August is a good time to go north. If you read this blog regularly, you know that I don’t always plan my trips very well to coincide with good weather. (Saskatchewan in December comes to mind.) This time, however, my planning was much better, as I had the opportunity to meet with some members in the Niagara Region in August. This area is known worldwide for its major attraction: Niagara Falls. However, the region bordering Lake Ontario and spanning two countries has more than waterfalls, as I was about to find out.
I started my trip in Rochester with a visit to Conway Beam NationaLease. Jay Rossitz, Greg Marks, and Steve Tyner met with me and we talked about a number of topics, from our first-ever Human Resources Summit held this past July, to a review of some of the new suppliers that are now working with NationaLease through our Supply Management programs. We also discussed the upcoming Sales Meeting, which will be held in New Orleans this year on November 16-17 and features a workshop by the Ace Center for Excellence. My next stop was across the border in Canada, so I left Rochester and headed southwest. Yep, that’s right. I had to go south to get to Canada. I, like many Americans, tend to think of the US-Canadian border as a straight line across North America, north of the United States and south of Canada. Well, that’s simply not the case, as the southernmost point in Ontario is actually south of many US cities: Detroit and Milwaukee to name just two. The Great Lakes are actually what messes up that straight line, and the Niagara River, which connects Lake Erie and Lake Ontario with some spectacular falls in the middle, is what divides New York and Ontario.
So to cross the border, you have to cross a bridge over the Niagara. There are a few options, but since I had never seen Niagara Falls, I chose the most iconic: the Rainbow Bridge. I’m sure that there are more picturesque ways to survey Niagara Falls, but as traffic crept across the bridge that day, I had a great view from my car window (and didn’t have to wear a raincoat or get in a barrel to do it!) I paid my toll, showed the nice border guard my passport, and continued on my way to Stoney Creek and one of our newer members, Metro Truck Leasing, a NationaLease Developing Member. At Metro, I met with Ryan Nelligan, and we discussed some of the programs we have to support our new members, including our Consulting Services, and the variety of educational meetings we hold for our members, from the Introduction to Full Service Leasing held each summer, to the Annual Meeting held each September. We offer lots of opportunities for everyone from Maintenance Directors to CFOs to share best practices and learn from not only each other, but from expert speakers, as well.
I left Stoney Creek and headed back east, but I had another stop to make on the Canadian side of the border. I had dinner reservations with Kirk and Jane Tilley of Tandet NationaLease at Peninsula Ridge. My GPS directed me to get off Queen Elizabeth Way onto a small frontage road that wound around hills and quickly out of sight of the major thoroughfare I had just left behind. Around a sharp curve, I suddenly spotted a magnificent Victorian mansion on the top of a hill surrounded by acres of grapevines and a sign announcing Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery. The Niagara Peninsula is Canada’s largest wine growing region. It shares roughly the same latitude as Provence in France, and is well suited for similar types of grapes. I had been surprised earlier in the day as I drove down the Q.E.W. to see so many road signs advertising various wineries all along the way from the Canadian border to Stoney Creek. If Peninsula Ridge is representative of the Niagara wineries, then I would have to say I’m a big fan. The wine, food, and service were all excellent, not to mention the spectacular view from the top of the hill across Lake Ontario to the Toronto skyline. I had a wonderful evening with Kirk and Jane, discussing American politics, American football (Jane is a big fan), and our upcoming Canadian Leadership Summit. I drove back across the border, choosing the less scenic but more expedient route across the Queensland-Lewiston Bridge and on to Rochester.
The next morning, I met with the folks at DeCarolis Truck Rental, Inc., a NationaLease Member. The original purpose of my visit was to go through a NationaLease orientation with their new Director of Operations, Ryan Johnson. We did manage to get through an orientation, but I was also fortunate to be able to meet with Mike Margarone, Pat Herron, Donna Ranaletta, John DeCarolis, and Mark Williams. As each of them stopped in to the conference room, I answered questions and we chatted about a variety of topics: our Sales Meeting, the NationaLease website, our purchasing programs, and our resources for recruiting technicians, such as our partnership with Universal Technical Institute. As lunchtime rolled around, Paul and John DeCarolis took me to a local hot spot, the Genesee Brewing Company.
At first glance, it seems like an unlikely “hot spot.” The first thing you see as you drive up is a huge industrial brewery and distribution center, which just happened to have a row of DeCarolis trucks out front. Genesee Brewing Company was founded in 1878 and is one of the oldest continually operating breweries in the United States. As you round the corner behind the distribution center, you see the 100-year-old brick building which was once the packaging center, but has now been transformed into the Brew House, a restaurant and pub with a popular rooftop terrace and one of the best views in town. We sat outside on the terrace, enjoying the beautiful weather, the great view, and the history of Rochester as told by Paul DeCarolis, who is in my opinion, Rochester’s greatest ambassador. As always, my visit came to an end too soon, and I was on my way back to the airport.
Two Great Lakes, and two great countries, divided by a river, but connected by magnificent bridges, and full of scenic wonders from waterfalls to skylines. NationaLease is proud of our tagline, “National Connections, Local Ownership,” but we truly have more than national connections; we have international connections. Like the bridges crossing the invisible line that is the US- Canadian border, our members connect with each other in so many ways to provide our customers with the very best. The Reciprocal Service network guarantees that all NationaLease customers have access to our 700+ service locations all across both countries. Our many events and forums help facilitate the sharing of best practices across the membership, so they are all able to provide the best, most efficient service to their customers. But even beyond that, our members have relationships with each other that span decades, and even generations, that and which enable them to provide a network of services to their customers that is unparalleled. The debate about which side of the border has the best view of Niagara Falls will probably not be settled any time soon, so my advice is to view it from both sides, and enjoy the entire Niagara Region. Just be sure to bring your raincoat.