Members of the Specialty Tools & Fasteners Distributors Association were energized as they came together for the association’s 47th Annual Convention & Trade Show on Nov. 5-7. With nearly 2,700 attendees, STAFDA’s San Antonio event unrolled several new initiatives during the three-day program, enhancing the already productive agenda. STAFDA’s two-day trade show was bustling with 438 booths, including two 50-inch x 50-inch islands and four new 20-inch x 20-inch islands.

Educational workshops on Sunday provided a customizable curriculum where attendees could pick two topics to meet their interests. Subjects included “Human-Centric Leadership” by Dirk Beveridge; “Fine Art of Building Relationships” by Debra Fine; “Master Your World: Today’s Game for Maximum Profits, Peak Productivity & Top Communication” by Mary Kelly; and “Trust, Accountability & Business Relationships” by Thom Singer. The new Women in Distribution Luncheon provided an opportunity for a growing segment of the industry to meet, network and interact with speaker JJ DiGeronimo as she presented “Accelerate Your Impact.”

Singer led the new Emerging Leaders Forum with his “Uncommon Connections – Building a Stronger Inner Circle” workshop. This session was designed for members stepping up in their companies to new roles and responsibilities.

For those attendees 35 and younger, the NextGen Luncheon offered a six-member panel – featuring two distributors, two manufacturers and two rep members – generating intergenerational conversations on a variety of industry-spanning subjects. Audience members included college students studying industrial distribution, supply chain management or related majors.

The university students participated in all convention activities, including a speed interviewing session with STAFDA members seeking new employees and interns. They also competed in the expanded STAFDA Supply Chain Competition, where teams used a web-based business simulation game to turn around a fictional struggling manufacturer using their supply chain, sales, operations and other business skills. The top three teams advanced to the Global Supply Chain Competition. Congratulations to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, East Carolina University and University of Nebraska - Kearny!

STAFDA’s opening fiesta was a block party times two. One full block of restaurants, including the Hard Rock Café, Paesanos, Merkaba, the County Line and Howl at the Moon, offered up great food, specialty drinks and amazing entertainment. Across the street, STAFDA’s own fair and market gave attendees a chance to shop local artisans, challenge each other to friendly games of cornhole and Jenga, and sit down and get to know each other while enjoying live music and warm churros.

During STAFDA’s general session on Monday morning, a dynamic video presentation featuring members from across the world proclaimed, “We are STAFDA!” The association’s president, Harry Klassen of Fastek, Inc. in St. Catharines, Ontario, spoke passionately about the multitude of opportunities students have in the distribution world and building trades. Associate speaker Russell Kohl of Diablo in Atlanta rocked the crowd with his team’s marketing techniques and insights. During a sit-down interview, Klassen spoke with TV host and professional contractor Mike Holmes (a fellow Canadian) about the future of construction, building with the environment in mind and expanding a family-run business.

Exhibiting manufacturers kicked off the trade show before its official opening by bringing one new product to preview for distributors in the inaugural Power Aisle. Distributor attendees were then able to vote on their favorite innovation while the aisle was open Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. Congratulations to Stacksmarter, STAFDA’s first Power Aisle winner!

Trade show exhibitors upped their game this year, bringing aisles of new products, exciting demos, offering special STAFDA-only pricing and meeting one-on-one with distributor decision-makers. Within the exhibit hall, attendees could also visit the sold-out Tech & Consultant Pavilions to test business-building software, receive on-the-spot advice on complex company issues and discuss STAFDA-only discounted services.

Alan Beaulieu’s economic workshop on Tuesday was a straight-talking prediction of what members can expect from global influences, the chances of a recession, inflationary pressure and the coming ups and downs of the economy. Attendees were ready to do their part for the construction/industrial economy as the trade show then reopened for four and a half hours. A Texas-size BBQ luncheon was served in the exhibit hall to feed attendees’ need to sit down together once again and do a bit more networking.

Meanwhile, two-day tours for spouses and companions of attendees offered a trip to the Texas Hill Country and Fredericksburg or to the San Antonio Botanical Garden and its succulent station.

STAFDA’s 48th Annual Convention & Trade Show will be Nov. 10-12, 2024, in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Registration opens June 24 at 8 a.m. Central Time. You must be a member to attend.