Back in October, the Starnet Worldwide Commercial Flooring Partnership held its annual fall membership meeting at the Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas. Starnet is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and the fun continued for three full days at Barton Creek.

“We’ve seen a record number of attendees for a fall meeting,” Jeanne Matson, Starnet president and CEO, said. “We tried to build in a few extra things this year, in celebration of our 20th anniversary – the golf outing, the Austin city tour and other activities – which were very well received.”

The overall theme running through the event focused on the many facets of the planning and implementation of a commercial flooring project: working with architects and designers; proper project management and the role of the project manager; job site safety, organizing project management and more.

“Instead of the usual workshop approach, this year we decided to present everything in a general session format so that everyone would be able to glean as much information as possible,” Matson said. “It’s a very robust agenda, and everyone’s looking forward to learning a lot.”

Robust was an understatement. Highlights included the “Partnering with the Designer: Sharing Best Practices” panel, which provided a very straightforward breakdown of the relationship between contractors and designers, how those relationships are established and how each side can benefit from a strong partnership.

“Talking about the best practices between Starnet members and our designer partners can only help build new relationships and strengthen existing ones,” Deb Esbenshade, vice president of member services, said.

The afternoon saw Sloan Bailey, an attorney who specializes in construction law, review new contract clauses that are appearing more frequently on commercial contracts.

“I rarely get to spend any significant amount of time with people who aren’t in a world of hurt, so it’s helpful every so often to be reminded that there are people who are successfully making money and bettering the world around them,” Bailey said. “While it may not be comforting to you, it should give you some assurance that if you are intellectually honest about your contracts, and serious about reviewing them, that everything is negotiable.”

 Day two saw another example of a growing trend: if you speak knowledgably about technology, they will come. A packed room sat in rapt attention as the Technology Committee’s two co-chairs, Bob Murdoch and Christiaan Nazarian, led a discussion on utilizing the iPad in the commercial flooring industry, illustrating the dramatic increase in the way new technologies are supporting projects in the field.

“We’re the only presenters you’ll see this weekend who will be delighted to see you bent over their iPads, your iPhones, tapping away; it warms our hearts to see that,” Nazarian said wryly. “For those of you scribbling away frantically with pen and paper, we got here just in time.”

Running through the pros, cons and functionality of the iPad and iOS-based technologies and how they are becoming more and more prominent in the commercial flooring industry, Murdoch quickly and plainly explained why the Apple platforms will dominate the market for the foreseeable future.

“You are looking at the proud owner of a Microsoft Zune. It has better picture, better sound, built-in HD radio, easy interoperability with PC and Xbox, and it was utterly destroyed by Apple,” Murdoch said. “You just can’t fight 90 percent market share; dominant market share always wins.”

The afternoon gave attendees a chance to peruse the tabletop displays of various vendor partners – companies like Tandus, Mohawk, Milliken, Mannington Commercial, Bentley Prince Street, J+J Invision and more – and learn a bit about new products, designs and technologies entering the market now and in the near future. This was a new addition to the fall event lineup, and went over exceedingly well with attendees.

The celebrating picked up again that evening, and neither rainy skies (nor a slight hiccup in transportation) could not deter the buoyant mood; coaches delivered everyone to the famous Salt Lick BBQ restaurant for dinner, dancing and live music before returning to Barton Creek. All in all, it was a fantastic way to spend a weekend, a wonderful blend of education, interaction and entertainment.

The Starnet 2013 Annual Membership Meeting will be held at the J.W. Marriott Resort & Spa in Palm Desert, Calif., April 25-28.