Volume 17, Issue 6- November/December 2013

Tampa Hits a High Note
By Casey Neeley

As the most highly attended event devoted solely to the window film industry to date, the 2013 International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off, held September 18-20 in Tampa, Fla., could easily be called a success. In addition to having the highest attendance rate of any event dedicated solely to the window film industry, the event also saw its largest number of competitors ever in the Architectural and Automotive Tint-Off Divisions.

It was a perfect storm. With industry awareness reaching new levels, not to mention a scenic bay setting in one of the top window film markets in the nation, it’s no surprise that Tampa drew a large crowd. In case you didn’t get the chance to attend this year’s event, take a look at what happened, as well as what attendees and exhibitors had to say about the 2013 show.

Pitch” Perfect Speakers
The keynote speakers for this year’s show were among the many high points of the 2013 International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off. One, a retired firefighter, the other a former Major League Baseball pitcher, offered inspiring tales about how they overcome adversity.

In an emotional presentation, FDNY Chief Richard “Pitch” Picciotto, the highest-ranking firefighter to survive the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, shared his harrowing tale of the infamous day.

He was in the north tower on the 35th floor when the buildings began to fall.

“It’s a day that we all remember,” he said. “When I got down there, it was horrendous what I saw. Not only that, but what I heard.” He told the audience the first firefighter to die in the attacks died from someone falling on him.

After making his way up through the building, Picciotto said he was stopped by a terrifying noise and sensation.

“I get up to the 35th floor and step out in the hallway … all of a sudden, the building starts shaking really loudly, shaking and banging and I don’t know what’s going on … I’m pretty sure everyone does what I did–we froze because no one knows what’s going on. There’s something coming down. I could feel; I could hear it. That bang and that noise was literally going right through my body. Banging and shaking … then it stopped,” he said. “There’s an expression: the silence was deafening. You could hear a pin drop … because everyone in that building did what I did–we froze.”

Picciotto said it was then he received confirmation and reports this was a terrorist attack. In his mind, he knew he had work to save lives before any more of the buildings fell under fire.

“I gave the order to evacuate,” Picciotto said. “That means the rescue workers get out. It was the toughest order I’ve ever given in my life, because I knew that meant the people on the top floors didn’t stand a chance … when I gave the order to evacuate, the North Tower had been burning for an hour … it wasn’t likely many of the people on those top floors were alive, and those who still were, we weren’t going to be able to help.

“I want to be out of the building so badly; I know it’s coming down. Then I hear the noise and feel the rumble again … The building is literally coming down and falling apart. As it comes down it’s flattening the level above it,” he said. “It took the south tower 10 seconds to come down. It took the north tower eight seconds.”

As the tower fell, Picciotto said he saw what was most important to him.

“What do you do in what you think is going to be the last eight seconds of your life? People say your life flashes before your eyes. That’s what happened to me. I saw my family. Then I prayed … I never prayed so hard in my life. I prayed what I wanted too much: I didn’t want to suffer. ‘Please God, make it quick.’ Then the floor I’m standing on disintegrates and I’m free-falling in blackness,” he said. “Black. Silence. Still. ‘Well, I guess I’m dead now,’ I thought. It was the loudest and most violent thing anyone has probably ever experienced, and then silence and blackness.”

After realizing he was still alive, Picciotto said he felt himself covered in thick amounts of dust.

The event helped Picciotto realize the greater meaning of his life. “The predominant lesson for me … any time there is a tragedy in our life, you get very focused on what’s important. What matters? Family and friends. That’s what matters … remember what’s important. Don’t give up on your family and friends,” said Picciotto. “My prayers weren’t answered that day. I prayed to go quickly, but that didn’t happen. Sometimes unanswered prayers are best.

“Also, if you remember 12 years ago what was this country like? We treated each other kinder. We stood together as Americans. Are we still close that way?”

In his keynote address, Jim Abbott, a professional baseball pitcher and motivational speaker, said the key to overcoming setbacks is having the ability to adapt.

Being born this way and growing up this way [without a hand], I knew how to be different,” Abbott said.

Born without a right hand, he went on to become an all-American hurler at the University of Michigan, won the Sullivan Award in 1987 and was the pitcher for the Gold Medal Olympic Team in 1988. He spent 10 seasons playing for four different teams and threw a 4-1 no-hitter for the New York Yankees versus Cleveland (September 4, 1993).

“There were great years and great trials, but also great adversity,” he added.

“What is it that I took away from the game?” Abbott asked. “What can I share with you today? It’s our ability to adapt … Great challenge can come with great success and greater challenges and pressure … What are you going to do about challenges?”

Optimism is key, according to Abbott. By making small changes, he found ways to do things that come easily to others, such as the football snap.

I was doing what I wanted to do and I learned to fit in. I had great people who taught me,” Abbott pointed out. “When you do things differently and step out there is bound to be pessimism … For everybody who encouraged me there were others who doubted me.”

“I believe that it’s mental toughness,” he said. “It can be cultivated and nurtured.”

Worth the Trip?
Never attended an International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off? Wondering if it’s worth your time?

“Well, after 35-plus hours combined on three different planes, visiting two states and a foreign country (Japan), spending $15,000-plus dollars to get halfway around the world to Florida was ALL worth it … Regarding this particular trip for the 2013 IFWC, it is simply immeasurable,” says Joe Roberto managing member for North & East Island Tinting in Guam. “Besides another one of our staff members taking the accreditations tests, it is our companies first time ever to enter the Tint-Off … While he didn’t advance to the finals, the experience alone was simply amazing. Each day that passed we met new friends and created excellent relationships to build on.

“In addition, we’re very thankful the way the schedule was set as it allowed us to attend most of the slated seminars and activities,” he adds. “We’re already looking forward to the 2014 IWFC … This past [show] in Florida was our second; our first was in 2012 in Kentucky. Since then, we made a firm company decision to make sure every year we are represented.”

“I thought it was fun,” says Chad Fos of Smart Energy Design. “It was really informative. We learned a lot we’re going to take back and improve our business.”

Beyond the trade show, the competitions add to the overall experience to the show.

The Tint-Off Competition adds a level of excitement and fun to the business and I think our members and our partners deserve some time together to learn new tricks of the trade,” says Larry Constantin, director of sales for the Americas for Solar Gard.

First-Timers Will Be Back
Several of this year’s first-time exhibitors say they found the show beneficial and plan to return in 2014.

“Obviously being here does help get our name out, but it also allows us to be a part of the industry and support the industry as a whole,” says Baxter Lusink, director of sales for Aegis Films.

VEGO had a successful showing and was excitedly received by the dealers. The pre-registered list showed approximately 76 window film dealer companies and we took home 48 solid leads. Capturing the interest of 75 percent of the possible dealers isn't bad at all. We'll definitely be exhibiting next year,” adds Zoilo “Z” Centeno, president of VEGO Inc.

Dan McPhail, vice president of sales for PremiumShield says the company thought that, “the show was well attended.”

“The show was good for us,” adds Richard Purdum, president of Solar Graphics. “We saw a lot of old friends and we made a lot of new contacts and put faces to our phone contacts. It’s nice to see who the more serious business people are in the window film industry.”

Female Filmers
In addition to having the largest number of competitors ever in this year’s Tint-Off Competitions, we also saw the largest number of female contestants—two. Here’s a look at the ladies who competed this year:

Maura Dovel – Automotive Tint-Off Division Dovel is the owner and president of Tidewater Tint in Hayes, Va. She has more than 25 years of experience in the industry. In her spare time, she enjoys golfing and spending time with her husband Paul.

Dovel says she loved being one of the few female competitors in the Tint-Off.

“I didn’t feel intimidated in any way. It didn’t affect me at all. I felt like it was just me,” she says. “I would love to see more female competitors. A lot of women who come to the shop ask me if they can learn how to do this … but when I’m out there I feel like I’m just one of the guys.”

Heather Bass – Architectural Tint-Off Division Bass is the president at A Plus Window Films Inc in Sarasota, Fla. The 38-year-old tinter has 18 years of experience in the industry and is certified in bomb-blast mitigation through 3M and Madico, and no-bar blast mitigation through HanitaTek. She is also OSHA certified.

Bass and her husband Mark have two children, Cheyenne and Joseph. She enjoys kayaking in her spare time.

Bass says she was welcomed by her male counterparts.

“The competition was unnerving for anyone. I had a male competitor come up to me before the start of the competition who told me, ‘as nervous as you feel right now, we’re all feeling that,’” she says. “The most amazing part was at the award ceremony, hearing a lot of the guys cheering for me, even though I didn’t place. It was humbling and it was a great experience.”

The Wild Card
Blackjack Media Group of Hudson, Fla., added an unexpected variety to the show floor this year. The media services group, which provides wrap services to its customers, treated attendees to a wrap demo on the show floor.

Amanda Hart, CEO of Blackjack, says that while installing the printed vehicle hood wrap, “We had a lot of audience participation. They had questions such as if the wrap could be removed, if it damaged the vehicle, and we were happy to answer those questions as well as help clear up some myths surrounding wraps. We wrapped the entire hood while we were there. We also made a lot of connections.”

Hart says a group of men there were looking to expand their business and add vehicle wraps.

“Any opportunity we get, we take the opportunity to be able to share the knowledge of wrapping a vehicle and the benefits,” she adds.

Hart also says that vehicle wraps would make an excellent add-on service for many automotive shops.

“It’s a lot like window tint … You get better with time and experience. We’re wrapping different vehicles every day and we’re doing different curves. We do it seamlessly so that there is no seam and we print each door separately,” she says. “It’s what makes you stand out above everyone else.”

A Look at the 2013 Winners
The competition was fierce this year. Out of 61 registered automotive competitors and 25 architectural contestants, only 12 in total were victorious.

Randy Humphries, operations manager for Tint King in Billerica, Mass., was crowned the Automotive Tint-Off champion. He received the grand prize of $10,000, a gold medal and trophy, as well as bragging rights as the “World’s Best Automotive Window Film Tinter.”

Second place went to Jonathan Sanchez, film application specialist for Hi-Line Window Tint in Rochester, N.Y., who won $3,000 and a silver medal, and Caleb Silkett, manager of Midwest Tinting in Overland Park, Kan., was the third-place winner and recipient of $1,000 and a bronze medal.

In the Architectural Division, the first-place champion is Ronnie Zdenek, president and owner of SPF Window Tinting in Hattiesburg, Miss. He received $5,000, a gold medal and trophy, as well as bragging rights as the “World’s Best Architectural Window Film Tinter.”

Second place went to Hann Kim, 2012 champion and CEO of STM Solar Control in Los Angeles, who took home $1,500 and a silver medal. Matt Adams, owner of Adams Window Tinting in New Bern, N.C., took the third-place bronze and $500. Chris Brooks, the 2012 second-place winner and co-owner of Kauff’s Tint and Graphics in Palm Beach, Fla., took fourth place.

Meet Our Champions!
This year, 31-year-old Randy Humphries, an operations manager for Tint King in Billerica, Mass., who has 13 years of experience in window film, was named the champion in the Automotive Tint-Off Competition. Ronnie Zdenek, the 36-year-old president and owner of SPF Window Tinting in Hattiesburg, Miss., used his 16 years of experience to take home the gold for the Architectural Tint-Off Competition.

When asked how it felt to win, our champions said it validated them as professionals.

“This is what we do on a daily basis. We have a lot of young talent coming in … being able to do this proves that I’m good at my trade. I’m speechless,” Humphries told Window Film magazine after winning.

Following his win in Tampa, Zdenek shared, “It feels great, I wasn’t expecting this at all. We look forward to coming here every year and have a great time. We’ll be here next year.”

While Humphries says he isn’t sure yet what he’ll do with the money, Zdenek knows he’ll spend at least a portion of his check on a new pair of boots.

In addition to the prize money and trophies, our winners also received bragging rights as “World’s Best Automtove Window Film Tinter” and “World’s Best Architectural Window Film Tinter.”

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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.