Earlier this fall, the MIA+BSI held its annual study tour in Vermont. In past years, I have joined the group on the tour of this region, as well as ones in Minnesota and Texas. Each time, I find it to be a great learning experience, as well as an opportunity to make new friends in the industry. This year, Stone World’s managing editor, Jason Kamery, joined the group in Vermont, and he shared a similar experience. In his article, beginning on page 30 of this issue, you can read Jason’s in-depth account of the three-day tour.

Jim Hieb, CEO of MIA+BSI, cites a host of reasons of why study tours, such as the one to Vermont, are worth participating in at some point in time. “We afford stone professionals the opportunity to get out of their own office/facility and travel to a destination for learning that cannot be duplicated in a classroom,” he said. “There is something special about touring facilities and especially quarries. The quarry is what connects us to the product we sell. Whether you are a fabricator, installer or restoration professional -- or you are the salesperson who sells it -- there is a fascination with the origin of the product, which is Mother Earth.”

Jim also explained it is the host companies, as well as the attendees, who make a trip like this successful. “The host companies are doing a great job of showing off the best in the industry,” he said. “[Also], the attendees make these events outstanding. They are filled with eagerness to learn and are seeing -- many for the first time -- quarry operations, carving demonstrations and sites they may not be exposed to in their own companies.”

Participating on tours such as this also provides opportunities for networking. Traveling by bus from point to point allows time for talking and getting to know one another better. In addition to the MIA+BSI study tours, I have also joined the Stone Fabricator’s Alliance on its annual trip to Italy several times. Whether in Italy or the hills of Minnesota, the participants are all the same. They come excited to learn new things and see the various sights and share their thoughts with one another. After a few hours or several days, the talks often turn to their jobs and I listen to them share experiences about managing shops or dealing with customers. By the end of these types of trips, people who were once strangers are now buddies.

I know many of you are shop owners and find it difficult to leave business behind while participating in an industry tour, but I think you will find it will be worth your while. Speaking for myself, I always come away learning something new and meeting new contacts that often are leads for new articles. And when talking with other participants on the various trips I have been a part of, I only have heard positive feedback and them saying how happy they were that they decided to go.