More than 1,600 attendees at the National Electrical Manufacturers Representatives Association's (NEMRA), Tarrytown, N.Y., 37th Annual Conference in New Orleans received the perfect welcome to that city as it works its way through the 2005 devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

“Your very presence in our city is the greatest gift you could give to us,” said keynote speaker Jim Pate, executive director of the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity. He said the damage to New Orleans was not due to the storm, but rather to the poor design and maintenance of the levees that have historically protected the city at the mouth of the Mississippi. Pate said Habitat for Humanity has constructed more new homes in the area than any other non-profit organization. By year-end, the non-profit organization hopes to have completed approximately 100 houses.

Pate said one of the biggest problems now facing New Orleans is convincing area residents to return to the New Orleans and surrounding communities. The metropolitan area had a population of approximately 450,000 before the hurricanes; only an estimated 220,000 residents returned. This problem hit home with New Orleans Habitat for Humanity, as only five of 11 workers returned.

If attendees felt good about the reception Pate offered, they felt even better when they learned about the progress the NEMRA Manufacturers Group (NMG) is making with its study, “Eliminating Wasteful Activities in the Representative and Manufacturer Sales and Marketing Channel.” Thomas O'Connor, president, Farmington Consulting Group, Farmington, Conn., updated attendees on the early findings of the task forces now studying several key challenges: the sales order-entry and sales reporting processes and training. The white paper was the subject of a feature article in EW's February 2007 issue (“Eliminating Waste,” p. 38). O'Connor The conference also offered seminars on the dangers of counterfeit products, key market trends and the importance of professional coaching.

In the seminar, “Counterfeit Products in the Electrical Marketplace,” Clark Silcox, general counsel for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), Washington, D.C., said electrical products at risk include motors, motor control centers, circuit breakers, wire and cable and receptacles.

“Customers that purchase from the rep assume the product is manufactured and sourced properly,” he said. “When the product is sourced from the owner of the trademark, there is little risk. Reps must perform their due diligence and be sure they know who manufactures the product and where it's manufactured.”

Kurt Nelson, CPMR, and Tara Lockie, Nelson & Associates, Santa Fe Springs, Calif., offered a seminar on the benefits of formal and informal coaching for management and all agency associates.

NEMRA's 38th Annual Conference will be held Feb. 12-17, 2008 in Washington, D.C. at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.