The Certified Floorcovering Installers (CFI) celebrated their 19th annual conference this year in Nashville, Tenn., furthering their mission of educating installers with the latest and most up-to-date techniques to help improve both the quality of work and life for those in the installation community. The event attracted roughly 250 professionals and of that 52 were first timers. Jim Walker, CFI CEO, commented, “The number of First Timers attending the CFI Convention this year is unprecedented. Many were young installers attending with their wives and new associate members. This is exciting for the industry to know that this many young people spent a substantial amount to learn more about their trade.”

The large number of first-timers swelling the ranks of the show floor was only one of many high points at this year’s event. CFI also handed out their very first Chris Davis Award at the show, named after the late World Floor Covering Association President and CEO D. Christopher Davis, a tireless advocate for installation training in the industry. The Chris Davis Award aims to recognize those who promote quality installations through CFI, and Bernie Madden of Madden McFarland Interiors, Leawood, Kansas, was given the inaugural honor for 2012. According to CFI’s Jane Walker, Madden exemplifies those qualities deserving of the award.

“Bernie Madden, who received the award, was our emcee for years. He represented retailers in the highest manner possible and he was a person who really stands for what Chris Davis was trying to do,” she explained.

CFI also awarded its annual Charles R. Gress Award, which is the trade group’s highest recognition for flooring installers. “Gary Goessl, an officer of the CFI Wisconsin Chapter and George Johnson, an officer of the CFI Delmarva Chapter are the recipients for 2012.  Both have contributed greatly to the growth of CFI in their areas,” said Bob Gillespie, past president, as he distributed the awards.

Since this was my first industry conference reporting for FCI, I asked Jane Walker her recommendations for people to interview. At the end of the first day, instead of just a few people, Jane had gathered the whole board of directors of CFI to meet with me. It left me with a marvelous impression: CFI seems to always be willing to extend a helping hand to others.

Several key factors were hit on during the interview. CFI is ever expanding; currently they have over 43,000 floor covering installers certified in seven different countries and will soon be traveling to Chile. Robert Varden, CFI’s president, spoke about the expansion. “We started with carpet but our goal is to cover every surface. I’d say over the last two to three years we have been very successful in adding in the resilient categories, the wood categories and the ceramic categories.”

The board of directors also discussed how in the past members had to pay dues in order to stay up-to-date as certified floor covering installers. However the board recently announced that members no longer have to worry about renewing their certification. CFI’s Ben Boatwright said it best in regards to the members who haven’t recently been to a convention due to the certification renewal: “We want those folks to know they can come home.”

The 19th annual event included a range of seminars, associate booths and an evening to visit the Nashville area. The topics covered included: Concrete Moisture Testing, Social Media, Spray Adhesives, and a hands-on Heat-Welding seminar.

During the two days I spent at the conference I learned many things about the industry and installation, but one stood out to me the most:  The members of CFI are a family. Jim Walker, a man determined to make the flooring industry better, had created a sense of community for floor covering installers. It was an undeniable and reoccurring theme throughout the conference, and an opinion shared by many people there. CFI is a great way for floor covering installers to learn from one another, make connections and network. The men and women of CFI are warm, welcoming and very well educated in the floor covering industry.

Next year, CFI will be traveling to Washington, D.C., to celebrate its 20th anniversary convention. CFI is planning an extra day to tour the city for those who have never visited before or would like to see it again. For more information on CFI and future events, visit www.cfiinstallers.com.