It Truly Was ... All About The People
COAA held its first in-person national conference in two years, November 17-19 in Henderson, Nevada (just outside Las Vegas). While attendance was less than normal due to COVID and related impacts, those who were able to attend “COAA Connect Fall 2021” enjoyed content and discussions that were as meaningful and relevant as ever. There was genuine happiness to be gathered in person – with nobody saying “you’re on mute” – and appreciation for the quality of both the presenters and attendees.
The conference was preceded by an optional Wednesday morning golf outing at the nearby Revere Golf Club. Duffers enjoyed spectacular weather, a beautiful rolling course, and camaraderie before heading back to the ‘M’ Resort for the mid-afternoon conference kickoff. After opening remarks by COAA leaders and a local welcome by Clark County Commissioner Jim Gibson, attendees had their choice of extended workshops on small/minor projects or unlocking employees’ potential. An outdoor evening reception allowed for no-mask networking, delicious street tacos, and live music.
Thursday – as always, the most intensely busy day – began with the recognition of outstanding achievement in both project leadership (University of Texas) and performance by an Emerging Professional (Jared Zurbuchen with Exact Sciences). The breakfast ceremony was followed by a warm welcome from the COAA Conference Committee Chair (John Bechtel, Penn State) and a keynote presentation by two leaders of Ripple Intent, Kyle Majchrowski and Jon Grant, on “the human side of capital projects.” The remainder of the day featured a curated mixture of both plenary and concurrent sessions, providing something for everyone but with the “all about the people” theme pervading. From Chick-fil-A leadership lessons to the stunning new Allegiant Stadium project, attendees could be seen filling notebooks and iPads with ideas to explore back home.
Lunchtime on Thursday included two unique happenings:
- Attendees had the option of informal dining with colleagues or participating in sponsor-led thought leadership discussions
- Long-time member/volunteer and COAA evangelist Mike Kenig with Holder Construction was presented with his namesake award, which will be given in the future to an outstanding Owner or Associate volunteer member ... a championship belt that Ali or Tyson would be proud to wear
Another outdoor reception with great food and live music capped the day and allowed attendees to share their thoughts on the busy but fulfilling day.
Friday included more diverse content through lunch, including an emotional discussion of mental health and the always-popular Owners Roundtable. Over lunch, a representative from the local Ronald McDonald House was on hand to formally accept the labor of love created by conference attendees in roughly 48 hours ... a built-from-scratch “Happy Wheels” cart that will be used in a Vegas-area hospital to ferry arts & crafts, reading materials, snacks, and other items to hospitalized children and their parents/caregivers. This effort – which actually began weeks before the conference with virtual design workshops led by HGA – is part of the COAA Cares initiative (Connecting Attendees with Rewarding Experience & Service) the organization hopes to continue at both the national and chapter level.
While many attendees made their way home at this point, a devoted few stuck around and were glad they did. An extensive tour of the nearby Carpenters International Training Center offered a chance to see how one organization is doing its part to combat the skilled workforce challenge in our industry. For more details and photos, check out Sally Shumaker’s article on the tour.