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HomeFeatures2024 OCA Convention Fits Bill of Fun, Closer-to-Home Destination

2024 OCA Convention Fits Bill of Fun, Closer-to-Home Destination

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia San Diego.”

With apologies to Philadelphia and its 247 days of sunshine a year, “It’s Always Sunny” in San Diego in comparison to the City of Brotherly Love. And for OCA members, coming from their home state that averages a mere 170 days with sunshine annually, they loved the location for the 2024 OCA Annual Convention.

Association members, families and friends traveled to Southern California – a region typically enjoying sunshine 266 days a year – for the 102nd OCA Annual Convention, March 6-13, at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar near San Diego.

 

“Outside one day, we had sunshine every day; people could swim, people could golf, people could horseback ride …,” said OCA Director of Member Events David Rule. And the “one day” that wasn’t sunny and required a change of an outdoor to indoor venue, the staff of the Five Diamond resort handled it so well, according to Rule, “many of the members probably didn’t realize it was supposed to be outdoors.”

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The SoCal destination was the first OCA Annual Convention to be held in the contiguous U.S. since 2006, when the association traveled to Phoenix, Ariz. This year marked the seventh time the OCA Annual Convention was held in California – and the first in San Diego since 1996.

Arriving on Wednesday, attendees had the opportunity to settle in and have their initial look at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, judged by TripAdvisor as the nation’s top luxury hotel. The day concluded with dinner and entertainment – which featured music by the Brian Stodart Band of singer-songwriters such as James Taylor, The Beatles, Elton John, Norah Jones and more.

The next morning was the convention’s traditional Prayer Breakfast, which included remarks from 2024 OCA Chair Matt Sterling, of Beaver Excavating Co.; readings from OCA Executive Board Members Mary Fantozzi, of J.D Williamson Construction Co., and Bill Luttmer, of A&A Safety Inc.; a closing prayer by OCA President Chris Runyan; and comments about the coming week’s schedule and activities from Rule. The breakfast’s inspirational theme continued with featured speaker Mike Manazir’s “Lead to Win” message.

A retired Two-Star U.S. Admiral, Manazir’s appearance was a reminder to members of how important the military is to the area, as Miramar Marine Air Base is roughly 6 miles as a crow, or F-14, flies from the Fairmont Grand Del Mar. While many think of Miramar as the setting of adventure movies Top Gun (1986) and Top Gun: Maverick (2022), this is the Marine Corps’ largest air station and home to more than 12,000 soldiers and civilians. Miramar, also known as “Fightertown USA,” is integral in supporting the nation’s Joint Force operations in the Indo-Pacific Command.

Now an executive for a Fortune 100 aerospace and defense company, Manazir is a Top Gun graduate, who commanded an F-14 squadron, aircraft carrier and carrier strike group during his military career. His “Lead to Win” message to OCA members was: If you have one or more people looking to you to show the way, you’re a leader.

While the Prayer Breakfast typically doesn’t feature a keynote address, Rule said Manazir’s message was well received. “He was outstanding. I know of OCA members that have been in contact with him since and have inquired about him talking at one of their events.” Rule added that Manazir provided a proverbial tip of the wing to the Ohio audience by mentioning that his favorite “rear-seater” was Ted Carter, the new president at The Ohio State University.

While the convention’s weekday afternoons and weekend were set aside for attendees to take part in various activities and excursions, Monday’s and Tuesday’s industry sessions were informative, well attended and well received. “We had more people in the industry sessions than we typically do because of the speakers and topics,” Rule said.

Friday’s Industry Session featured two themes of national interest – federal regulatory policies impacting the transportation construction industry and last November’s headlines-making emergency project following a fire that closed a major portion of Interstate 10 in Los Angeles. American Road & Transportation Builders Association Vice President & Counsel for Regulatory Affairs Prianka Sharma, who joined the ARTBA staff in 2023, spoke on a range of federal regulatory issues her office is working on behalf of the heavy/highway construction industry. Sharma discussed regulatory topics on ARTBA’s watchlist ranging from Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG), Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) revisions and Qualifications-based Selection (QBS) for engineering design services, to Department of Labor Davis-Bacon wage rules. The second part of the session provided an in-depth look by California DOT’s (CalTrans) Sepand Minovi, Security Paving Co. Inc.’s Brian Algren and Griffith Company’s Ben Walnum on the repair work following the damage to I-10 by the November 11th fire. The emergency project reopened I-10 in only eight days’ time, much to the appreciation of the route’s more than 300,000 daily drivers.

The final Industry Sessions featured a Part 1 on Monday and Part 2 on Tuesday on the topic of “Current Insurance Trends in the Industry.” Co-led by Ben Osborne and Tim Walsh of OCA-member Oswald Companies, the sessions’ topics included insurance coverage for cyber and equipment, additional insureds and best practices for tracking subcontractors’ insurance coverage.

The “play” portion of OCA’s work-and-play convention included numerous SoCal activities and excursions. In addition to the swimming, sunning and social areas provided at Fairmont Grand Del Mar, the resort’s onsite amenities available to convention goers included a spa, a golf course, pickleball and tennis courts, as well as trails for horseback riding, hiking and e-biking. The convention’s offering of excursions included golf at Torrey Pines, which is considered one of the nation’s premier courses; trips to the San Diego Zoo and Little Italy; motorcycle sidecar and bicycle tours; hiking a nearby slot canyon; a choice of kayaking, a sailing regatta, a speedboat tour, tour of the USS Midway or trip aboard a luxury yacht; and a tour featuring tequila, tacos and tombstones.

Another memorable destination for OCA members was Monday’s Theme Event at Miramar Marine Air Base. Rule said the event was made special by members of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 who served as hosts. Of the base’s participating officers, pilots and mechanics, Rule said, “They gave us a tour of their hangar; sold all types of swag – which everyone loved; and then had dinner with the OCA members and talked with the group at the tables,” The dinner was preceded by a 1940’s USO-style show with Swing Dolls and Big Band music.

Mission Accomplished

With the 2024 Annual Convention held in the Lower 48 for the first time in nearly 20 years, Rule thought the intentions of attracting first-time attendees were met. “More than one-third, closer to 40%, were first-time convention goers,” he said. “This is what Matt (Sterling) was hoping, a younger crowd and new faces. I think many attendees appreciated being only a flight away from home, and that maybe prompted people to attend.”

Save the Date

The OCA 2025 Annual Convention is set for Milan, Italy, March 5-13. Early plans for the association’s first trip to Italy since the 2017 convention was held in Rome, include adventures to Florence and a Theme Day at Lake Como in Northern Italy. Look for more details to be announced!

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