During his keynote address at the 38th Annual Conference of the National Electrical Manufacturers' Representatives Association (NEMRA) last month in Washington, D.C., Tony Snow, former presidential press secretary, said a funny thing happened during Senator Hillary Clinton's march to the Democratic Party's nomination for the presidency — “democracy broke out.”

Snow treated the NEMRA audience to his unique political insight gathered while he worked for President Bush and his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, and the time he spent as an analyst for the Fox News cable network. In his well-oiled conservative commentary, Snow said what has happened to the senator from New York is very interesting. “Here you have someone who gets herself elected to the Senate, works hard and then lets this thing go through her fingers,” he said. Snow also pointed out that since Senator Ted Kennedy announced his support for Obama, no Democratic leaders have come out for Clinton.

Snow didn't spare Obama, either. “What we have here is the new kid in town — who hasn't really done that much,” he said. “Can you name anything he has done in the Senate? He's running the best high school senate race in history. But he's likeable and he looks like he enjoys what he's doing.”

Focusing on the Republican side of the campaign, Snow believes that while Arizona Senator John McCain has a lock on the nomination, it's interesting that Mike Huckabee “keeps hanging around.” Said Snow, “The real question is how long will the former Arkansas governor stay in the race? The longer he's there, the more it looks like a freak show. He's got to bow out gracefully.”

As far as McCain is concerned, Snow said, “John McCain has a fascinating personal history and for the first time in history a political party has jumped back a generation to pick a candidate. What we could wind up with is a campaign that pits McCain's youth against Obama's youth — and the fact that John McCain's youth was 40 years ago.”

Along with the concern about McCain's age is his lack of support among all segments of the party, said Snow. “A problem is that a lot of the real conservatives hate him, and he hates them in return. He's going to have to reach out to them for support.”

Snow also said Republicans, in general, have performed poorly when it comes to connecting with the heart of America. “Remember how President Reagan was able to communicate with people by using simple stories about real people in real-life situations? Republicans don't talk that way today,” he said. “In order to win, they're going to have to learn to connect with the people.”

Snow's presentation was just one of the highlights of the four-day event attended by more than 1,500 NEMRA members. Another program highlight included a presentation by the NEMRA Manufacturers' Group (NMG) on the need to eliminate waste from the electrical channel. Following presentations during the NMG Forum by manufacturers and reps on how they have done this in their operations, an electrical distributor took center stage to describe what he's done to eliminate wasteful practices at his company.

Jay Platt, president, Platt Electric Supply Inc., Beaverton, Ore., described the many changes his company has implemented to improve efficiency. “What we've done are real-world things that anyone can do,” he said. “You don't need to be dependent on the outside world in order to make change.”

Platt Electric Supply's crusade to eliminate wasteful business practices included getting rid of filing cabinets. “Don't worry about saving old stuff,” said Platt. “While we hold on to the things the government says we have to, we managed to get rid of 2,000 filing cabinets. We scanned the important stuff.”

Platt said Platt Electric Supply also simplified its operations by eliminating unnecessary forms. “Ask yourself how many forms you have,” he said. “At one time, we had a hallway plastered with forms. We had original forms and iterations of those forms. All of our forms would be sitting in filing cabinets whether they were antiquated or not. Get rid of any forms and reports that you can. If you have to have forms, convert your company to online forms in an XML format.”

Platt Electric Supply also has a rule that no e-mail may be transmitted during the daytime unless it deals directly with selling. “We want to sell products, he said. “We don't want to do ‘clerk stuff.’ That's what we have to eliminate so we can sell more.”

In addition to these presentations, the NEMRA Annual Conference's program included educational seminars on the need for line productivity analysis; tax tips for reps; green marketing opportunities; and a close look at trends that will impact the electrical industry by Jim Lucy, chief editor for Electrical Wholesaling.

The final public event of the conference was a roast of Hank Bergson, NEMRA's president, who will be retiring from his position at year-end after 23 years of service to the association.

Next year's NEMRA Annual Conference will be held March 17-21, 2009 at the San Diego Marriott in San Diego.