The hustle-and-bustle in the main lobby of the Bellagio in Las Vegas is a sight to behold. At all hours of the day and night there’s always throngs of people passing in and out of the hotel.

A little further back in the hotel, Uponor held its bi-annual 2014 Connections conference in late April that brought together the company’s contractor, wholesaler, manufacturers rep and engineer customers, as well as other invited guests and employees for a day-and-a-half of wall-to-wall networking and education — not to mention plenty of fun along the way.

This year’s gathering drew more than 900 people to Uponor’s eighth convention. Contractors made up the majority of the crowd (26% of attendees).

The Apple Valley, Minn.-based company, celebrating its 30th year in North America, reported plenty of forward momentum during the convention’s general session, including a current streak of 30 months of continuous month-over-month sales growth; a 66% increase in the amount of pipe shipped to customers; and providing product training to almost 3,200 customers over the last two years.

 “At the start of the 20th century there were 12 cities in the world with a million people,” Uponor North America President Bill Graytold the audience. “At the start of the 21st century, there were more than 500 cities. The next half century is going to be about building these cities. This creates a lot of opportunities.”

Vice President of Marketing, Offerings and Engineering Tony Radcliff spoke of the various products and technologies Uponor has released in the past few years and emphasized the company’s committed further push into the commercial market. “Our plan is to be as major a player in the commercial marketplace as we are in the residential space,” he said.

Uponor Senior Director Marketing and Offerings/Director of Business Development Dale Stroudprovided his usual data-filled economic analysis, complete with a sun-themed costume, which elicited widespread laughter from the audience. Stroud has accumulated numerous weather-related nicknames based on the tone of his previous forecasts.

“In 2009 there were just over 500,000 housing starts in this country. We lost 75% of the market in four years,” he said. “In 2013 there were 925,000 starts — a 50% improvement from two years ago. All signs point to a continued improvement.”

The convention’s second day provided attendees the opportunity to go to as many as six different educational breakout sessions on topics ranging from residential plumbing to brand marketing.

Several breakout-session highlights included Uponor’s Sonny Edwardsand R.T. Moore’s Scott Holcombbreaking down the top 10 pitfalls to avoid in residential plumbing jobs. A four-person panel that included Radiant Professionals Alliance’s Mark Eathertontalked about the importance of attracting skilled tradespeople in the plumbing and HVAC marketplace and featured an impromptu and well-received response from Stew Chaffeeof Uponor rep Rich-Tomkins Co. Chaffee, who was in the audience, stressed the need for the U.S. government to take a more active role with this topic.

Service Roundtable’s Matt Micheltalked about the importance of building a company brand and used the branding of such items as drinking water and bricks to hammer home his point. “If water can be branded, everything else can be branded,” he said. “The trick is how will you stand out and how will you be different?”

Building Knowledge Canada’s Gord Cooke was the general session’s featured speaker, while motivational speaker Doug Hanson (Doug Hanson Performance Group) was back by popular demand and ended the convention on a high note.

Additionally, this year’s convention featured an expanded expo area that ballooned to 12,000 sq. ft. of exhibitor space. Key Uponor partner Milwaukee Tool had a large presence at the expo and also conducted a pair of breakout sessions that highlighted the company’s continued product expansion aimed at increasing contractor productivity.

For more on Connections 2014, including a video interview with Uponor’s Alan Squires see here: