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NATE Rebrands Annual Convention

Tower industry group prepares to gather in San Diego amid a business boom

Amid boom times for its member companies, the National Association of Tower Erectors will open the doors of San Diego’s Town and Country Resort & Convention Center for the organization’s annual convention and exhibition, Feb. 24–27.

“It’s a very busy time in the industry,” said NATE Executive Director Todd Schlekeway. “You had all of the LTE 4G buildouts ongoing. Verizon has completed their network, they’re actually back out doing Advanced Wireless Service installation. AT&T is actually finishing their 4G buildout, and T-Mobile and Sprint are just starting theirs.

“That demand has led to a huge workforce demand, and there’s a shortage of workers in our industry.”

NATE also is rebranding the convention NATE UNITE.

“It summarizes our efforts to bring the entire industry, and the carriers, tower owners and tower construction firms that are the largest part of our membership,” said Schlekeway.

“There’s a whole ecosystem, [including] the broadcast group, that has a vital role in our industry. NATE UNITE represents bringing everyone united to work together to promote safety in the industry.”

The trade association was founded by companies whose primary function was erecting, servicing, constructing or maintaining communication towers or similar structures. The hallmark of NATE, headquartered in South Dakota, has been worker safety; the first and last of its several mission statements mention safety, and the convention program includes a healthy dose of relevant sessions.

“We double down on safety,” said Schlekeway. “We think each member company needs to create that culture of safety within their own organization, and each individual employee needs to make it paramount, a top priority, every time they step on a tower site.”

This year NATE has expanded certification courses offered at its convention to include the NATE Authorized Climber Course, NATE Competent Climber/Competent Rescuer Course, OSHA 10-Hour Training Course, Medium Intensity Lighting (LED) Installation and Maintenance Course, a PIM (Passive InterModulation) Testing Certification Course, and a Competent Rigging/Signaling Course. Participants must register in advance, and be employed by a NATE member company.

The NATE convention will provide three tracks of educational sessions: Technical, Leadership and Administrative. These will update attendees on how technological advancements and standards will affect project performance and implementation.

Said Schlekeway, “You’ll see an eclectic mix of exhibitors — we have the manufacturers, wholesalers and suppliers of the equipment, telecom equipment, the RF safety equipment, the safety harnesses and lifting equipment, and the personal protective equipment that tower climbers wear.”

He adds, “We have a lot of training companies that are members of NATE, and most of them exhibit at our show. The exhibit floor is an important part of the networking and offering leads to our member companies, and getting exposed to new products that are coming on the market, and new technologies.”


What: NATE UNITE 2014 Conference & Exposition

Who: Companies and individuals involved with or interested in broadcast and telecommunication tower erection, service and maintenance industry.

Where: Town and Country Resort & Convention Center, San Diego

When: Feb. 24–27

How Much: $149–$449 (before Feb. 14), $259–$599

The NATE convention could also be fertile ground for broadcast radio tower owners shopping for communications companies looking to site their antennas.

“There’s such a demand right now,” said Schlekeway. “Of course it’s going to hinge on what type a structure the tower is, and whether it’s structurally sound enough to host more antennas and more equipment.”

With the cellular network companies driving demand for NATE member’s services, it’s appropriate that the organization’s convention be keynoted by Martin Cooper, chairman and co-founder of Dyna LLC, co-founder of ArrayComm LLC, and innovator of the Jitterbug cellphone and service.

Cooper conceived the first portable cellular phone in 1973 and is recognized as an innovator in spectrum management. He has been involved in, and contributed to, numerous innovations in personal wireless communications in his 50-year career. Radio industry readers take note: He also was involved in Motorola’s AM stereo efforts.

Cooper’s keynote address will be delivered starting at noon at the NATE Keynote Speaker Luncheon on Feb. 26.

Another high-profile speaker will be Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, who will speak at the Feb. 25 NATE Keynote Speaker Luncheon, starting at noon.

As assistant secretary, according to an official biography, he has worked to strengthen the agency’s enforcement in high-risk industries, improve OSHA’s whistleblower protection program, promote commonsense worker protection programs and standards, expand compliance assistance provided to small employers, and increase outreach to the vulnerable populations who are at greatest risk for work-related injury and illness. He has also increased OSHA’s focus and capabilities in the areas of data analysis and program evaluation.

Sessions at the conference will address topics such as “The Primary Reason for Tower Accidents,” “Overloaded Mounts and Your Safety,” “LED Lighting” and “Social Media, Networking and Marketing for the Tower Industry.” Exhibits take place on Tuesday and Wednesday of the show.