With about 2,000 people coming to town for a week-long electricians training institute starting Aug. 1, the logistical prep for this event is fairly intense.
To watch just a small piece of that advance work, The Chronicle swung by the University of Michigan Indoor Track Building on Friday, where dozens of people were setting up for a massive two-day trade show that kicks off the training program.
This is the 20th year for the National Training Institute, put on by the National Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committee – you’ll see signs around town referring to both NTI and NJATC. But it’s the first time that the group has held its event in Ann Arbor, bringing an estimated economic impact of $5 million during one of the slowest times of the year for local businesses.
We encountered a bit of economic impact on the trade show floor as well.
On Friday, David Rozycki, who’ll be a sophomore at UM this fall, was sitting on a stool next to the loading dock. That day he was a designated gofer.
On Saturday, he’ll be working the registration table, and during the remainder of the week he’ll be part of the tech crew, making sure projectors and other equipment are functional.
He’d heard about the job through a friend of a friend, and had interviewed for it back in May. He’s one of dozens of staff from this area hired to drive shuttle vans, act as wayfinders (standing at certain key locations and offering directions to anyone who asks or looks lost), be a concierge at local hotels, and do any number of other jobs that make the event run as smoothly as possible.
Security is another job that requires local workers. Southfield-based RSIG Security is providing that service for NTI, and the guard on duty at the trade show told us it wasn’t quite as demanding as a rock concert or sporting event.
Asking that we not use his name, he also revealed that he’d worked security detail for the Rob Reiner movie “Flipped,” when it recently filmed in Ann Arbor’s Virginia Park.
Further back in the cavernous space – transformed with blue carpeting, patriotic bunting and more than 150 booths – we encountered UM sound engineer Tim O’Farrell setting up the PA system for the show.
O’Farrell said that the system was fairly new and required a bit of rewiring. When we noted that he was in the right place to be talking about rewiring, he politely pointed out that there was, in fact, a difference between electronics – his field – and the electrical industry that was putting on this weekend’s trade show.
We might have been more informed about that distinction if we had read any of the 200 or so books that Marty Riesberg and Jim Simpson were placing on display at one of the booths near the center of the venue. Titles included “Applied Codeology: Understanding the 2005 National Electrical Code,” “Sound Reinforcement Handbook” and “NJATC Traffic Signal Technician Student Workbook.”
Simpson, NJATC’s assistant director of curriculum, urged us to return on Saturday when the display looked better. But if we were interested in actually buying one of the books, we’d be out of luck, he said. They weren’t for sale, just for show.
People attending the training sessions might receive some of the books as part of their class. Otherwise, you’d have to order them from NJATC’s official distributor.
He also said that they’d been favorably impressed with Ann Arbor, from what they’d seen so far. They were staying at the Holiday Inn North Campus, but had been able to walk around town and campus to some extent. He said they were looking for a certain building on campus, where training classes will be held, and were apparently looking lost when a woman came up and asked if she could help. It turns out that she’s someone hired to be a wayfinder – though she was off duty at the time. Her instincts for the job are spot on, clearly.
Another person who liked what he saw so far was Mark Cerulla, NJATC comptroller. He was opening cardboard boxes filled with clothing – polo shirts, T-shirts, caps, and such – all with the NJATC logo embroidered on them, which will be on sale during the trade show. He said that though they’d traditionally held the training at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, UM’s support of organized labor had played a large role in relocating to Ann Arbor and the UM campus.
Soon after our conversation with Cerulla as we were leaving the building, someone walked past talking on his cell phone: “It looks like a heat sink – it’s got fins on it!”
You can overhear more of this kind of codeology if you go to the Aug. 5 block party on South Main, hosted by the Ann Arbor Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Ann Arbor Main Street Area Association.
The free event runs from 6-10 p.m. It includes a motorcycle and classic car display, and live music by Bluescasters.
NTI runs through Friday, Aug. 7. The following day marks the start of the next union event: the United Association (UA) of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry, which will also bring 2,000 or so people to Ann Arbor through Aug. 14. Most of those training classes will be held at Washtenaw Community College.