Women in Tile Chairperson Elizabeth Lambert of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Lambert Tile & Stone in eagle, Colo., said multiple women shared with her that “they connected with new people in different parts of the tile industry that they wouldn’t have otherwise met. Women in Tile made a way for that to happen.” By the end of the Table Top event on Monday night, sponsors had pledged at least another $15K in support for the WIT initiative.

Sunday evening, NTCA members enjoyed dual receptions, with the all-industry opening reception at the hotel, and then a special NTCA Member reception at Lucy’s Retired Surfer Bar nearby.

Best-selling author, resilience researcher, workplace expert, TedX speaker, CEO and attorney Adam Markel gave a rousing  keynote speech to open the Monday sessions. His focus was on developing “our resilience before we need it,” to give ourselves and our businesses the ability to bounce foward from changes and challenges by preventing fatigue rather than recovering from it later. After the keynote, breakout sessions in a range of different topics took place, providing information and perspective on aspects of the industry.

Monday’s Awards Lunch honored David Allen Company’s Chris Walker and The Noble Company’s Eric Edelmayer with the NTCA Ring of Honor Award. TCAA also presented Walker with the TCAA Carl B. Cesery Award. And CTDA inducted Heidi Martin of United Tile into the CTDA Hall of Fame.  

NTCA Annual Meeting highlights

 NTCA held its annual meeting after lunch. Among the highlights, NTCA Tile Setter Craftspeople of the Year were announced: Joshua Nordstrom of Tierra Tile, Homer, Alaska for residential and Tommy Wu of Westway Construction Services Flooring Division, Houston, for commercial. New directors joined the board to replace outgoing members – Jane Callewaert from Region 5 was honored in person for a plaque for her service. Other outgoing members included Katie Marcotte, Region 1; Anthony Moses, Region 8; and Vince Mattingly, Region 6. Incoming members are Cody Cox, Cox Tile, San Antonio, Region 8; Megan Garvey, Welch Tile, Kent City, Mich. Region 5; Matt Blood, Paragon Tile Installation, Cumberland, R.I. Region 1; and Amber Hunter, Nichols Tile & Terrazzo, Joelton, Tenn., Region 6.

At the NTCA Annual Meeting, outgoing and incoming board members were recognized. (L to R): Megan Garvey, Welch Tile, incoming for Region 5; Cody Cox, Cox Tile, incoming for Region 8; Matt Blood, Paragon Tile Installation, incoming for Region 1; Jane Callewaert, Dragonfly Tile & Stone Works, outgoing, Region 5; Martin Brookes, NTCA Chairman of the Board; Amber Hunter, Nichols Tile & Terrazzo, incoming, Region 6 and Sam Bruce, NTCA President.

 NTCA announced two new benefits for members: 19:21 Consultants are providing increased value for NTCA members in healthcare options, and SBC Unified  offers a small business SEO engine that is simple and inexpensive. 25% discount for NTCA members and for every member who joins, SBC will donate $20 a month to CTEF. Becky Serbin talked about next steps for NTCA Five-Star Contractor Accreditation, and Jim Olson and Mark Heinlein discussed the robust NTCA training schedule planned for 2024 – about 200 educational opportunities in all. Brad Denny talked about changes that are being made to the CTI exam and modules and the progress in the Egg Harbor City, N.J., location donated to CTEF by tile contractor Tom Ade.

Gus Tolleson, J&R Tile

Gus Tolleson from J&R Tile in San Antonio was a first timer at TSP, and really valued “… the relationships I’ve made with people around the country. I think that is going to be super beneficial in the future for not only contacts to call when I need help with something, but they’ve given me tips for office work and installation work, that I am going to be able to use for years to come. I hope I can come back for at least the next decade.”

Contractor Forum

Contractor and Distributor forums took place later that afternoon. The Contractor forum included a presentation by Chris Kain of H.B. Fuller about glass tile trends and new technology. He highlighted the new modified silane adhesives (TotalFlex XMS Tile Adhesive) that are reactive, require no mixing and provide advantages – including water immersion and durability through freeze-thaw conditions for gauged porcelain, large format glass and even glass mosaic tiles.  Then Kathy Case of Quantify North America gave an informative talk on the advantages of outsourcing estimating in terms of cost, time, scalability, expert estimators and freeing up the contractor to focus on sales.

Immediately following, three hours of Table Tops (about 73 in all) gave attendees the chance to meet exhibitors, ask questions, find out about new products and enjoy beignets and other local treats!

Tuesday events

LATICRETE’s KenTarwood previewed the company’s redesigned website and mobile app during an invitation-only breakfast Tuesday morning.

The invitation-only LATICRETE breakfast presented an economic outlook, with Sean Boyle citing growth in commercial, which is promising for tile and stone, and a residential rebound in 2024-25. Ron Nash talked about the state of the supply chain and some ongoing struggles, and the importance of bolstering partnerships. Ken Tarwood discussed a redesigned website coming in 2024 with new features including generative AI that cites the source of its information and will be exhaustively tested for privacy. A novel feature is the opportunity in the LATICRETE mobile app will be the ability to schedule a mobile video chat with technical service reps in real time for on-the-job help. And Brett Spencer emphasized the company’s goal in bringing value when reps visit on the job, actively helping you as you work.

Economic futurist and author Andy Busch presented the closing keynote: Future Economy Growth Opportunities, discussing how the country is rebalancing from the $14 trillion in stimulus money awarded during the pandemic, housing affordability struggles, and higher interest rates amidst robust job creation, and increase in real disposable income and net worth. He predicted slowing momentum going into next year with higher interest rates, challenges to supply chain and labor, climate and energy, and a decline in GDP each quarter until Q4 2024 after a peak in Q3 2023. Bright spots will be domestic manufacturing and partners, the potential offered by AI, 2.1 million job openings above 2020, and growth of digital twins.

Dirk Sullivan, Hawthorne Tile.

Dirk Sullivan of Hawthorne Tile in Portland, Ore., is a TSP veteran. He praised the connectivity nurtured at TSP and relationships he has developed over the years. Those connections help him feel like he’s not plying his trade alone on “this little island in Portland, Oregon,” but also enable him to solve problems. “I had a project with a space that was just slightly larger than what was taken off in the plans and I was six pieces short of a 24” x 48” tile from Crossville,” he said. “They were out of stock. And it wasn’t going to happen until mid next month, and that would be a different dye lot and different size. So I was able to talk to my friend Noah Chitty, he put in some calls and when I was at the Crossville booth at the Table Tops, the guys were there and they said we think we can help you — I have a sample here and I have a sample there. I think we are going to solve the problem! “

Before attendees scurried off to breakouts, TCNA announced a 2024 Flooring Sustainability Summit for July 17-18 at the Westin Washington, DC and Downtown Hotel in Capitol Hill. More information is available at www.flooringsummit.com. Taffy Event Strategies’ Jamie Rich invited the group to Coverings 2024, set for Atlanta April 22-25, and a video from the Tile Heritage Foundation updated attendees about initiatives of the Foundation and ways to support it. The afternoon educational sessions culminated into an all-industry panel that addressed pressing issues affecting manufacturing, distribution and labor today.

Gianna Vallefuoco, Vallefuoco Contractors, LLC.

Return conference goer Gianna Vallefuoco of NTCA Five-Star Vallefuoco Contractors LLC in Rockville, Md., said the human connection at TSP was paramount for her. “I have had some amazing conversations — very inspiring motivating conversations with so many colleagues…that really has felt like the most important part of it so far,” she said. She also noted the value of Kathy Case’s Outsourcing Estimating presentation, and learning about glass panel technology and products. “These are definitely the products that we’re going to be using, that they are innovating new products and adhesives, and that was very helpful to me because there was an opportunity to ask questions. And it’s not over yet, so I still have more to discover, but I’m so grateful that I decided to come.”

The conference wrapped up with a “Jazz It Up” theme dinner dance that gave a final opportunity for relaxed networking and spirited dancing, New Orleans style.

Total Solutions Plus 2024 will move to the northeast, to the  Marriott Copley Place, October 26-30, in Boston, Mass. Mark your calendars and plan to attend!

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Editorial Director and Senior Writer for TileLetter and TileLetter ARTISAN

Lesley Goddin has been writing and journaling since her first diary at age 11. Her journey has taken her through a career in publishing and publicity, landing her the editor position of TileLetter and its special publications in 2006. Her goal is to educate, inspire, recognize and encourage those in the tile industry -- especially the tile and stone contractor.

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