When we were kids we were forced to share our toys with others. Then when we were teenagers, sharing got a little easier, but there was still the inevitable fight over which sibling got to take out the car on a Friday night. But as we got older, we shed our selfishness and realized that sharing can actually be a good thing. And what better place to share product information, business ideas, and industry updates than at a national electrical conference.

The 47th annual Independent Electrical Contractor's (IEC) National Convention and Electric Expo will take place Sept. 29 through Oct. 2 at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minnesota, and organizers say it's shaping up to be the most successful show to date. They're expecting about 1,000 attendees and a little more than 100 exhibitors. Attendees can expect four days of educational sessions, new products, and even some entertainment, but more about that later.

Continuous education is invaluable in the electrical industry as codes constantly change and techniques are refined. The motto of this year's IEC University is “Education Today — Success Tomorrow” and with more class options than ever, attendees stand to learn a lot.

It's just about time for a new version of the National Electric Code (NEC), which is updated every three years. The NEC is the most widely adopted safety code, so it's important to keep up-to-date on the changes. During the “2005 NEC: What Every Contractor Needs to Know” session at 1 p.m. on Oct. 1, Jeff Sargent, senior electrical specialist with the NFPA Electrical Engineering Department, will talk about the changes to the Code that will directly affect electrical contractors. He'll specifically discuss residential, commercial, and industrial work, how the changes will affect every aspect of business from estimating to job planning, and what field workers need to know to comply with the new Code.

Whether a company is just starting out, or has been in business for 15 years, there's always room for improvement. Larry Silver, publisher and editor-in-chief of Contractor Marketing magazine, will host the “Developing a Growth Action Plan” session at 1 p.m. on Sept. 29, when he'll discuss how to capitalize on company strengths and how to turn weaknesses into growth opportunities.

With electricity costs rising, consumers and facilities managers are looking for energy-saving lighting controls to keep costs low, and the electrical contractors who know the latest products and techniques will get those jobs. During the “Lighting Controls to Save Energy” session at 1 p.m. on Oct. 1, Ghassan Nasrallah, Leviton, will discuss energy products like occupancy sensors, timers, and daylight harvesting systems; talk about how to identify energy-saving opportunities and offer solutions; and give an overview of selling tools, government regulations, and utility incentive programs.

Arc-flash explosions occur between five and 10 times a day in the United States. In no other profession is safety more important than electrical work, and not knowing correct procedures could be deadly. In the “Safety First: A Look at Arc Flash and Fall Protection” session at 12:45 p.m. on Oct. 2, representatives from OSHA, Square D, Eaton/Cutler-Hammer, and CNA, an insurance provider, will take a close look at the contractor's liability if an accident occurs, and examine the true cost of claims. They'll also cover fall prevention — with an emphasis on scaffolding, ladder, and trips — as it applies to construction and electricians; teach how to avoid arc-flash hazards and falls through the implementation of company safety program; and review NFPA 70E requirements like the use of personal protective equipment.

Now after all that brain building, you'll need a little break, and this year's convention will offer five different tours around the city (we said there would be fun stuff). The Twin Cities Highlights tour offers — well — exactly just that. On this three-hour tour you'll go through the downtowns of Minneapolis, St. Paul, and surrounding areas. You'll see attractions like a 53-foot waterfall at Minnehaha Park and the Cathedral of St. Paul. The Take Me Out to the Ballgame tour will take you to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, home of the 1987 and 1991 World Champion Minnesota Twins, to see the team play the Cleveland Indians.

The IEC Convention and Expo will give you a chance to share what you know and learn from some of the best in the business. IEC has its fair share of successful member contractors, and they all have something to give. Even if you learn just one new technique or safety procedure the trip will be worth it.

For more information, visit www.ieci.org.