I saw Mike Schuller a few weeks ago in Boulder, Colo. We lunched while discussing next month's 12th North American Masonry Conference (NAMC). Schuller, along with Dr. Frederick Rutz from the University of Colorado, Denver, are the event's co-organizers. Scheduled for May 17 - 20, NAMC is hosted by the Civil Engineering Department of the University of Colorado, Denver. Members and staff of the Rocky Mountain Masonry Institute (RMMI) are providing local support.

Schuller and Rutz have been busy. Conference attendees will have to choose from more than 150 papers on a wide range of masonry topics. Many of the papers will be technical. The NAMC has traditionally been a venue at which the masonry industry's leading engineers and researchers discuss their work, but there are a number of papers that would interest contractors and masonry promotional experts.

Near the presentation rooms, NAMC will have a small exhibit area. On Tuesday, there will be a demonstration of the robotic bricklayer machine displayed at World of Concrete.

Schuller said preregistration is going well. The conference room block was filling up, so they secured more rooms to accommodate late registrants. Schuller is encouraged by the strong response from European researchers and practitioners. "We can learn from them as masonry construction and repair techniques are so much a part of European construction," he said.

The 12th NAMC happens at a good time. The industry is showing renewed activity since the 11th NAMC that happened in 2011 in Minneapolis. Along with the strong preregistration, a better sign is the number and wide-ranging presentations on projects. We finally have something to talk about!

Along with business recovery comes talk of market growth. Some of the world's most iconic bridges were constructed with masonry, and attendees will be asked their thoughts on how masonry can be reintroduced into the transportation infrastructure market segment. On Tuesday, industry professional will discuss what it will take to convince DOT and public officials to repair, maintain and build masonry arch bridges. The goal is to build conscious on how to develop a roadmap for maintaining and potentially re-introducing new masonry arch bridges not only in North America, but worldwide.

NAM provides more than technical information exchange. Attendees are invited to two networking events. Following the formal presentations on Monday, it's Masonry Night at Coors Field. The group will take in a Rockies baseball game while catching up on projects and masonry industry trends. On Tuesday night, NAMC will host a banquet at which authors of selected papers will be honored.

The NAMC is preceded by two other events. The Masonry Society will hold its annual meeting a few days before NAMC and the Masonry Contractors Association of America will hold a regional conference with a demonstration day on Saturday, May 16. Each of these event require separate registrations.

If you are planning on going, take a quick look at the pre- and post-show NAMC special activities. On Sunday, May 17, there's a tour of Rocky Mountain National Park and on Wednesday May 20, there's a walking tour focused on Denver's history that will feature stops at historic masonry structures. Both events require separate registrations.