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Convention – 60 Years of Getting Together

By Mark Milovich, 2015 MHEDA President

Sixty years ago, on May 16, 1955, roughly 60 distributors assembled at the Morrison Hotel in downtown Chicago for the first time as a trade association. The order of business for this first meeting was to elect a Board of Directors and establish the bylaws of the Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association. In the days that followed, MHEDA, an idea that was launched seven months earlier, in October 1954, became a reality.

Norman Cahners, publisher of Modern Materials Handling magazine, gave the keynote address to the new organization at the inaugural meeting. “Today we are standing at the threshold of what really could become one of the most important doorways of your business career,” he said. “You are about to embark on a real adventure in business.” Norman expressed the mood of the crowd saying, “The most important times of life are those rare moments when we see something new being born, something that is really significant being created. Certainly today is one of those days!” I’m sure any one of us would have loved to be a part of that first Annual Meeting of MHEDA!

Fast forward to April 18, 2015. This year, for the 60th straight year, we will again join together as an association to continue the work of those who came before us. The annual Convention was created so that members would have a forum where we could learn from each other. Mr. Cahners stated to the members in 1955, “Who else will teach you efficiency in your business? Who will teach you, except people in your own business? People like yourself, people who have solved your problems.”

And for 60 years we have done just that! It’s the highlight of our year; the event that gains the most attention and the most work from the MHEDA staff and the Board; the event that draws the largest crowds; the event that everyone puts on their calendar. We look forward to seeing old friends, strengthening business relationships, forging new relationships, and bringing back something- some tidbit of information, or a new idea, or new procedure that will help us to continue to be the “Best of the Best” in our industry.

A lot has changed since those early annual meetings. In those days, the OEMs didn’t look too favorably on MHEDA or its annual Convention. Today, the manufacturers are a vital and important part of Convention. The annual meeting was always held in Chicago; today we go to exciting places around our country, and everyone has their favorite spot! But for 60 years, the foundation of the annual Convention has not changed- to learn from each other.

Robert Braun, MHEDA’s first president, presided over the first Convention. Thirty years ago, in 1985, my father presided over the 30th Annual Convention. It is an honor to preside over MHEDA’s 60th Annual Convention and Exhibitors’ Showcase, and an awesome thought that an idea created so many years ago is still as alive and vibrant today as it was in 1955, maybe even more so. While in San Antonio, take it all in! And take some time to reflect and think about past Conventions you’ve attended- the friendships you’ve made; the best practices you’ve learned. Make every minute of our gathering count – enjoy yourself!

The 2015 Annual Convention and Exhibitors’ Showcase promises to build upon the excitement of last year’s meeting in Orlando. 2014 saw the largest gathering of MHEDA members since the 1980s, and there was a great sense of accomplishment and camaraderie within the membership. Most of our wounds from the recession have healed and we’re forging ahead at full steam. We sincerely hope you join us for the 60th annual meeting- to learn from one another and to continue to grow and promote our unique industry.

The theme for this year’s meeting is “Culture that Rocks,” so we’ll have a Rock-and-Roll atmosphere going in South-Central Texas as we learn about creating business cultures built for success. A lyric from a Van Halen song will surely fit the week we’re together – “Standing on top of the world, for a little while….”

See you in San Antonio!


Mark President