ASCR: Asking Questions and Finding Solutions

Solutions, The 58th Annual Convention and Exhibition of the Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration in Savannah, Ga., March 11-15, is an exhibition and educational conference geared toward professionals involved in the cleaning and restoration industry. ASCR Executive Director Larry Jacobson provides an in-depth look at the event.

ICS magazine: How many people do you anticipate at the ASCR annual meeting in Savannah? Who are they?
Larry Jacobson: ASCR members tend to be companies, rather than individuals. Approximately 400 of our member companies – with established reputations in both restoration and cleaning – will be represented. Another 150 people will be with our exhibitors. When you add in speakers and panelists, the total number of participants in Savannah will be about 800.

ICS: What does ASCR hope to accomplish with its annual meeting?
LJ: A primary ASCR mission is the professional education of our members, and the annual Solutions Convention is a great educational vehicle. We gear our seminars and panels to business owners. We bring in speakers who are at the cutting edge and often controversial, because we want our members to understand current and future issues.

The convention is also the best place for these business owners to get together informally to compare notes and share information on things like management, finance or even buying buildings or purchasing fleets of cars or trucks. Owners of newer companies in our industry can come to the ASCR annual meeting and have meaningful conversations with successful people whose companies have been in business for generations. I know of no other place in our industry where this can happen. This camaraderie is a very, very important part of our convention.

ICS: What issues will be addressed at the meeting?
LJ: I’m sure we’ll talk about mold. That has gone from novelty to a serious environmental issue and is related to things like biohazards and environmental hazards. It’s no secret that some of our members are involved in biohazard and environmental hazard cleanup. There’s a healthy dialog among insurance companies, restorers, and property owners on that topic and, through ASCR, an equilibrium is being reached. It’s also not a secret that some of our members were involved in cleaning up the anthrax threat last year. I think you can expect these and other issues to be on the front burner in Savannah.

ICS: How do you select your speakers and panelists for the annual meeting?
LJ: ASCR has councils that govern each of the five disciplines represented in the association – water loss, disaster restoration, mechanical systems hygiene, rug cleaning, and carpet and upholstery cleaning. The industry leaders on these councils choose the speakers. That’s critical because these industry leaders know their disciplines and the issues involved and they go to great lengths to present the very best speakers to their peers.

ICS: Education through seminars and panels is a major focus, but what other aspects of the annual meeting hold value for attendees?
LJ: The education piece is quantifiable. The non-quantifiable piece is the networking, which I referred to earlier. This may be the only time in a given year when a group of business owners in the cleaning and restoration industry get together face-to-face to share information. That type of opportunity is invaluable.

Another valuable aspect of the meeting for ASCR members is the exposure they have to our exhibitors and vice versa. Our members own stable businesses and they demand stable, knowledgeable, experienced suppliers. We deliberately limit the exhibit space at the convention and exhibitors are well established, knowledgeable, and trustworthy suppliers.

ICS: What type of companies will be exhibiting? Why do they have value for the ASCR annual meeting?
LJ: Our exhibitors cover all aspects of cleaning and restoration and they are the leaders in their respective specialties. Our members share information about the best suppliers – those with the reputation for the best products and services. They want those companies at our annual meeting and they want to do business with them.

ICS: Do you recognize outstanding industry achievement at the annual meeting?
LJ: Absolutely, because it is a great way to recognize excellence at the same time we educate our members. We have a luncheon, where a number of annual awards are presented. Some of these awards have existed for more than 20 years. We not only recognize outstanding professional achievement, but also exceptional contributions to society. Our members understand that doing good in the community is as important as doing well in business.

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