Jun 13

Behind the Best-Selling Memoir: The Pursuit of Happyness

NECA 2014 Chicago Guest Speaker: Chris Gardner

Gardner_Chris[1]Every convention has guest speakers but the Opening General Session speaker at NECA 2014 Chicago is not to be missed. Chris Gardner, who dragged himself from a life on the streets to the top of the boardroom and wrote the best-selling memoir The Pursuit of Happyness, will bring his passion to NECA attendees.

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1954, Gardner grew up in a single-parent, poverty-stricken home. Without a father in the house, Gardner spent his childhood moving between foster homes and living with his mother. Following high school graduation, Gardner joined the Navy. After his discharge from the service, he moved to San Francisco, where he found work as a medical research associate for a scientific supply distributor.

In 1981 Gardner had a new responsibility, his son Christopher Gardner Jr. A new father, Gardner decided to make a dramatic change in his life.  Despite lacking a college education, Gardner decided to attempt to start a career in finance. Willing to sacrifice almost anything for his new career, he quit his job and applied for training programs at brokerage firms. Through his determination, Gardner earned a spot in Dean Witter Reynolds training program. At this point, Chris Jr’s mother decided to leave Gardner but the young father fought to keep his son. Gardner later said “I made up my mind as a young kid that when I had children they were going to know who their father is and that he isn’t going anywhere.” However, the salary of a trainee was not enough to support both Gardner and his young son, and the two ended up homeless.

After graduating from the training program at Dean Witter Reynolds, Gardner worked at Bear Stearns & Co. from 1983-1987 and became the company’s top earner. In 1987 founded the brokerage firm Gardner Rich from his home in Chicago with a meager $10,000. Gardner built his own stock brokerage firm into an international success adding offices in New York and San Francisco.

In May 2006 Gardner released his bestselling autobiography The Pursuit of Happyness which was made into a film starring Will Smith. Smith was nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for his portrayal of Gardner.

Today Gardner makes it his mission to help those who deal with similar issues that he did in his younger days. His philanthropic work includes a number of homeless initiatives and working on behalf of organizations such as the National Fatherhood Initiative, the National Education Association Foundation, and the International Rescue Committee. He is committed to helping others reach their full potential.

The NECA Convention is excited that Chris Gardner will be the keynote speaker for the Opening General Session at NECA 2014 Chicago. Gardner’s book will be available for purchase at the NECA booth on the show floor. He will be available to sign copies in the booth following the General Session.

Jun 10

NECA 2014 Chicago Schedule Changes

The following three events have been rescheduled to accommodate the meeting and to maintain convenience for those planning to attend Saturday’s events.

The Business Development Meeting, originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm, has been rescheduled for 8:00 am to 9:30 am, the ELECTRI International Green Energy Challenge, originally scheduled for 2:30 pm to 4:00 pm, has been rescheduled for 9:30 am to 12:00 pm, and NECA’s inaugural Student Chapter Job Fair, originally scheduled for 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm, has been rescheduled for 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm.

  • Business Development Meeting: 8:00 – 9:00 a.m.
  • Green Energy Challenge: 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • NECA Student Chapter Job Fair: 3:30 – 5:30 p.m.

Visit NECAConvention.org for Full Schedule of Events

May 29

Registration for NECA 2014 Chicago Opens

NECA 2014 Chicago Registration is Now Open!

credit: wikipediaRegistration for NECA 2014 Chicago is now open.  The NECA 2014 Chicago  convention and trade show is headed back to the Windy City for the first time since 2008 and this year it’s bigger and better than ever.  NECA 2014 Chicago has brought back some of your favorite events and added new ones that will help your business.  You can choose one two packages to make the most of this year’s NECA convention.

NECA 2014 Chicago will be returning many popular events from the NECA 2013 Washington D.C. convention including: the Opening Reception, Lifestyle Program, Showstopper Showcase, NECA Show, and the Closing Celebration. While NECA looks to bring back popular events, they also look to add new events that will help members and their businesses. This year we’re adding a new education system where each event will be categorized by track, or related topic, to help attendees better plan their schedule. Another exciting new event will be the job fair which will bring NECA’s student chapters to NECA members.

There are two ways that you can enjoy NECA 2014 Chicago, the best way is to sign up for full registration. Full registration is your all-access pass to everything that the 2014 NECA convention has to offer.  With full registration, you’ll have access to the opening reception at the famous Field Museum, two general sessions featuring famous stockbroker Chris Gardner and former Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill, convention education, labor relations session, chapter job fair, lifestyle program featuring Second City, nineteen technical workshops, Showstopper Showcase, daily prize ticket drawings, member spouse gift, three days of NECA Show including lunch, and the Closing Celebration featuring Jim Belushi and Sacred Hearts Band. The second way you can experience NECA 2014 Chicago is to sign up for the weekend package.  The weekend package will give you access to the Opening Reception, the Business Development Session, the NECA Show, nineteen technical workshops, the Showstopper Showcase, and the daily prize drawings.

NECA 2014 Chicago will be the biggest and best NECA convention yet, so don’t wait. Registration is now open so make sure to reserve your spot at the premier event of the year for the electrical construction industry.

Register Now >>

May 27

Industry Band Liquidated Damages to Perform at NECA 2014 Chicago

NECA Members Perform Opening Act at Closing Celebration

NECA 2014 Chicago strives to give attendees a national convention with a local feel. That’s why local bands will be featured as this year’s performers. In addition to Jim Belushi and the Sacred Hearts Band, this year’s NECA Convention will also include a special show by an industry band, Liquidated Damages.

Born out of the Chicago-based construction company Leopardo Companies, Inc., Liquidated Damages is composed of 10 to 14 company employees. They started in 1999 when several members of the company realized that there were many talented musicians in the office. Originally they just played some company functions and got good reviews.

[2012] REACH Social at House of Blues, Chicago from Leopardo Construction on Vimeo.

Visit the band’s Vimeo page to watch additional live performances

Senior Vice President and drummer Rick Dupraw joined the board for the City of Hope Hospital. The hospital had an annual event at the House of Blues where they would hire professional artists to raise money with the hospital getting what was left over after everything was paid for. After expensive performance fees and expenses for the remainder of the event, the hospital would only bring in around $50,000. So Rick suggested to the other members of the board that they use donated services by industry bands.  In 2007, Liquidated Damages helped the hospital raise $300,000 in one night. Realizing their ability to help others, the band unanimously made the selfless decision to never charge for their performances.  In 2013 the band played 11 shows with all proceeds going to charity.

The band mixes in a wide variety of genres making their shows an interesting blend for everyone to enjoy. Every December the band gathers for what they call “Selection Tuesday” to decide their set list.  Each member brings in three songs that they would like to see added to the set list for the upcoming year. It then comes down to a vote in a very democratic approach to the selection process.

Over the past 14 years, the members of Liquidated Damages have made a name for themselves through their selfless behavior. So much so that some of music’s biggest stars have joined them for a set to help raise money for charity. The list of collaborators includes Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick, Jim Peterik from Survivor and The Ides of March, and Russ Irwin who tours with Aerosmith.  The band even opened for the popular band America in 2009. Overall, the band has managed to raise over $2.5 million for charity.

NECA is honored to have Liquidated Damages perform at NECA 2014 Chicago. This is a Chicago-bred band from the electrical contracting industry performing to help their community. They will be the opening act for this year’s closing celebration.

May 23

Not Enough Time In You Schedule? Skip the Big Ticket – Join us for a Weekend Package


In today’s busy world, not everyone has the ability to take time away from their work schedule to attend NECA 2014 Chicago, we’re here to help.  For those on a time crunch, or can’t dedicate an entire week to visit Chicago for the NECA Convention and Trade Show, we have a solution for you! NECA 2014 Chicago weekend packages are available, and ready for you to take advantage of.

This year’s weekend package gives attendees the opportunity to experience Saturday’s opening reception, business development, Women In NECA, opening general and labor relations special sessions, and all events taking place on Sunday.

The opening reception for NECA 2014 Chicago will be at the world famous Field Museum.  Discover millions of years of history from all over the world.  The most exciting exhibit attendees will get to see is the most complete and preserved Tyrannosaurus rex in the world.  Take pictures and get an up-close look at SUE, the T-rex, among other activities as a great way to kick off the convention.

Saturday will offer the business development session.  Formally an invitation only event, this year anyone can attend to learn of emerging technologies and growth strategies for electrical contractors.  Attendance at this session will help to grow and improve your business strategies for the future.

Sunday will be a busy day for convention attendees and the weekend package keeps you to be involved, attend any of the 19- technical workshops while walking the show floor, stop by the Showstopper Showcase to check out new and exciting products and take part in the daily prize drawing.  Most of all, you get an all-access pass to attend the NECA Show, the largest industry trade show of it’s kind, where you’ll see some of the latest products from hundreds of top manufacturers and distributors.

NECA 2014 Chicago is a five-day extravaganza for the electrical construction industry.  But for people who can’t stay for the entire event, there’s a package so that they can still attend and get involved.  The weekend package will give attendees a chance to experience many of the opportunities that the NECA 2014 Chicago has to offer.

Learn more about the Weekend Package and Full-Registration offerings >>

Registration opens May 29, save with early rates – visit necaconveniton.org for more info. 

May 21

Invest in the Full Registration Package; Invest in Your Career and Your Business

Why Investing in NECA 2014 Chicago is a Smart Investment for Your Future

As an attendee of NECA 2014 Chicago, you’ll want to experience the total package, including this year’s can’t-miss networking and special event offerings, technical resources and track-specific education and the largest industry trade show of its kind, the NECA Show. So, how can you take advantage of everything there is to offer at this all-inclusive event? Sign up for the NECA 2014 Chicago convention & trade show full registration package: your all-access pass providing you with the information and power you need to shape your future.

Explore Chicago’s past with NECA as we transform Chicago’s historic Field Museum into a lavish Roaring ‘20s scene for the NECA 2014 Chicago opening reception. Dance to the swinging sounds of the Z Orchestra or showcase your own talents at karaoke surrounded by prehistoric finds and modern-day discoveries and snap a picture with the most complete and preserved Tyrannosaurus-Rex in the world.

Be sure to attend this year’s General Sessions, where attendees will join opening general session speaker, Chris Gardner on the subject of the blockbuster memoir and film “The Pursuit of Happyness. We’ll learn how he worked through homelessness and single fatherhood to gain an internship at Dean Witter Reynolds and later became one of Bear Stearns’ top earners. In 1987, he established Gardner Rich & Co. in Chicago. Today, he is a multimillionaire, international businessman, philanthropist, and motivational speaker, sharing what he has learned and why passion is prerequisite for success. Catch his passion at our Opening General Session. Gardner will sign his book in the NECA booth on the Show floor after he speaks. Books will be available for purchase.

Our closing general session speaker is former leader of Navy SEAL Team Six, Rob O’Neill, who has kept America safe having been deployed more than a dozen times and held leadership roles in more than 400 combat missions in four different theaters of war. In his talk to NECA conventioneers, he’ll translate his elite SEAL training and combat experience into high-impact, actionable insights on leadership, decision-making, operating in uncertain environments, and becoming the “best of the best.”

This year’s Labor Relations Special Session is all about Workforce Development. Workforce development continues to shape our evolving industry.  NECA will take a hard look at the labor relations issues that matter to our members in a special session, bringing together the leaders that make decisions and tough choices that keep our industry moving forward.

Though, the most exciting part of attending NECA 2014 Chicago would have to be the expansive offering of educational sessions, pre-convention and technical workshops geared to prepare you for today’s ever-evolving industry. New this year, educational programs will be separated into tracks or, job-specific categories, that are designed to align with an attendee’s education focus including: business management, estimating, executive management, leadership and communication, project management, standards and safety, line construction, and technology, process, and innovation. We are opportunity to help members further their company and the education of its employees. As if that’s not enough, NECA will be providing 19 technical workshops on the trade show floor giving attendees even more opportunities to gain knowledge while in Chicago.

While there is certainly enough during the convention to keep attendees occupied, there will be other events to enjoy as well.  This year’s lifestyle program will feature a visit from the world famous Second City comedy troupe.  During the convention attendees will have the opportunity to experience some of the restaurants that make Chicago universally known as America’s best food city. Chicago is one of the most exciting and architecturally unique cities in America and NECA 2014 attendees get to see this first hand with an architecture river tour down the historically significant Chicago River.

NECA 2014 Chicago boasts returns of fan-favorite popular events as well, including: the business development meeting, safety roundtable, and Women in NECA (WIN) roundtable, along with an exciting first-ever Job Fair, providing NECA’s 30 student chapter teams with a forum to meet with NECA members and prospective employers, providing employers with an opportunity to look toward the future of their business.

This year’s Showstopper Showcase will give attendees a select sampling of some of the latest electrical product innovations to help keep your company up to date.  This full-access pass will give you three days of the NECA Show including lunch to make sure that you get the opportunity to experience all that the 2014 NECA Show has to offer.

Those who like their rhythm & blues seasoned with a whole lot of soul and a Memphis sound are in for a treat at our Closing Celebration. Celebrate a successful week with NECA at the Chicago House of Blues where you can enjoy good friends, good fun, good food — and great musical entertainment provided by actor, comedian and singer Jim Belushi and the Sacred Hearts Band.

Registration Opens May 29 — Mark Your Calendars and Take Advantage of Early Rates!

Apr 29

Chicago’s Must-See Sights: Part 3

On April 25, we started a series of Chicago’s must-see sights to highlight a few of our favorite attractions and historical landmarks. Chicago is home to many significant historical sites that have created the rich traditions among the city and its people. Attending NECA 2014 Chicago gives attendees the opportunity to see some of the places that make Chicago a city a place to remember.

What Chicago skyscraper housed the headquarters of world-wide retailer Sears Roebuck and Company ?

photo credit: wikipedia

Today’s feature is all about the Willis Tower.

In 1969 worlds largest retailer, Sears Roebuck and Company, wanting a more centralized location for their whopping 350,000+  employees, hired Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill to design and build what would become the largest and most recognizable office building in the world, the Sears Tower.

Construction of the iconic skyscraper began in 1970, ending 3 years later when the final beam was put in place in 1973. Signed by the 2,000 construction workers and thousands of Sears employees and Chicagoans, 12,000 people autographed the final beam completing the then tallest building in the world. Clocking in at a massive 108-stories or 1,451-feet, construction of the Sears Tower used enough concrete to build an eight-lane, five-mile long highway. In 1988 Sears Roebuck and Company sold its corporate headquarters and in 2009, global insurance broker Willis Group Holdings bought the then Sears Tower renaming it: the Willis Tower.

theskydeck.comphoto credit: theskydeck.comStepping out on the ledge, In 2009 Willis invested in a multi-million dollar renovation to the Chicago Sky Deck, adding a new innovative feature called The Ledge to the building. Featuring a series of glass bay windows nested 103 stories high, the Ledge is a popular spot among tourists looking to capture daring selfies and a must-see attraction for 2014 NECA Chicago attendees.

Apr 25

Chicago’s Must-See Sights: Part 2

On April 25, we started a series of Chicago’s must-see sights to highlight a few of our favorite attractions and historical landmarks. Chicago is home to many significant historical sites that have created the rich traditions among the city and its people. Attending NECA 2014 Chicago will give you the opportunity to see some of the places that make this unique city a place to remember.

Next up in our Chi-Town cityclusive series of must-see sights, the Chicago Theater.

credit: wikipediaOpening on October 26,1921 national landmark, the Chicago Theater is one of the city’s most popular historical sites, and most recognized. Nicknamed “the Wonder Theater of the World” when it opened, the French Baroque style theater flaunts many decorative features based on popular historical landmarks. The entire building is a work of art featuring a miniature replica of the Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, the lobby that’s modeled after Royal Chapel at Versailles and the grand staircase that leads you to balconies for on-lookers modeled after the Paris Opera House. But, perhaps the most recognized and famous aspect of this building is it’s six-story high sign that spells out “C-H-I-C-A-G-O” over State Street.

ChicagoTheaterInsideBuilt by theater owners Barney and Abe Balaban and Sam and Morris Katz in 1921, it quickly became the flagship of the Balaban and Katz theater chain. Seven stories high and seating 3,600 visitors, when it opened the theater featured big-time entertainment acts from Duke Ellington to Benny Goodman, and in 1933 was featured in Chicago’s World Fair.

May years after it’s heyday, in 1986 the Chicago Theatre Restoration Association realized the theater brought irreplaceable historical significance and culture to the city and with the help of the city of Chicago decided to purchase and save the theater and after a multi-million dollar renovation the theater reopened on September 10, 1986, allowing future generations to enjoy this Chicago landmark.

Missed the first Must-See Sights Special on Wrigley Field? Check it out now >

Apr 21

Chicago’s Must-See Sights: Part 1

Chicago is home to several major attractions that hold significant historical importance to the city and its people. Attending NECA 2014 Chicago will give you the opportunity to see some of the places that make up this unique, foodie friendly city.

The next few blog posts highlight a few of these local gems. Get the most out of your NECA 2014 Chicago experience and add these local hot spots to your travel plans!

First up - Wrigley Field.

wrigleyfield1Baseball is America’s favorite pastime and Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs and highest-ranked building in Chicago, is a national treasure. Recently celebrating it’s 100th anniversary, Wrigley Field is the last Federal League ballpark standing and was built in 1914 by Charles Weeghman, the park’s original namesake and owner the home-standing Chi-Feds of the Federal League.

In 2007 the American Institute of Architects ranked Wrigley #31 in the America’s Favorite Architecture top 150 buildings — ahead of such iconic buildings as Carnegie Hall and the National Gallery of Art. In fact, Wrigley was the only still-standing sports venue listed among the top 100.

Famous for its ivy-covered brick outfield, hand operated scoreboard, and iconic red marquee which sits over the entrance of the stadium, Wrigley has been creating a sense of home and comfort in the community for over 100 years, reminding park-visitors and fans of a time long-past and a true sense of the “American experience.”

Image Credit: Sports Illustrated




Want to learn more about the Wrigley experience?

Wrigley was recently featured in Sports Illustrated’s special Sentinel Issue, view article online here >



Apr 10

New and Noteworthy for 2014

The 2014 NECA Convention & Trade Show is taking over the Windy City this year, and there’s a lot to look forward to. Chicago has long been the industrial hub of the Midwest making it the perfect place for the nations #1 ranked electrical construction trade show, and the only place you’ll find exclusive education opportunities designed to help you stay ahead of the curve in today’s market.

Don’t miss your opportunity to experience one of the most exciting events our industry has to offer, in a city known for it’s big-time skyscrapers and world restaurants, you’ll find big-time education, networking and entertainment opportunities here at NECA 2014 Chicago. If you’re an electrical contractor, trade professional, or work within the electrical construction industry, this is your must-attend event of the year.

This year’s convention is taking place at the world famous convention center, McCormick Place West. Additionally, the opening reception will be held in one of the most iconic buildings in the city, the Field Museum of Natural History and the closing celebration will be held the world famous House of Blues.

What’s New:

We have several exciting additions to note for NECA 2014 Chicago. Headlining the entertainment for our final evening will be Chicago’s very own Jim Beluchi and the Sacred Hearts Band. Held at the House of Blues, this year’s closing celebration is designed to help you celebrate. All full registrants attending the closing celebration will receive drink tickets and a food voucher for the event (a cash bar will also be available.)

We’re also happy to announce that the 2014 NECA Show will extend it’s hours on Tuesday, September 30, from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, and will now be followed by our Closing General Session at 1:15 pm. This allows time for everyone to attend the the grand prize drawing, announced during the NECA Show. Be sure to join us before the closing general session, as we award $10,000 to one lucky attendee – it could be you!

Big changes in education this year include a new track system, allowing attendees to sort daily sessions by track (or, related topic) creating an easy-to-use customizable schedule, designed to fit unique needs. Select from one or multiple track types, including business management, estimating, standards and safety, or line construction. Each of the 8 new track types added for NECA 2014 Chicago cater to individual industry needs, and help attendees stay focused with topic based industry updates, training and important information that matters to them most. View NECA 2014 Chicago Tracks >

But, we know you’re not just interested in your current business affairs, and are looking to prepare for the future of your company as well. That’s why, NECA is bringing together the best and brightest young minds for the first-ever Job Fair. Secure the future of your company by hiring the best candidates around, meet with members of NECA’s student chapters, and meet with the future leaders of our industry. Learn more about the NECA 2014 Chicago Job Fair >

Be sure to take advantage of full registration when planning out your NECA 2014 experience, by doing so, you’ll receive an all-access pass to hundreds of educational opportunities, 4 general sessions plus a unique lifestyle session, can’t-miss opening and closing receptions, trade show passes and much more.  Only a limited number of a la carte tickets for these events will be available for purchase on-site and they will be distributed first-come, first-serve based on availability.