It was a jam-packed 2 days of learning and networking at Don Hart’s Radiator in Waller and at the Houston CityPlace Marriott at Springwoods Village for the 2022 Spring Conference in Texas. More than 120 NARSA/IDEA members from across the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America were in attendance.

After a morning of presentations by L&M Radiator and Multi-Wing, Elizabeth Hart Dominguez gave a brief history of Don Hart’s Radiator before groups were led on a tour through the facility. 

NARSA/IDEA member Fernando Otero traveled to the 2022 Spring Conference all the way from Ecuador. “My favorite part of the event was seeing all the different processes, especially the machines they used to do the services for the radiator,” said Otero. “Because you learn things in person that you can’t see in books or online. I thought it was interesting how Don Hart’s technicians flush the radiators with chemicals to clean them on the inside.” 

Seth Copeland, Service Manager for Industrial Radiator in Dallas, said he was most impressed with Don Hart’s operation. “From the time the job is dropped off to final completion, they have got it covered. I have been to a lot of shops in the country, but I haven’t seen one this good. Don Hart has the nicest fabrication shop I’ve ever seen.” 

Thomas Hart was one of the tour guides. When asked what it was like hosting the 2022 Spring Conference, he joked, “What just happened?! 10000 rpms all day–I’m glad I had on my safety glasses! I’ve hosted several large events in the past, but this one is the most significant. After we toured the facility, people were asking to go back and look at specific items and pick my brain about what we’re doing with them. Even after the conference, I’m still getting calls or emails from individuals that attended asking questions about what they saw, or just thanking us for opening our doors,” said Hart. “NARSA/IDEA and the impact the association has had on us is the reason we are able to do such things.”

After the facility tour, attendees got the opportunity to participate in 7 different technical sessions involving a Plasma Cutting Table demonstration by Cyrious Metal Works, the Miller Truck Welding Display, Welding 101 by James Basham, DPF Recoring by Diesel Emission Technologies, DPF Aqueous Cleaning presentations by both Eco Clean and Enviromotive, and Gas Tank Renu and Plastic Tank repair opportunities.  

This event was Daven James’ first NARSA/IDEA conference. “As a welder, my favorite presentation was the on-site welding program with James Basham of On-Site Certification. It was very informative. In welding in this industry, the information that he presented is not very well known. I appreciated that,” said Daven James, Lead Welder from American Radworx in Alabama. “Also, seeing the shop and the entire operation was awesome. Don Hart has done a tremendous job adjusting to the industry.”

For Leroy Carranza of South Texas Radiator based in Sinton, the best part of the conference was reuniting with friends and colleagues. “I love seeing everyone. Getting to see faces again in probably 5 years is like family that you haven’t seen, like a reunion. My favorite presentation was the welding presentation. We’re just now getting into aluminum welding. It was interesting to learn about the settings and frequencies. I can really use that information and take it back to the shop,” said Carranza. “Being out on my own, I owe a lot of my success to NARSA. All the speakers and presentations over the years gave me the confidence to do it on my own. And the connections. Everyone has always been willing to help me.” 

The 2022 Spring Conference was the third NARSA/IDEA event Adam Hughes has been to. “My favorite part was visiting the Hart’s shop, seeing what they’re doing differently than what we’re doing in Kansas City and seeing what we could implement and help our business grow and succeed in the coming future,” said Adam Hughes of 1-800 Radiator and Midwest Radiator. “I thought their fabrication shop was most interesting and their plasma cutting tables and the bending equipment they had. I also really liked the DPF recore demonstration with Diesel Emission Technologies. That’s probably going to be the first direction we move into.”

Attendees also enjoyed a delicious Texas BBQ lunch catered by Bar-A-BBQ and ended the night with a lively Cinco de Mayo themed dinner catered by Lupe Tortilla. Thankfully, thunderstorms rolled in after everyone ate and just as attendees loaded up onto the shuttle back to the hotel. 

To say a lot of work was put into this event is an understatement. The NARSA/IDEA staff worked closely with the Hart family for several months leading up to the conference.

“The prep process has made me realize there are things we need to correct in our own shop, to make our people more efficient and productive,” said Don Hart. “It also forces you to take a personal interest and pride in cleaning up your shop. But most surprising and encouraging is when you are able to have your people buy into the idea that the cleanup and conference is beneficial to our company. When they see it firsthand and talk to peers in our industry, they now have a new pride and spring in their step that has been missing, and it’s amazing.”

“I am thankful for everyone that traveled all the way to Waller, Texas and endured the humidity for the day with us,” said Elizabeth Hart Dominguez. “NARSA did a great job putting together this event, and I hope we can have more like this at other members’ facilities.”

As a fifth generation Hart working in the cooling systems industry, one special moment for Elizabeth was meeting Merle Swineford, who at age 94 is still working on radiators. “The conference was kind of a whirlwind for me, but meeting Merle was very special. To have that enthusiasm and zeal for the work you do each and every day (no matter your age) is truly inspiring! I also hope everyone that joined us took away something special from this event.”

“The conference in Houston and Don Hart Radiator was amazing,” said Aaron Morrow, NARSA/IDEA Chairman of the Board and General Manager at Johnson Manufacturing in Iowa. “It was great to see so many familiar faces that I hadn’t seen in a couple years, and even more exciting were the number of new members in attendance. The Hart family put on a first class event with amazing food, great programming, and a warm Texas sized welcome. I can’t wait for the next NARSA/IDEA event.”

The second day of the conference was spent at the Houston CityPlace Marriott at Springwoods Village. Old World Industries’ Joe Long led two presentations on Blue DEF and coolants. TitanX’s Bob Burgess spoke about the future of Electronic Vehicles in the trucking industry. And Dr. Mary Kelly discussed the current economic crisis, supply chain disruptions, and major challenges business owners face today.

“I really enjoyed Mary Kelly’s presentations,” said Jim Drespling of Jim D’s DPF Cleaning in Pennsylvania. “I can relate to a lot of things she spoke about–hiring employees, trying to keep them, stuff like that. It was also great to connect with everyone. There were a lot of new faces here.”

The Table Top Exhibition wrapped up the conference with 17 different exhibitors. 

For Desmond Bowen, Shop Supervisor at RMR Radiators & Boom Truck Services Ltd., the best part of the 2022 Spring Conference was connecting with suppliers. “We have a hard time finding stuff in Canada, so it was great to talk to people and see how they can ship stuff to us and get stuff into Canada at a reasonable time. We have a hard time getting stuff made in Canada, so we turn to the US to get stuff made,” said Bowen. “For me, it was great meeting all the suppliers, meeting all the people, and seeing what the suppliers have out there on the market to progress in our business.”

Connecting with colleagues and old friends and meeting new people is also an integral part of NARSA/IDEA. “I loved seeing long time friends,” said Betty Hart. “We all have a common bond that we all know and love. It was exciting to see some of the ‘grown up’ children leading their family business and keeping pace with the changes and evolution of business practices, technology, and new methods of repairs and services. We have a variety of outstanding members that just amaze you with their past knowledge and their progressive thinking styles. Having these conferences like this creates the opportunity for an unlimited idea pool. For us, our most treasured memories are reminiscing about a NARSA event.”

“Interacting and seeing people face to face again is the best part,” said Hope Thompson of Northern Radiator. “There are people here that I haven’t seen since 2019. And I am always up for meeting new people. I met several customers here… It is so nice to put a face to a voice you’ve often only heard over the phone. Northern has been a big supporter of NARSA for many, many years, and you can’t support this organization from afar. You have to be here, and you have to be involved. Being here talking with customers and prospects is important. Don and Betty’s team is doing a wonderful job. They’ve been fabulous hosts! We have to work together to keep the industry alive, and there’s a lot of work for us to do to make sure that happens.”

“What a pleasure to be at an in person event again!” said Bryan Braswell, NARSA/IDEA Vice President and Heavy Duty Sales Manager at Rocky Mount Radiator & A/C in North Carolina. “The attendance was spectacular and the Hart family couldn’t have done a better job. Dr. Mary Kelly really packed a punch with some great information and helpful training tips and the presenters on site all had great tools for learning. There were plenty of new faces that it was great to meet as well as a loaded sponsor table that really made this event special.

Frank Finger also made an appearance at the 2022 Spring Conference. “I have attended over 60 NARSA conferences,” said Finger. “When I went to my first conference, the business was just my father and I. My business ended up with 35 locations and over 300 employees. The expansion of Wholesale Radiator Warehouse and Finger’s Radiator would never have happened without NARSA.” 

Finger said he was very impressed with the event and walked away with new ideas. “Don Hart’s shop is very well equipped. It gave me many ideas for my shop. These included: the demonstrations on the new methods for cleaning DPF filters using water, recoring DPF filters, some new ways to market cleaning filter services, etc. Everyone that helped me expand my business, I met at NARSA conferences. I learned a great deal about the radiator business at the NARSA conferences just by talking to other shop owners. There are some great ideas I would never have thought of brought up at these conferences and I always come back with something that helps me grow and refine my business.”

“I would encourage other shops to open their doors for future NARSA/IDEA conferences,” said Don Hart. “It is rewarding being able to give back to our industry that has helped us grow as a company and as individuals in so many ways. We have had several members contact us with questions about things we are doing and how they can implement these ideas into their shop. I personally feel I have made several new contacts that can/have helped us moving forward.”