SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—As Molly Alton Mullins passed by one of the 600 attendees at the 37th annual NAHAD Convention, a manufacturer who was in a bit of a quandary with no meeting room to discuss business with a client, she helped him secure a spot near the ballroom at the sprawling Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.
She passed the same manufacturer a few hours later and inquired how the meeting with the customer went.
"Thanks to you," the manufacturer told the executive vice president of the Association for Hose and Accessories Distribution, "I was able to close on $20,000 in sales."
That's what the convention is about—benchmarking, networking and meeting with customers, all things that have not been conducted face-to-face since the pandemic began.
"I was so glad I could give him that opportunity," Mullins said. "That's why we're NAHAD. That's why we're here."
The convention, the first in more than two years, initially was slated to take place in the Bahamas in 2020, then in San Diego. With just two months to spare, it was canceled in California and moved to Arizona.
"We are so grateful to get everyone together," she told Rubber & Plastics News during closing ceremonies June 15. "It is one of those things that could have gone either way. We listened to our members, and they wanted to get together in person. So we reacted to that."
With an even split between distributors and manufacturers at about 75 businesses apiece, the convention saw beautiful weather—save one rare rainstorm on the final evening—between June 12 and June 15. Typically between 20 and 25 percent of the convention comprises international attendees, though no such contingent was present due to COVID, Mullins said.
The conference typically fluctuates between about 850 and 1,000 attendees, but considering the logistical pressures, the gathering may have been the most important of any thus far.
Sam Petillo, of Houston-based Singer Equities and president of NAHAD, kicked off the conference June 13 with a brief introduction of Connor Lokar, an economist with the prestigious ITK Economics Group, who was just one of the speakers who pivoted along with NAHAD to make the convention a success.
Appropriately, Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle" blared throughout the ballroom as Petillo took the stage.
"I never thought we would get here," Petillo said. "Doing this virtually just was not going to cut it for NAHAD members, and I am so excited to be in-person with everybody. I couldn't be happier about everyone's reaction.
"This wasn't the most highly attended," Petillo would later say, "but it was definitely the most meaningful—not just coming out of the pandemic, but the challenges faced by our members, with inflation, pricing volatility and supply chain challenges. We all remain optimistic about what the future holds for this industry."
In addition to the networking events and Lokar's talk on the economic forecast over the next decade, the conference featured a powerful and inspiring talk on leadership from Herm Edwards, head coach of the Arizona State Sun Devils and a former NFL head coach and player, and the all-important "Showcase Tuesday" for the many vendors and distributors on site.