Every one since the year 2000.
What's impressed you the most? Do they get better every year?
The camaraderie improves every year. More and more people seem to attend and say nicer things about it as we've gone along. For many of us, it's the only time we get to see each other.
From how far do people come?
Usually from all across the country. The strength of our membership comes from the Philadelphia and Chicago areas and I'd say almost 70 percent come from those two places. I know we've had people from Texas , Las Vegas , the South and we've had a couple from Canada .
Who attends an ILA convention?
Mostly institutional locksmiths, although we do have associate members who attend as representatives of various distributors and manufacturers. We also encourage regular commercial locksmiths to attend. Our class schedule and meetings are geared toward the institutional locksmiths. They should understand that we aren't going to be discussing Grade 3 residential hardware and automotive stuff. We'll be dealing with access control and Grade 1, high end, extra heavy duty closers, locksets, exit devices and the like.
That's a good point. You guys aren't typically dealing with the public the way a locksmith who owns or works for a business does. I've heard in-house locksmiths say that in spite of this, they do have customers. Who are your customers?
Institutional locksmiths don't do it for a profit. Our customer base is the institution itself.
So there's no profit motive involved which helps you focus on the task at hand and not how much to charge for it.
That is correct. The down side is that you have to deal with politics of a big institution; as much as you'd like to say it doesn't exist, it does. You deal with people more interested in a personal agenda instead of what's best for the institution. The trick is to be able to focus on what you're trying to accomplish and not takes things personally.
Regarding the upcoming convention; what's it been like in the past and have there been changes made to improve it?
We've tried to do conventions a number of different ways. Many times we've approached a particular manufacturer to sponsor it such as Ingersoll-Rand or ASSA ABLOY. Other times, to bring some different flavor, we've either sponsored the event ourselves or worked with a supplier. In that case we were responsible for coordinating education and advertising for it. Of course when you have it sponsored by a manufacturer, the classes will be about their products. A couple of years ago, a distributor hosted it for us and we got to have manufacturers big and small participate. It's great for the smaller ones who might be able to sponsor an entire event like this.
My understanding of what the usual purpose of ILA gatherings is education and food, true?
Yes the main focus is education. Many of our members are using their own money and can't write it off as a business expense we do the classes for a low cost.
Are most of the men and women who attend doing so with the support of their employer?
About half. Half seem to get funding and time off. The other half take care of it themselves or they might get the time but don't receive help with travel, hotel or tuition for classes.
Let's talk to some of the folks reading this who fall into this latter category. I understand that the upcoming show in Chicago is not being sponsored by anyone.
We, the ILA, are running it top to bottom, soup to nuts. We're having our own trade show and arranging all of the classes. The president of the ILA, Kurt Kloeckner, is out in that area and is doing a really good job. Whether or not your employer is footing the bill, knowledge is transportable to anywhere.
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