Three days in October

Gingrich, at the 2008 ProDealer Industry Summit.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich reached the podium to a standing ovation. He assessed his audience for a moment. “This is a very intense, serious looking group,” he said.

The group in question consisted of the pro dealers and suppliers gathered for the 2008 ProDealer Industry Summit, the first-ever conference that resulted from the merger of the NLBMDA’s Industry Summit and Home Channel News’ ProDealer Conference. The organizers of the event did a great job predicting that the first three days of October would be an electrifying time in the nation’s capital.

And the group had every right to look serious and intense.

Here’s the picture of Monday Oct. 1, when most of the 240 or so attendees began filing into the Westfields Marriott in Chantilly, Va.:

• Congress was working overdrive on a contentious $700 billion financial bailout plan;
• Attendees were planning ahead to Tuesday’s highly anticipated Vice Presidential showdown; and
• Newt Gingrich, his “Platform for America” in hand, was walking around the hotel.

I felt like a witness to great events.

Even though we were just outside the beltway in Chantilly, Va., the political gravity was intense. Political junkies attending the conference -- and there were many -- were basking in the situation. And those who couldn’t care less -- well, there weren’t any of those.

On Wednesday, during the middle of a panel discussion on “The Supply Chain Revolution,” the word came. The House passed the Paulson plan! Cheering erupted. And the show went back to business.

Based on the length of the line to take a picture with the “Speaker,” Gingrich’s address was a highlight of the event, largely because it promoted the spirit of American democracy.

There were other highlights and other spirits.

• Spirit of diversity: When outgoing NLBMD chairman Harold Baalmann of B&B LUmber introduced incoming chairman Paul Hybert of ProBuild, the company’s represented ran the spectrum from the biggest to the smallest. But the mutual respect expressed by both dealers was about equal.

• Spirit of togetherness: The hotel theater was packed, partisan and pro-Palin during the vice presidential debate. But more importantly, it was together.

• Spirit of humility: The Pro Dealer of the Year dinner recognized Keim Lumber as Independent Pro Dealer of the Year and Curtis Lumber as Multi-unit Pro Dealer of the Year. Both companies showed double digit growth on the 2008 HCN Top 350 Scoreboard. And both companies, when addressing the audience, pointed to all the employees back home for their success. The standing ovations were much deserved. 

The industry is living the Chinese curse: “May you live in exciting times.” Events like the ProDealer Industry Summit could not solve the housing market’s woes or the credit crisis. But it served the industry by bringing competitors and partners together for mutual improvement.

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