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‘Solutions’ That Also Teach Lessons


By Warren Brand

It all started over coffee with a friend. I had wondered to Dean, a coating rep, how it was that Chicago—the U.S.’s third-largest market—had never hosted a local corrosion conference.

Of course, there were SSPC and NACE, but those are huge national shows and, in many respects, cater to fellow coating professionals and sophisticated owners.

But where was the local conference focused exclusively on bringing solutions to the owner? And where was the conference that crossed all industries?

Feds and Refineries

After all, corrosion is an equal-opportunity challenge to every industry and commercial entity, as our conference list eventually confirmed.

Monica Chauviere
Photos: Warren Brand

Monica Chauviere, president of MoniCorr Inc., discusses Corrosion Under Insulation at Engineered Corrosion Solutions 2014 in Chicago.

We had representatives from commercial management companies, refineries, water departments, hotels, park districts, swimming pool contractors, and even the local Federal Reserve—all under one roof.

But with no such event available in the late summer of 2013, I decided to create one, almost on a whim. Thus was born Engineered Corrosion Solutions 2014.

Lighting the Fire

Dean immediately volunteered to be the first exhibitor and soon wrote me a check.

Still, I had no idea what I was getting into.

We had no attendees, no venue, no idea of the curriculum, and exactly one exhibitor.

However, as we called various vendors—all good “work friends”—people started signing up. Quickly, we had enough exhibitors to justify the event. (We were very fortunate that some special people flew in from various parts of the country to exhibit and speak.)

We also found a venue and conceived a general idea of the curriculum.

Thomas Thyer

Thomas Thyer (center), construction supervisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, stops by the RadTech booth, staffed by Joe Mutillo (left).

Now came the hard part: finding attendees.

Tackling Turnout

This task was much more difficult than I could have imagined.

After pouring on the publicity—with blogs, articles, email blasts and hundreds of personal calls—we ended up with roughly 75 attendees in all.

I was disappointed, as I felt an obligation to each exhibitor and speaker to make the event valuable, but many people reassured me that the turnout was excellent for a first-time event.

On the Other Hand...

We screwed up in a bunch of ways. Let me throw some of them out there.

We hired someone to do public relations three months before the conference. I failed to follow up on her progress which, after two months, was non-existent. We found ourselves seriously behind the 8-ball with only six weeks to go.


Dudley Primeaux, Todd Gomez and Rudi Rennert represented VersaFlex Inc. at the conference. Exhibitors were easier to find than attendees.

About two weeks before the conference, we went to look at the venue more closely. The conference was held on the top floor of a local hotel in a beautiful glass atrium, and we were told that there were two conference rooms we could use.

The conference rooms, however, were in the basement and were reminiscent of my second-grade classroom, except smaller and with older fixtures.

So, we ended up having one conference room in the foyer, right in front of the elevator, and the other in a corner of the larger conference room.

These were challenging places to speak, and I owe all of the presenters great thanks for their patience and perseverance. Very sorry about that. It won’t happen again.

But Wait, There's More...

I inadvertently scheduled ECS in conflict with NACE. To quote my daughters, “You can’t fix stupid.” (Note to self: Don’t schedule ECS during NACE or SSPC.)

PPG booth

The event drew about 75 attendees. Mistake No. 1: Scheduling against NACE.

I also failed to coordinate the presenters with attendee CEU requests. Many, if not all, of the brilliant talks were designed to be valid for continuing education units. We won’t make that mistake again, either.

There were myriad other, smaller glitches. I forgot to have someone introduce each speaker. We hadn’t arranged for lunch. I caused confusion about table sizes and location of tables (which, thankfully, everyone tolerated with great patience).

I failed to coordinate a dinner after the conference. And I'm sure there were other gaffes that I simply can’t recall at the moment.

Declaring Victory

From a technical perspective, however, I can safely say the conference was a success.  Exhibitors got good leads, and attendees were deeply engaged with the excellent speakers and exhibitors.


The conference host was the Chicago Coatings Group. Clockwise from top left: CCG president Warren Brand, senior project manager Dan Wiese, comptroller Laura Moorhood and office manager Lisa Weir.

My personal experience was equal parts humbling and exhausting.  Each exhibitor and attendee took a chance with my firm and me to do something that had never been done before. I am deeply grateful.

Numerous others also stepped up to help out in numerous ways. You know who you are. Thank you.

Looking Ahead

We are beginning development of Engineered Corrosion Solutions 2015. While it is still early, it’s going to look something like this:

1.     It will not conflict with SSPC or NACE.

2.     It will be two or three days.

3.     It will be farther south and more centrally located.

4.     It will include lunch (possibly free lunch).

5.     It will likely include a tour of a local manufacturing facilities. 

6.     CEU credits can be earned at the conference. 

7.     The presentations will be broken into modules for various industries and attendees.

8.     The venue will be less fancy and more functional.

9.     Did I mention that it won’t conflict with SSPC or NACE?

Thank you to all of the exhibitors, speakers, attendees and everyone who helped make ECS 2014 a success.

Hope to see you all at ECS 2015!

January 2015 Update: ECS 2015 is on the way! Join us April 8-9 in Chicago to attend top-notch technical sessions and meet with leading vendors in the corrosion field. Whether your field is commercial, industrial or both, the fundamental corrosion mechanisms are identical. Learn more here!


Warren Brand

Warren Brand’s coatings career has ranged from entry-level field painting to the presidency of two successful companies. Over nearly three decades, he has project-managed thousands of coating installations and developed specs for thousands of paint and coating applications. NACE Level 3 and SSPC PCS certified, Brand, an MBA and martial-arts instructor, now heads Chicago Corrosion Group, a leading coatings consultancy. Contact Warren.



Tagged categories: Coating Materials; Consultants; NACE; Protective Coating Specialist (PCS); Protective coatings; Specification writing; SSPC; Chicago Coatings Group; Conferences; Corrosion; Quality Control

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