Editor’s Letter – October 2016

Lesley psf head shotIn this issue, we are beginning a new feature: NTCA Previews. You’ll find it under the NTCA News section.

NTCA Previews is excerpted news from a monthly report on association activity that executive director Bart Bettiga just started issuing to directors and staff. It gives you an idea of all the things NTCA is actively working on.

This was an eye-opener for me as to the vast extent of everything NTCA is involved in, and I hope it will be for you too. NTCA has its fingers in many pies, with committees for training and education, technical, convention planning, social media, business development, NTCA Reference Manual, finance, membership, methods and standards, and a new one being developed for social media. We have regional and state ambassadors who are supporting education and proper training – as well as NTCA membership – in all 50 states. We have a Youth Leader Scholarship and trainers who are on the road bringing education to local markets, as well as a vibrant seminar program that addresses industry issues with the convenience of a computer and our developing NTCA University program as well – plus we are becoming more of an educational presence at shows that cater to different segments of the industry, such as our participation at the recent Remodeling Show | DeckExpo | JLC LIVE (R|D|J) in Baltimore. It’s hard to know EVERYTHING that is going on with NTCA staff, volunteers and officers.

But NTCA Previews is meant to do just that – give you a sense of what your association is doing on a monthly basis to help you be your best in this industry, and help the industry be its best in developing training, standards and addressing issues that cause problems with installations. Check the NTCA Previews each month for ongoing news of new initiatives and updates on existing ones.

The other feature in this issue I’d like to draw your attention to is our annual Women in Tile feature.

We look at female leaders in three companies – J&R Tile, Visalia Ceramic Tile, and Soci Tile & Sink – and the positive, professional contributions they are making to our industry. Women bring a unique skill set to their roles in our industry. Combined with their expertise and success within their companies and in the betterment of the industry as a whole, the women profiled in this TileLetter issue, and in the industry at large, command respect and admiration among their peers for work well done.

God bless,
[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – September 2016

Lesley psf head shot“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere” – Chinese proverb

When I talk to my non-industry family and friends about my work, a question I often get is, “How can you write so much about TILE?” The general public sees pretty tile in a home or a store, maybe knows a little about grout, but has no idea about the details and consideration that go into a tile installation.

Indeed, when I was writing and doing publicity about carpet and floor covering for decades, even I didn’t dream the tile industry was as intricate and involved as I came to learn. Coming from primarily a retail/sales perspective on floor covering, I didn’t realize the precision, engineering, and technical aspects that tile (and stone) installers have to deal with every single day – not to mention the artistry and business acumen that has to come into play. I’ve said in this column before that it was through attending the NTCA annual conference in Charlotte, N.C. in the fall of 2002 and talking with James Woelfel, that I got insight into the passion and the level of complexity that contractors need to encompass in day-to-day operations.

Add in the constant evolution of manufacturing technology and setting material refinements and you have plenty of material for a monthly (and then some) magazine on this topic!

This month’s issue is no exception. We focus intently on membranes and underlayments in this issue, from the MAPEI cover story on the company’s ShowerPerfect system, to contributed pieces on crack isolation and permeation by Dean Moilanen of Noble Company, acoustical underlayments by Ryne Sternberg of Pliteq, and our By The Book feature on membrane use in a steam shower, authored by Elizabeth and Dan Lambert, Five Star Contractors from near Vail, Colorado. There’s a wealth of information on the fine details of these subjects, for starters.

Then read about a recent gauged porcelain tile installation at the U.S. Tennis Association’s training and development center in Orlando. Five Star Contractor David Allen Company partnered with MAPEI and European Tile Masters – with early-on assistance from Crossville – to install Fiandre 5’ x 10’ Marmi Maximum Premium White tiles – 3 floors up. All partners putting their heads together made this installation a huge success.

And one of our stories this month is a preview of Total Solutions Plus – the eventual evolution of that NTCA conference I attended 14 years ago. The opportunities here for education and connection with colleagues and suppliers are immense. If you are still on the fence about attending, please read Bart Bettiga’s article and then go to www.ctdahome.org/tsp/2016 to register.

There are lots of opportunities to learn more about our venerable industry – that’s what NTCA is all about. Whether it’s workshops or webinars, educational programs, conferences, or publications, NTCA has got it all going on to help you excel in your trade and get support while doing it.

God bless,

[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – August 2016

Lesley psf head shotNever doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead

Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work. – Vince Lombardi

Every month or so, all the NTCA staff members, together with Scott Carothers and Cathey McAlister of CTEF, come together in a phone conference to update each other on what we are working on and progress made since the last meeting.

Yesterday (June 28) was one such staff meeting. I am always amazed at all the things everyone is working on – updates and additions to our NTCA University; expansion of our on-the-road and webinar educational opportunities and private training sessions; NTCA presence at Surfaces, Coverings and A&D events; the expanded reach of the NTCA Reference Manual, which by next year will be published in Australia and Canada in addition to the U.S., with the intent of translating it to Spanish for dissemination in Mexico; more timely publishing of TileLetter and its associated publications TRENDS and TECH.

One fact that always strikes me is the update on our membership, and this is always something I want to share with our members and our readers as a testament to the strength and reach of our association. So I will do so with the latest figures here:

As assistant executive director Jim Olson (who oversees our membership activities) reported yesterday, NTCA gained 22 new members in June, largely through the efforts of our technical trainer/presenters Mark Heinlein, Robb Roderick and CTEF’s Scott Carothers on the road. At the end of May 2015, NTCA had 974 members, but this year we have 1170 members. Overall this year, we are up 200 members, about 100 new members and 100 retained members.

Why is this important? The more members we have, the greater the body of knowledge, expertise, involvement and energy to influence the industry in the direction of what benefits tile installers, and the more people have a voice. And what benefits tile installers ultimately benefits the entire industry – tile and stone and all the amazingly engineered setting materials are wonderful products, but without an installer who knows which products to use for which application, the entire project can be reduced to a massive, costly failure.

I’ve said this before, but there are many situations in our lives where we feel relatively powerless (or we scratch our heads – witness the presidential election process this year: yowza.). But the NTCA offers a true opportunity to make a difference and to shape the future for the trade. The brilliance of NTCA members, working together, has made huge strides in methods, standards, certifications, publications and products that – when heeded – spell the difference between the unskilled and the professionals.

If you are passionate about your industry – and your own business – consider investigating what NTCA offers you. Visiting www.tile-assn.com is a great place to start.

God bless,

[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – July 2016

Lesley psf head shot“Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, never regrets.”
– Leonardo Da Vinci



On June 8, I attended a Continuing Education Program, held in Albuquerque, NM, and organized by NTCA State Director Karl Parker and a group of manufacturers. This is a follow up to the first Continuing Education Program that Parker organized, and took place in March and focused on uncoupling. If you missed the write-up, you’ll find a review in the Coverings TileLetter issue.

Yesterday’s eight-hour session focused on waterproofing. Though it was a little more sparsely attended than the March event, I can assure you that those who invested the time came away with a tremendous wealth of knowledge, and opportunity to meet manufacturer reps up close and personal. We also learned about the Construction Industry Division (CID), State of NM developments in re-instituting certification and licensing requirements for tile contractors (after the GS03 license was recently dropped). Representatives of the CID attended to learn about what our trade actually does – and why we contend that a plumber is not able to do a tilesetter’s job of installing showers and pans. More than once they expressed how detailed and precise our trade is and what it involves. Parker himself explained that a test is in development, with support of NTCA and local manufacturing reps, for the “license to prove general knowledge and two years minimum as the lead setter.” There will also be meetings to explore moving installation of the pan, water testing, and backer boards to the setter’s license, versus the plumbing license.

NTCA NM State Director Karl Parker organized this second NM Continuing Education Program on the topic of waterproofing. Eleven manufacturers participated in the program,  with presentations and live demos of waterproofing products and systems.

NTCA NM State Director Karl Parker organized this second NM Continuing Education Program on the topic of waterproofing. Eleven manufacturers participated in the program,  with presentations and live demos of waterproofing products and systems.

Participating manufacturers, who gave short PowerPoint presentations followed by live demos of products, included MAPEI, USG, CUSTOM, Noble, wedi, Schluter, TEC, Blanke, ARDEX, Bostik, and LATICRETE. The demos were outstanding. With each demo, I thought, “Now THAT is a foolproof method…” and then with each NEW demo, I learned more and more about the features and benefits that each product provides.

Bottom line – in this 21st century, be assured that there are 21st century, high-tech products that have been engineered to make your life as a tile installer easier – and to ensure the end-user will have a problem-free shower. From warranted products, to system warranties that go from 5 to 10 years to the life of the installation, to those that not only cover the tile, setting materials and labor in the rare event of a failure, but that will also cover any DAMAGE resulting from that failure. These are phenomenal products. I was blown away by the level of research and development that goes into each and every one of them and the reps who are supremely versed in the needs of this industry and how their particular product can offer advantages and benefits.

As Schluter’s Tim Whittington said, “Every one of these products is phenomenal, if you do it correctly.” Every one of these products are great products, if you use them right. And there is a ton of choice from fabric membranes to liquid trowel-on membranes to closed cell, cement-covered foam shower system components.

There are a couple of rules of thumb. As Tim Ellison of ARDEX emphasized, “READ THE BAG.” His talked centered on knowing the product and asking the manufacturer for clarification or help if you have a question – they are only too happy to send a rep to work with you to be sure your installation is problem free from the get go. If only every industry (hello, computer industry!!!!) supplied the level of support these manufacturers do.

JT Baca (l.) and Pat McMurray from the NM Construction Industries Division, Regulation and Licensing Department, were on hand to update the group about measures to reestablish the NM tile setter license and learning more about the trade, what it does, and its products.

JT Baca (l.) and Pat McMurray from the NM Construction Industries Division, Regulation and Licensing Department, were on hand to update the group about measures to reestablish the NM tile setter license and learning more about the trade, what it does, and its products.

Also, if you are an NTCA Member, take advantage of your Partnering for Success vouchers to try a new system and see how that works for the kind of jobs you do.
As editor of this publication and a faithful attendee at industry events like Coverings, Total Solutions Plus and TISE West, I am aware of the vast offerings for different product categories in this industry. But it was really interesting to see the light come on for contractors who had never heard of, or been exposed, to a particular setting material company’s products as they learned about the possibilities these products held on their jobs.

Kudos to all the manufacturers who willingly played together in the same arena, revealing their products in an open forum. And also to all the competing contracting companies in the same market who came together to learn and grow and better the industry with their knowledge. And of course, thanks to Karl Parker, whose passion and intense dedication to this industry inspired him to develop this continuing education series. Next on tap? It could be grout…stay tuned for more information.

God bless,

[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – June 2016

Coverings in Chicago means experiencing new things – like this Skydeck Ledge Experience at Willis Tower during the Aperitivo Italiano sponsored by Ceramics of Italy.

Coverings in Chicago means experiencing new things – like this Skydeck Ledge Experience at Willis Tower during the Aperitivo Italiano sponsored by Ceramics of Italy.

“If you want something in your life you’ve never had, you’ll have to do something you’ve never done.”
– J.D. Houston


So, last month, we started teasing you with reports from Coverings. This month, we launch fully into people, products and news from the show. In this issue, you’ll get an overview of the show, as well as reports from the Coverings Installation Design Awards (CID) Opening Ceremony and Reception, the Installation Design showcase (IDS) and NTCA Award night. Learn about which companies and people are doing an outstanding job in their sector, are working to promote qualified labor, and see the result of designer/installer/supplier partnerships in the IDS recap – including the novel approach Welch Tile & Marble took to constructing its vignette – in a container, so it could transport it back home and use it for educational purposes!

We have a generous collection of products seen at the show for you – and we’d also love to hear what knocked your socks off on display at Coverings. Just email me at [email protected] – and if you have a picture to go along with it, that would be dynamite!
We also have a recap of NTCA Awards night, a relatively new event at Coverings. Ten years ago, when I first began working for NTCA, we didn’t have a NTCA Awards Night at Coverings, per se – we had the TileLetter Installation Awards, which examined many of the technical feats accomplished by installers on stunning projects. Coverings was sponsoring the Prism and Spectrum Awards. Over time, the Prism and Spectrum awards merged with the TileLetter Installation Awards, morphing into the CID Awards, which TileLetter co-sponsored, held the third night of the show.

But three years ago, Coverings management and ownership shook things up and moved the CID Awards to the first night of the show, to welcome visitors and kick off the event with a festive gathering. NTCA leaders saw an opportunity to have a special NTCA night again at Coverings and seized the third-night spot for a brand new event: NTCA Awards Night. In addition to the awards at the Total Solutions Plus gathering in the fall, this spring ceremony allows NTCA to honor and recognize stellar residential and commercial work from our NTCA Five Star Contractors, present Special Recognition Awards to two individuals for their dedication to promoting the tile trade and membership, and to present the NTCA Tile Person of the Year, and Joe A. Tarver Lifetime Achievement Award.

In addition to those awards, presented in a warm, family-type atmosphere, this year NTCA offered something new: The Tom Ade Ceramic Tile Scholarship Award, which was established by the NTCA to provide educational opportunities in college or trade for children or grandchildren of NTCA contractor members. This year, two scholarships were awarded, and NTCA hopes to raise additional funds to offer multiple scholarships in the future.

So if you couldn’t attend the show – and even if you did, because no one can be everywhere – enjoy the reports on the event, beginning on page 70. And remember, if you found something new and outstanding at the show or had an amazing experience meeting up with old friends or meeting new colleagues, feel free to share it for publication in a future TileLetter issue!

God bless,
[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – May 2016

Lesley psf head shotWith this issue, we start reporting on some of the news coming out of Coverings such as select products in our Thin Tile and New Product sections, and of course, the U.S. Tile Industry Update, announced at the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) press conference the second morning of the show by TCNA executive director Eric Astrachan. There’s good news for the tile industry, continuing the rebound from the dark days of the recession nearly a decade ago (actually when Coverings was last held in Chicago). Here’s how the tile industry did last year:

  • 2015 U.S. ceramic tile consumption was 2.74 billion sq. ft., up a significant 9.9% over with 2014’s 2.49 billion sq. ft., and 10.4% over 2013’s 2.48 billion sq. ft. – the sixth consecutive year-over-year increase in U.S. ceramic tile consumption, and edging close to 2013’s whopping 12.9% increase over 2012 volume consumption.
  • The value of U.S. ceramic tile consumption in 2015 was $3.2 billion, up 9.8% over the $2.97 billion in 2014 and 15.9% over 2013.
  • Though in 2014 imports decreased 0.7% over 2013, down to 1.71 billion sq. ft. from 1.72 billion sq. ft., that trend reversed itself in 2015, with growth of 9.9% to 1.88 billion sq. ft. Imports in 2015 held steady at 68.7% of U.S. tile consumption in volume, same as 2014, but down from 69.6% in 2013.
  • Although Mexico was the top exporter to the U.S. in 2014, China regained its position as the largest volume exporter to the U.S. China’s share of U.S. imports was 29%, followed by Mexico at 27% and Italy with 18.5%. Spain and Turkey rounded out the top five with 7.2% and 4.6% share of import volume, respectively.
  • In terms of value, Italy remained the largest exporter to the U.S., comprising 34.6% of U.S. value imports. China was second with a 26 % share and Mexico took third with a 14.3% share. The dollar value per square foot of tile imports (including freight, insurance and duty) rose slightly from $1.06 in 2014 to $1.07 in 2015.
  • There is a growing trend towards returning production back to the U.S. In fact, 2015 was a record year for U.S. manufacturers, as an all-time high of 857.2 million sq. ft. – up 10.4% from 2014’s 779.1 million sq. ft. – were shipped domestically.
  • 2015 exports were up 10.1% to 40.7 million sq. ft., up from 2014’s revised total (July 2015) of 37 million sq. ft. The vast majority of these exports (in sq. ft.) were to Canada (57.1%) and Mexico (18.8%).
  • In dollar value, 2015 domestic shipments (minus exports) were $1.26 billion, up 9.4% vs. 2014’s $1.15 billion. The dollar value/square foot of domestically produced tile fell slightly from $1.48 in 2014 to $1.47 in 2015.

There are lots of other great stories in this issue as well, with a focus on electric-floor warming: how it brings comfort and value to your customer, profit to your bottom line and what to keep in mind when you are considering an electric-floor warming installation.

Happy reading!

God bless,
[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – April 2016

Lesley psf head shot“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
– Nelson Madela

Each month it seems, there is an industry event going on that we are pointing to and encouraging attendance at. I no longer mark my calendar by holidays, but instead I mark the passage of time by considering it TISE West time, Coverings season, time for Total Solutions Plus. This month, of course, is Coverings, and I do hope you’re planning on joining the industry in Chicago from April 18-21 for it.

But I want to draw your attention to events that are ongoing each month, all across the country. And that’s the NTCA/CTEF educational program, with NTCA Tile & Stone Workshops being given at Daltile, Marazzi and American Olean locations nationwide, and the CTEF Educational Programs being offered at other hosts, including The Tile Shop and Emser.

In this issue, we shine a light on the wave of educational programs that took place in the last month or so and will do so periodically throughout the year. These programs are presented by NTCA trainers Michael Whistler, Mark Heinlein and just getting on the bandwagon, CTEF training director Scott Carothers. And there could be an opportunity for you to become a presenter too, if you are fluently bilingual, like to travel and are highly knowledgeable and able to teach about standards, methods and how to achieve successful installations. Interested? Contact Jim Olson at [email protected]

These programs are all free, in local markets and include a time for networking and enjoying local culinary fare at the host site. The presentations include a talk and hands-on demonstrations to fully illustrate the points being made in the talk. There’s always a Q&A session to get your questions answered, and often a time to visit tabletops from vendors and also receive great giveaways the vendors supply. Often local NTCA members are on hand to talk with you about the association or how qualified labor benefits the whole industry.

AND, if you’ve been thinking about becoming a NTCA member, each workshop gives you an opportunity to join our association, at a discounted price. This is a no-brainer opportunity, just for the Partnering for Success program alone, which awards every member EVERY YEAR with $1,800 in vouchers for free product that you use every day or have been longing to try.  That benefit is just the tip of the iceberg of NTCA benefits (check them all out at http://www.tile-assn.com/?page=Membership), but it’s up to three times the cost of membership reimbursed every year.

That’s not where education ends, of course. Please check out the ongoing NTCA University Update feature written by Becky Serbin, that takes a peek at our online course offerings in our apprentice and finisher programs. NTCA is dedicated to equipping tile setters, installers and contractors with the knowledge and information they need for long-lasting, well-performing installations that don’t put them at risk in terms of safety on the job or in terms of liability for ill-conceived installation systems.

Please peruse the Workshop story starting on page 62 in this issue, and consider attending when Michael, Mark or Scott roll into your town.

God bless,
[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – March 2016


My dad, Richard Goddin, and me, in 2012.

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
– Vincent Van Gogh

This column comes to you courtesy of a conversation I had with Jim Harrington, Sr., of Professional Consultants International, inspired, posthumously, by my dad.

First, a little background. On January 29, immediately after Surfaces and as soon as the airports were clear from the major snowstorm that hit the Northeast the weekend of January 23, I flew from NM to NJ to be present with my dad while the pulmonary fibrosis he had battled for many years weakened him and finally claimed his life. While it was a time with him I will treasure, it was also a harrowing experience to watch his life systematically drain away, even as I navigated through the labyrinth of Medicare, hospital and nursing home care, communication with his doctors, and the gamut of emotions that resulted for my mom and me. Before I go on, I want to thank the NTCA staff and contributing writers for their immense loving patience with and support for me for those six weeks, as well as the support from many in the industry. And I want to extend apologies for delays in getting TileLetter, TRENDS and Coverings issues to you this year – I was juggling deadlines during this process and did not always hit the mark.

lesleys-dadDuring this period, I engaged in an email exchange with Jim Harrington about our late dads, who had both served in the Army Air Corps in WW2. Both our dads provided “behind the scenes” support for the war effort – Jim’s dad inspecting planes coming through Hickam Field in Honolulu and mine packing parachutes. We conversed online about how these support roles saved lives.

Jim shared about a seminar a friend had attended given by a pilot who had been shot down. This pilot had the occasion to meet the soldier who packed his parachute. “The pilot pointed out (correctly) that without the guy packing the chute doing his job correctly, he would not be here,” Jim wrote, pointing out that “many of the combat vets were always willing to acknowledge the importance of every cog in the machine to the success of their mission.”

And this is where this column relates to our industry, and even your business. In each situation – business and personal – everyone plays an essential part. I saw that first hand in my recent experiences at the nursing home, where LPNs and CNAs did indispensable services for my dad that ensured his safety and comfort. I saw it with friends and family: those who drove me to the nursing home when I didn’t trust myself behind the wheel of a car due to lack of sleep; those who accompanied me to visit in the last days as a support; some who fed me; or put me up in their home; those who sent notes of encouragement or traveled many miles to be with my mom and me; and of course my sweetie who held down the fort at home and flew out for the funeral, and the friends who looked after our cats while he was away. I saw it during the whole funerary process as each funeral professional from the funeral home to the cemetery helped to create an honoring tribute to my dad. One of the things I feel is so much gratitude to all involved.

Your business may not be a life or death situation, but the health of your business is important. It’s important for your customers’ satisfaction, for your employees’ financial health and that of their families, for the ongoing prosperity of the company that you may have built, run or work for. And each role is essential. Try doing without the foreman, or helper, or receptionist or designer for a day or a week and see how things fall apart.

So, this is a call for bringing gratitude more consciously into your day-to-day operations for everyone who makes up your team. Gratitude for all those who dedicate themselves to making your business run smoothly, whether they are high-profile employees or those who keep things humming behind the scenes.

Merriam-Webster defines cog as “a subordinate but integral person or part;” oftentimes the emphasis is placed on “subordinate,” or being “just” a cog, but in this column, I’d like to place the emphasis on “integral.” No matter who you are or what your role, you are important. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It couldn’t get done without you. And beyond the immediate task you are accomplishing in the situation, you may have no idea of how far reaching your effects may be. Thank you for all you do.

God bless,
[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – February 2016

Lesley psf head shot“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” 
– Albert Einstein

A couple of topics for this letter.

First, I want to post this photo, taken in December 2015 at association headquarters in Jackson, Miss., of the brand new, updated NTCA logo and most of the NTCA staff and distinguished guests. The porcelain logo was created for the association by Tom Ade and Filling Marble & Tile in Egg Harbor City, N.J. It just so happened that the installation of the logo coincided with a visit of most of the staff to headquarters for year-end meetings, planning, and a holiday dinner. Shown are (l. to r.): Sandy Bettiga, Bart Bettiga, Lesley Goddin, Mark Heinlein, Mary Shaw-Olson, Jim Olson, Becky Serbin, Scott Carothers, Michael Whistler, Jill Whistler, Tricia Moss and Michelle Chapman. Missing is Lisa Murphy, NTCA accountant, and Joe Tarver, NTCA executive director emeritus.

NTCA-staffSecond, I want to further the discussion, started in the December Editor Letter, about solutions to the labor shortage in the U.S.

Just this second week in January, we received a report from the Associated General Contractors of America that showed in December, construction firms added 45,000 workers, as construction unemployment continued its decline from 8.3% a year ago to the current 7.5%.

One of the telling aspects of the report, however, was this statement: “Association officials noted that most contractors remain concerned about shortages of available construction workers, noting that 70% of contractors report having a hard time finding workers. They urged federal, state and local officials to act on measures outlined in the association’s Workforce Development Plan to support new career and technical education programs. In particular, they called on Congress to enact needed reforms and increase funding for the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.”

SEVENTY percent. That’s huge. I don’t currently have a figure for the tile industry, but I suspect it would be in a similar ballpark. Which brings us back to the December letter.

We received a lot of feedback to this letter – phone calls to Bart in the office and emails to me – thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts! Some respondents were very favorable to the idea of exploring the possibility of importing labor in the form of skilled, certified Mexican workers on a temporary basis to help alleviate some of the immediate labor shortages that are plaguing our industry; some also cited personal experience with excellent work of Mexican laborers they had worked alongside.

Others misunderstood the intent of the letter, fearing an influx of unskilled, undocumented workers, which was never part of the original discussion. But the point was made numerous times about the importance of developing U.S. resources, whether in trade schools, recruiting ex-military – goals NTCA is involved in at various levels, including our online apprentice program in development. And in fact, NTCA president James Woelfel added this comment:

“Young African-American males between the ages of 16-19 are unemployed at the rate of over 20% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, young women are in the same range. Here in Arizona young Navajo males are at around 70% unemployment, these numbers are staggering.

“Have we as an industry done our best to reach out to these diverse groups? I don’t think so. Are we selling our own citizens short? We need to do better in outreach to the younger people in our country, no matter the ethnicity (Ed. note – And, I would add, the gender). We have plenty of opportunity in our industry to employ young Americans.”

Well said, and great points. And yet I can’t help thinking that while all the plans to develop U.S. resources are good ones that should definitely be pursued, this issue is that educating, training, enticing and convincing U.S. citizens to enter the field, obtain necessary training and certification and make tile setting their life’s work takes a long time. Certainly, a great goal to shoot for and to attract more U.S. workers into the field from trade school paths, ex-military, inner city populations.

Yet we have an immediate need  – a NOW need – for workers. SEVENTY percent of construction contractors report a shortage. Would a program to certify skilled Mexican workers to help alleviate this situation be able to be implemented more quickly? That is anyone’s guess. But it might make sense to initiate efforts on both fronts. Once any obstacles are overcome in getting these trained workers here legally, we would be working with a population that has the desire to work in this field vs. starting from square one when it comes to plans to recruit U.S. workers.

I invite continuing discussion on this topic, and let’s see what arises!


[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – January 2016

Lesley psf head shotJanuary 2016 marks my 10-year anniversary as editor of TileLetter magazine. I can hardly believe a full decade has passed since Bart first proposed I come work for him during a conversation after the Total Solutions conference at the Las Vegas Hilton in September, 2005.

Some of the faces have changed over the years – Justin Woelfel was director of training and Bob Brown was NTCA membership director when I came aboard. Shortly afterwards, Gerald Sloan took over Justin’s role, which expanded to include Michael Whistler – with Gerald’s departure, Mark Heinlein now shares that hat with Michael. Jim Olson came on board as assistant executive director, assuming the membership duties held by Brown. Don Scott was president at the time, and since then I’ve hounded Don, Frank Canto, John Cox, Nyle Wadford, Dan Welch and James Woelfel for their presidential letters each month.

Other staffers over the years include Mary Shaw-Olson, ad sales; Becky Serbin, training and education coordinator; Lisa Murphy, accountant; Tricia Moss, office manager with Sandy Bettiga lending a guiding hand in accounting and web functions, after the departure of Gigi Wall. Providing a strong underpinning for all this change has been executive director emeritus Joe Tarver, executive director and TileLetter publisher Bart Bettiga and art director/ad sales rep Michelle Chapman, who makes TileLetter look fantastic every month.

From the very first time I attended a Total Solutions at Charlotte, N.C. in 2002 and interviewed James Woelfel, I have been astounded by the level of passion and integrity in this industry. Coming from writing about selling and merchandising at retail, at the time I had no idea that tile installers not only had to be expert craftspeople, but artists, designers, business people, logisticians, expert negotiators, and all-around wunderkind! I was sold at my first Total Solutions in 2002. I started contributing articles to TileLetter shortly after that and joined the staff full time in January 2006.

Since that time, not only have I seen ongoing passion and excellence, but I have seen amazing dynamism in our association and in our industry. Bart and Jim’s leadership has been nothing short of visionary, and they have the skills and heart to work with all different industry segments to get things done, and move things forward for the industry at large, contractor and affiliate NTCA members right up to Five Star Contractor members. If the association and industry wouldn’t be left in the lurch in their absence, I’d like to see them throw their hats in the ring in the upcoming presidential election – they have a proven track record of getting people to work together for the betterment of all, which our country could really use right now.

The other reason our association runs so well is because of all the volunteers – from officers to directors to members who stop by to lend support at local NTCA Tile & Stone Workshops, staff the booth at industry events, take time away from their own businesses to invest in initiatives that further the industry and the association, and who generously share information in TileLetter stories when I come knocking on their proverbial doors. And speaking of TileLetter stories, we could simply not put the magazine together without our contributors, from freelance writers like Terryn Rutford, Lou Iannaco, Tanja Kern and others, to all the industry experts who contribute their knowledge and wisdom to our publications.

What I want to say as we begin a new year, and I celebrate a decade with NTCA and TileLetter is what a great ride it’s been, with some of the best people I know. I look forward to another decade of growth.

It’s a new year. Let’s make it a good one, together!

God bless,


[email protected]

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