It’s the home of Steve Martin, J.R. Ewing and President Bush, but March 16 to 20, Texas will be the temporary home of hundreds of building service contractors.

Specifically, BSCs from across the country will venture to the Wyndham Anatole Hotel in Dallas for the annual Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI) Trade Show and Convention .

"Shakin’ things up" is this year’s convention theme, and in that spirit, the BSCAI convention committee changed some old convention features, and added some new ones:

  • The early-morning "Cracker Barrel" sessions have been replaced with networking opportunities later in the afternoon, during the concurrent sessions. "The 7 to 8 a.m. slot was tough on attendees and on speakers," says BSCAI’s director of meetings Karen Bilak.

  • Two keynote speakers — Lou Adler and Bernard Hale Zick — will offer a double dose of their advice by speaking first at their respective general sessions, and then at separate breakout sessions later in the day.

    "People wanted the general sessions, and the specific. There will be lots of time to ask questions,"says Bilak.

  • On Saturday and Sunday, contractors will be presenting floor-care demonstration on the trade show floor. This is a departure from last year’s manufacturer demo day, though manufacturers will be on hand to answer questions.

    The standard "Skill Builder Sessions," some of which are manufacturer demos, still are scheduled for 5:15 p.m., Saturday through Monday.

Also new this year is an arts competition. If you have a piece of "industry art" you’d like to show off, consider entering it in the new contest. You must notify BSCAI of your entry by March 1 (call (800) 368-3414), and bring your creation to the show. Cash prizes will be awarded!

Learning opportunities
As always, there will be a wealth of information available at the show during the concurrent sessions and general keynotes.

The general sessions, especially, are not to be missed, says Bilak.

This year, BSCAI hired three professional speakers to discuss "hot topics." Each morning at 8 a.m., Sunday through Tuesday, features a different keynote:

  • Recruiting and hiring: Sunday, Lou Adler, CEO of The Adler Group, Tustin, Calif., will present "Forget the myths about finding top candidates; hiring them is the top challenge."

  • Motivation: Monday, Wolf Rinke, president of Wolf Rinke Associates Inc., Clarksville, Md., will present "How to achieve extraordinary results with ordinary people."

  • Marketing and growth strategies: Tuesday, Bernard Hale Zick, a speaker from Kingwood, Texas, will present "How to build a bigger bottom line in a price-competitive world."

There is no keynote speaker during Saturday’s opening general session. Instead, the Dallas Cowboys Cheer-leaders will be performing (and will be available on the trade show floor for photos and autographs).

While you’re on the trade show floor seeking autographs, be sure to take the time to peruse the rest of the Trinity Exhibit Hall, says director of exhibitions Elizabeth Price. About 250 manufacturers will be showing off their new products and services.

"Plan it out, and take your time," suggests Price. "Figure out what you want to see, then go there first. But make sure you leave time to wander — you might find something you weren’t expecting."

Around Town: Dallas
Between business meetings and educational seminars, why not check out some of the sights Dallas has to offer?

The city itself has more shopping centers per capita than any other major U.S. city, and four times more restaurants per person than New York City, according to the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau. BSCAI attendees over 21 can quench their thirst at more than 1,600 bars, restaurants and other establishments serving adult beverages.

Dallas is one of the few cities boasting teams from four professional sports leagues. Unfortunately, the Dallas Coyboys football team is in the off-season, and the Texas Rangers baseball team is away at spring training during the show. However, basketball fans can check out Dallas Mavericks basketball March 15 versus the Minnesota Timberwolves, and March 17 versus the Phoenix Suns. Call Ticketmaster at (214) 373-8000 for tickets. Hockey fans can see the Dallas Stars take on the Phoenix Coyotes March 16, or the Ottawa Senators March 18. Call (214) GO-STARS for tickets. The Mavericks and Stars both play at Reunion Arena.

If the arts are more your speed, visit the Dallas Arts District, which sprawls across 60 acres on the north side of downtown. Anchored by the Dallas Museum of Art; Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center; and Arts District Theater, this district is the largest development of its kind in the United States. Other artistic attractions include The Dallas Opera; Biblical Arts Center; Old City Park Museum; Legends of the Game Baseball Museum; The Sixth Floor Museum and the Conspiracy Museum.