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Auto Glass Conference Opens in Orlando

Whether affected by the economy or the wave of consolidation in the auto glass industry or both, a smaller and slightly subdued National Auto Glass Conference opened at the Omni Orlando Resort at Champion's Gate yesterday evening. Sponsored by the National Glass Association (NGA), the event began with a welcome from NGA chairperson Steve Mort of Don's Auto Glass and an opening session by business performance expert Randy Pennington, followed by a cocktail party around the pool.

The Omni Orlando Resort at Champion's Gate is this year's site of the National Auto Glass Conference

Approximately 116 people were included on the registration list. Of these, 44 were suppliers, five from insurance companies and 13 association staff, press or professional speakers. Of the 53 attendees in the installation business, Belron had the largest contingent with 11 representatives.

The small attendance numbers did not in any way hamper the desire of those there to learn as they attended a session this morning on "Proven Principles for Integrity Driven Leadership" and a mini-workshop on strategic planning by Richard Voreis, owner of a Glass Doctor franchise in Dallas.

Lunch was one of the most popular session-and not just because of the food. Jeff Dietrich, a senior analyst for Institute of Trends Research gave an economic update to the group. "It's a good thing we had lunch before his speech," quipped one attendee "because everyone would have had no appetite afterwards."

Dietrich, who displayed an economist's brain wrapped in a layer of dry wit, kept the group's undivided attention while offering an overview of where the economy is and where it's going. Among his comments:

  • 2009, on balance, will not get any better. We are going to have to wait into 2010 to see the economy gain traction;
  • This is the largest, deepest and steepest recession since World War II;
  • January was the worst month for light vehicle retail sales in 60 years;
  • Motor vehicle repairs are expected to hold steady as people are not buying new cards; and
  • TARP and other government measures have resulted in a 70-percent increase in money supply in the last eight months.
Food for thought: Senior analyst Jeff Dietrich provided an economic overview during lunch.

Dietrich detailed some strategies for survival in the future. Key among them, he said, is your money supply and the conservation of cash. "Cash will be your most important tool for a long time-not only to get you through this but to provide fuel when the economy changes.

"If you have a line of credit, I'd go ahead and take it and set it aside," he said "because we really don't know how this is going to play out. No one does."

In response to a question about gas prices, which play a pivotal role in the number of miles driven in this country, Dietrich said he expected them to stay low for at least the next two years.

At press time, the mid-afternoon sessions had just begun-when the hotel was emptied by a fire alarm, meaning those sessions would likely end later than expected (visit http://usglass.blogspot.com later this evening to read the full story in "It's Always Something").

The conference concludes tomorrow. Stay tuned to glassBYTEs.com™ for more information.

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