First they brought a few more in, then a few more after that, then another 40 or so and finally, they just opened up another room with a few hundred more of them.

What could organizers of the annual National Auto Glass Conference & EXPO possibly have been looking for in the basement of the Tampa Convention Center at 3 p.m. on the last day of the conference? What could they need on a beautiful Saturday afternoon that betrayed little hint of the category-five hurricane approaching?


They were looking for empty chairs, because the hundreds already in the meeting hall had been filled.

Hurricane Threat Doesn't Dampen National Auto Glass Conference

In proof that the power of the impending hurricane was no match for the power of the Conference, and the strength of its winds no match for the resolve by attendees to learn, approximately 600 people converged at the end of the Conference to hear presentations by Jesse Herrera of NAGS, and Wes Topping of the Chicago Group.

And learn they did.

Herrera, joined on the speaker's platform by his associate Bud Oliver, went through the upcoming changes to be expected with the NAGS reevaluation and how auto glass shops could prepare. He addressed many questions and concerns that have been expressed since the reevaluation and the available previews have been announced, including the issue of paying for the preview.

"For us, I can assure you, there is no windfall for us from the preview. It's not a money making venture," he said, explaining that the charge for the preview covers the cost required for its creation and distribution.

Upon the close of the NAGS presentation, the floor was opened up to the audience for questions, a session that lasted more than an hour. Though initially open to letting the question and answer period last until everyone with a question had an opportunity to ask it, session moderator Leo Cyr had to call the question and answer period to an end after an hour and 15 minutes to allow the Chicago Auto Glass Group time to set up and give their presentation.

Topping, along with Carl Ostdiek and Dave Leach, presented the history and objectives of the Chicago Group, along with the issues members see as plaguing the industry with regard to pricing. To further illustrate its proposed pricing system, copies of the Chicago Group's white paper were distributed prior to the seminar and the audience was encouraged to read the "definitions" listed within to avoid any confusion that the language in the technical paper could cause.

The two sessions served as finale to a Conference that proved successful for exhibitors and attendees alike. "Our expectations were not too high, but we have had a great show," said Matt Larson of Delta Kits. "It was good for us."

"We saw a lot of our customers," said Elizabeth Vanderweide of PPG. "The traffic from within Florida was down but that's to be expected."

In addition to the show and pricing seminars, attendees were treated to sessions that covered a range of topics, from monitoring and cutting overhead costs to the pros and cons of different marketing aspects.

Also offered were two windshield installation demonstrations with new model cars: the 2004 Dodge Ram pick-up and the 2005 Chrysler Crossfire, both of which, in addition to the seminars, were well attended.

The conference switches dates, days of the week and venue next year, moving to Minneapolis, MN, May 23-25, 2005.

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