The Reunion Resort in Kissimmee, Florida, served as backdrop once again for the mid-February gathering of IEDA dealer members along with dozens of product and service suppliers/exhibitors, as well as the association’s supportive sponsor-affiliates, which includes several OEM-authorized dealers. IEDA is distinguished as the independent dealer organization whose members are individually vetted for ethical business practices by a board of their peers.
Leading off the weekend, a first-ever IEDA members auction was sponsored by Bryan Auction on the front lawn of the Reunion Resort. A complementary catered lunch plus cash bar were provided to all, and a huge assortment of vehicles and equipment were sold throughout the day. A variety of fun consumer items were also auctioned, and all the proceeds were donated to the IEDA Foundation – a grand total of $10,000 was raised for the 501(c)(3) organization.
With a record-breaking total attendance of over 200 industry professionals, IEDA’s meeting officially kicked off Friday, February 17 in fine style with a welcome party – replete with abundant and excellent food and drink – that brought attendees together in the elegant Reunion lobby and patio. Live music – sponsored by Hall Equipment – provided a fun backdrop for lively conversations among dealers, suppliers and vendors, staff, and speakers.
More was to come the next day. First, a hot breakfast buffet was provided by sponsors Granite Mountain Machinery and RAW Machinery. Then, from economic outlook and contractor data to a federal policy discussion, compelling Right to Repair panel, and sales-focused keynote, the meeting’s business program addressed some of the most relevant, poignant issues in the independent dealer’s daily life today.
“This was the best event I’ve personally taken part in by a long shot,” said IEDA 2023 President Steve Udelson, Co-Owner of Easton Sales & Rentals. “Executive Director Dave Gordon and his team give 110 percent and it shows in everything they do for the IEDA. I had so many people come and tell me how glad they were they came. And that’s what it’s all about – giving our members a great event and great tools they can go home with. They’re the real rock stars, and we are excited to keep growing and building this organization to make them more successful.”
The IEDA scholarship program was launched in the fall of 2021 when IEDA gave three $5,000 scholarships to students at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. At the Annual Meeting, IEDA introduced one of the inaugural scholarship recipients, 33-year-old U.S. Army veteran Natasha Norman.
Following her six-year service to her country, including one tour of duty to Iraq, Norman struggled with PTSD and addiction. She is also a single mom to four-year-old daughter, Aurora, and, she said, to a black lab service dog named Diesel. She set her mind on pursuing training, at first in Western’s automotive technician program, where she graduated with a 4.0 GPA, but it didn’t feel right, she said. So, despite the challenges of child-rearing and an 84-mile round trip school commute, she went in another direction.
“I knew I wanted to wrench,” Norman said. “I wasn't happy with the small stuff. And right across the road from the auto program was the diesel program. I figured, why not? So, I did it, and that's where I found the place I wanted to be. The instructors were amazing. Being a female, it's a little bit harder in the field, but they did not treat me any differently.
“A wise man told me if you do what you love, you'll never worked a day in your life, and that's what I found in the diesel world,” Norman continued.
Upon graduation, she was hired full time at a Peterbilt six-bay shop and she couldn’t be happier, she said.
“I feel right at home there. It's a very great learning environment and as long as you're willing to work and learn – then it's kind of too easy,” she told the IEDA crowd. “The scholarship helped me so much, especially with getting my first set of tools. That money helped me breathe a bit easier. So, I greatly appreciate that and everything you guys do. It's amazing. I know all the students awarded appreciate it.”
Sunday morning, 90 golfers – double the group from 2022 – took to the links for a scramble-style, 18-hole rounder on the Reunion’s Arnold Palmer course. Golf tournament sponsors were Wheeler Cat, Easton Sales and Rentals, Robertson Equipment International, and simex Baumaschinenhandel GmbH.
That evening, the closing Big Bash party, sponsored by Alliance Funding Group, Coleman’s Equipment Pty Ltd, and MG Machinery LLC, welcomed a 200-plus crowd to the posh rooftop environment called “Eleven,” featuring indoor and outdoor-poolside spaces and bars where members networked late into the evening. A cigar-rolling table was sponsored by Calvin Group Inc. and a bourbon-tasting station was provided by Specialty Equipment Insurance Services. Live music sponsored by DGI Trading and Hall Equipment Co., lavish gourmet spreads, plus a warm, star-sprinkled Orlando evening made for a memorable finish to a production even Hollywood would be challenged to rival.