If the crowded airport in Las Vegas wasn’t enough indication of the buzz and draw of AAPEX this year, then the traffic heading to our hotel certainly gave it away. Within minutes, we were reminded of the pace of the pre-Covid trade show that has this amazing draw within our industry, as well as most industries involved with aftermarket parts in the truck world. After checking into our hotel, we made the trip to Harrah’s Tahoe Ballroom where we passed countless familiar faces on the way. After the quick escalator ride, we made our way to the NARSA/IDEA Member Appreciation Reception. 

For years, I have watched members of our association gather at this event, and though it has been called different names throughout history, the focus of the event remains the same: to network and collaborate with peers in the industry. This trip to AAPEX was not my first; I’ve been coming to Las Vegas since my early 20s, but the level of anticipation and excitement was greater than what I remembered from years past. After initially warming up and reading the room, it was clear by the conversation that there was excitement of gathering with our fellow colleagues. Each year my father and I attend this event, we always gain something: a new handshake, a tip from a friend, or a quick life lesson from one of our industry legends. At the heart of this association, we each stand to gain one idea, one connection, and one opportunity for our businesses, and feeling the vibe about the room further reinforced what the board of directors has been pushing so strongly over the last 4 years. 

Opportunities like AAPEX give us the chance to open our eyes to potential new ideas, products, and processes. For those of you who frequent NARSA/IDEA events, you know the benefits from peer interaction and discussion such as this. The basis of our business has remained relatively consistent over the last several decades regarding industrial cooling parts and service. However, new technologies and needs within the aftermarket have opened the doors for those willing to venture out. Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) cleaning, aluminum welding, coil rebuilding and repairs are just a few that are new to the radiator world, and those brave enough to try something new have reaped the benefits of these endeavors.

There is plenty of room for growth for businesses in our association, but too often do we fall into the old thinking of, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” But sometimes, it’s important to break it only to make it better. If you have questions about experimenting with new ideas, please take the trip to Louisiana to visit David Bienvenu to see firsthand what experimenting with new things can do. It goes without saying that consistency and repetition are essential to running a business and this can lead to a well-oiled machine that produces a reliable product time after time, but it is also important to use opportunities such as AAPEX to broaden your horizon to see new ideas forming around you. These ideas can come in the form of a new connection with a vendor, a new repair technique that you haven’t tried before, or a new service that you could add to your company’s repertoire. Not only has each NARSA/IDEA event given me the platform to bounce thoughts and ideas off others, but it gives us encouragement to take new risks. For our business, much like many of you, taking this risk has helped keep our company relevant in an ever-changing market.

Those who attended the Member Appreciation Reception quickly warmed up to the buzz around the association, and it can’t go unnoticed the time and effort of our Executive team to make this event so special. The record-breaking attendance coupled with the overwhelming support from our sponsors helped justify to all those present the cost for travel to Las Vegas. Personally, I was able to reconnect with vendors that we haven’t seen in years, as well as pick up a few service-related tips on DPF cleaning that will undoubtedly save us hours in labor. I was fortunate enough to travel with my father, Chuck, who was able to conduct the official swearing-in of board members and personally inaugurate my tenure as NARSA/IDEA President. He was in the company of seven former NARSA Presidents dating back to 2006. Our vendors, sponsors, and members all showed up in full force to show that this will be a “can’t miss” event for years to come. For those who couldn’t attend, I encourage you to mark your calendar for next year as our relationship with AAPEX is better than ever, and I have an idea that next year will continue this trend. As for the trade show, it was a pleasant greeting to see the booths back in full swing with both domestic and international vendors, and it was even a nice touch to have personalized carpeting showcasing the heat transfer pavilion. The atmosphere surrounding this trade show along with the record number of attendees helped create a wonderful opportunity for those in attendance to learn, connect and grow their company. 

Frederick Wilcox said, “Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” The prospect of growing your business by taking risks can certainly be intimidating but by utilizing our connections as an association we can help make educated decisions in support of each other. NARSA/IDEA continues to create a forum for one idea, one opportunity, and one connection for your business, and events such as AAPEX showcase what our association strives to provide. 

Bryan Braswell
NARSA/IDEA President

Rocky Mount Radiator
Rocky Mount, North Carolina

This editorial was originally published in
the November/December issue of
The Cooling Journal.