As I sit down to write this Stone Column, I feel like I can finally take a breath. It’s been a busy first half of the year for myself and the Stone World staff — filled with a great deal of traveling, both domestically and abroad, to trade shows, workshops and other stone industry events. This is in no way a complaint, as we always learn something new, meet a new industry member or reunite with an old friend. It might make it difficult sometimes to balance being out of the office while still putting the magazine together, but it always works out in the end and is definitely worth our time. I do apologize, though, for anyone who might have received a delayed response from me in the past few months.

Talking with Jason Kamery, who you know is our managing editor, it seems the one common denominator we have been noticing when attending these events is the willingness to share ideas and experiences. The majority of the stone industry is sincere about wanting to help and teach one another. Whether I am at a fabricator forum during TISE or Coverings or one of the workshops Stone World holds with the MIA+BSI, I can more often than not feel the energy in the room and the comradery many share when discussing issues that affect them as fabricators.

Jason recently returned from the SFA Italy Tour, where he spent a little over a week with about 14 fabricators visiting stone-processing plants, machinery and tooling manufacturers and even a quarry. He said enthusiasm was high and communication within the group was continuous. I have also been privileged to have the opportunity to experience this trip, and it was the same way back then. With many hours together on a bus and one fine dinner after another to socialize over, it is amazing how even after a long week participants are still eagerly talking shop by the end of the trip. In my opinion, this is a testament to our industry. While it isn’t always easy at times, many of those who are in it for the long haul try to take a minute to step outside of their shop and network with others who are experiencing similar situations and issues — even if they are in different regions of the country.

In the past month, I was in Memphis, TN, and then Chicago, IL, for the Stone World / MIA+BSI workshops. And at some point during both sessions I overheard a fabricator telling another that it was difficult to leave work, but he was happy he came. As I mentioned earlier, at times I find it difficult to juggle my day-to-day workload when traveling, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. To attend one of our workshops, or one of the several organized by the SFA throughout the year, only requires leaving your shop for a day or two. If you go to a trade show, or lucky enough to be invited on the SFA tour and accept, you would have to allot more time for your absence. If you are a small shop, in particular, I understand how even leaving for a day might not be the easiest thing to do. Every person and shop is different, so it is understandable to weigh the pros and cons. But in the end, my guess would be that the majority of those who decided to attend one of the many types of industry events would agree they came away with something beneficial — whether it be a new method to try when dealing with employee or production issues or meeting a friendly competitor in your area.

And what I enjoy most about attending various industry events is meeting new people and receiving feedback on our magazine. I met many new friends along my travels this year so far, and I hope to meet more in the months to come. Some are good sources for fabricator case studies and others offered other story ideas. Myself and the Stone World staff are always open to suggestions. We strive to continually to improve our publication, and your input is invaluable.