After launching a successful Lunch Connection program this past April at Ricciardi Marble & Granite in Hyannis, MA, Park Industries’ New England sales team planned another one for September 12, 2019, which was hosted by Ripano Stoneworks in Nashua, NH, who also happens to be Stone World’s 2006 Fabricator of the Year. The three-hour event drew attendees from as far as six hours away, and provided several short educational sessions, as well as live machinery demonstrations and an opportunity for friendly competitors to network.

“Our goal is to share information,” said Jeff Goodsell, Park Industries sales consultant. “Change is happening exponentially faster, and we need to change with it.”

The ideas of the abbreviated educational program is to offer fabricators insight into the advances in technology, as well as other subjects pertaining to running a business in the stone industry, but not keep them out of their shop for too long. “It’s short and sweet,” said NiChelle Davidson, Park Industries sales assistant. “Customers want to see a fabrication shop that is recognizable, and successful. They also want to connect with fellow fabricators that are close to proximity to them.”

According to Davidson, Park Industries has held several of these events in various regions in the U.S. and the New England team intends to hold two or three per year.

Richard Laliberte, a founder of Ripano Stonework’s and whose son Matt runs the business today, spoke of his support for events such as the Lunch Connection. “Aren’t we better off all working together to do things better?” he asked. “If everyone does a good job, it’s good for everybody. I don’t fear my competitors, we have no secrets here.”

Brian Ricciardi, who hosted the Lunch Connection in the spring, agreed with Laliberte. “I thought it was a great idea,” he said. “Jeff [Goodsell] and I have worked together for 15 years or so. It was a very positive experience.”

The owner of Lee Tile in Lee, MA, was among the attendees of the Lunch Connection. “Jeff reached out to us,” said Bob Arseneau. “We are in the process of starting a new shop. We are excited to check out and implement a lot of what [Ripano Stonework’s] has. We have some Park equipment already.”

Goodsell kicked off the event by addressing the audience on how fabricators need to make their businesses appealing to millennials. “We have to be creative or we aren’t going to get them,” he said. “Millennials value a flexible work schedule more than money. They are also wired for technology. You need to modernize your facility to attract millennials. We need to change the image. If you are stuck in your old ways, you aren’t going to get these young kids!”

Matt Laliberte, current owner of Ripano Stoneworks, also spoke to participants, outlining his company’s journey into technology. “We didn’t do it all at once,” he said. “It has been in phases over 32 years. We probably stepped into the digital era a little too slowly, in my opinion.

“There are three big things to be fully digital,” Laliberte went on to say. “Digital templating, cutting and routing. Do some research to find out what’s best for you. You can take the steps like we did, but in hindsight, if I was starting a new shop, I would invest in the ‘big three’ because they play off each other.”

Presently, Ripano Stoneworks operates a Saberjet CNC saw waterjet, Titan CNC router and a Fastback II Flat Edge Polisher. The company also recently invested in a Zoller tool measuring system. It has been a really good addition for us this year,” said Laliberte. “I’m excited to see what’s coming down the pipe. As Jeff said, it’s changing quickly.”

Stayed tuned for Park Industries’ next Lunch Connection in the New England area. According to Goodsell and Davidson, it will most likely be held sometime in spring of 2020.