By Chad Clinehens

“We invite you to celebrate the industry while learning from its best-performing firms and leaders.”

Growth has been a Zweig Group mantra since its founding in 1988. Driving evolution and elevating the industry continue as core to our mission. Twenty years ago, Zweig Group created the Hot Firm Conference, originally inspired by the Inc. 500, which quickly became the AEC industry’s iconic growth and awards conference. Over the years, our event has evolved along with the company.

Zweig Group CEO, Chad Clinehens

As Zweig Group expanded our national awards programs, so did the options for conferences that focused on numerous individual awards like Best Firms To Work For. I attended my first Hot Firm six years ago in Miami. I was impressed with the opportunity to improve the event by combining all the award winners in one larger conference. The best practices shared, new relationships formed, and synergistic celebrations seemed like a tremendous benefit of this new approach. With the newest iteration of this industry event, the Elevate AEC Conference & Awards Gala, it seems apropos to take a trip down memory lane and recognize the importance of this event on the AEC industry, and to reflect on just how far we’ve come.

  • 2013: The Hot Firm Conference, Miami: 2013 was the last year that Hot Firm winners celebrated with their own conference. With an attendance of just over 90, Hot Firm was held at the Eden Roc in Miami. We named Grant Gibson, CEO of GATE, as the 2013 Jerry Allen Courage in Leadership Award winner and celebrated the top 100 Hot Firms of 2013. This conference inspired the need for a much greater investment and increased effort in the production level.
  • 2014: Hot Firm and A/E Industry Awards Conference, Beverly Hills: This was the inaugural year for a combined awards conference where Hot Firm and Best Firms To Work For award winners celebrated together. This was also the first year that Marketing Excellence Awards were recognized in a ceremony; the program was previously mail-in only. The production level took a giant leap, becoming a hybrid rock concert meets Hollywood awards banquet infused with a consumer electronics show. Zweig Group’s investment also extended to the educational portion of the conference and an increased attendance of nearly 120 guests at the Beverly Hilton. The venue alone was an enormous nod to the increased attention to elevating the conference and awards gala, as the hotel has famously hosted The Golden Globes since 1961. The hotel provided a fantastic backdrop for our event and even offered a couple of star sightings with Jennifer Aniston and Gene Simmons spotted on the property. Wm. Brock Johnson, former CEO of Garver, was named posthumously as the 2014 Jerry Allen Courage in Leadership award winner.
  • 2015: Hot Firm and A/E Industry Awards Conference, Boston: With an attendance of just over 180, the conference was held at the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston, earning rave reviews from attendees. Zweig Group continued its investment in the conference and awards gala, with improved educational sessions and a bigger ceremony. Marian Young, President of Brightfields, was named the 2015 Jerry Allen Courage in Leadership Award winner and we continued to collectively celebrate the Hot Firm, Best Firms To Work For, and the Marketing Excellence Award winners.
  • 2016: Hot Firm and A/E Industry Awards Conference, Phoenix: This year saw fantastic growth in attendance, with more than 220 guests at the Arizona Biltmore Resort, which provided an immersive architectural experience. Sonia A. Martinez, CFO of BCC Engineering, was named the 2016 Jerry Allen Courage in Leadership Award winner. We again celebrated the Hot Firm, Best Firms To Work For, and the Marketing Excellence Award Winners.
  • 2017: Hot Firm and A/E Industry Awards Conference, Seattle: The Fairmont Olympic Hotel provided an upscale experience in the heart of downtown Seattle, close to a wealth of shopping and dining options. With an attendance of just over 280, the conference was the first to offer an after-party experience with party bus transportation to CenturyLink Field for the Coldplay “Head of Dreams” concert. John McAdams, Founder of McAdams, was named the 2017 Jerry Allen Courage in Leadership Award winner. He was the first recipient to receive this award without prior knowledge, culminating in a surprise reveal during the awards ceremony.
  • 2018: Hot Firm and A/E Industry Awards Conference, Dallas: 2018 was the last year under the Hot Firm and A/E Industry Awards Conference name, as Zweig Group unveiled a new mission, “Elevate the Industry.” Appropriately, the name was changed to Elevate AEC Conference & Awards Gala. Nearly 290 attendees enjoyed the largest event to date at the Fairmont Dallas. The finale included an after party with a performance by dance-and-disco band Ultra Suede. 2018 was the first year the Rising Stars and Top New Venture award winners were added to the conference. David Goodson, a Dallas native and CEO of RLG, was named the 2018 Jerry Allen Courage in Leadership Award winner.
  • 2019: Elevate AEC Conference & Awards Gala, Las Vegas: The conference, formerly known as the Hot Firm and A/E Industry Awards Conference, became the Elevate AEC Conference & Awards Gala to recognize and celebrate Zweig Group’s newly established purpose to elevate the industry. This past year, the conference expanded with additional breakout tracts, a pre-conference focused on mergers and acquisitions, the M&A Next Symposium, and an epic after party at The Mirage to see Cirque du Soleil’s “The Beatles LOVE.” Attendance broke records, making this conference the biggest and best to date.

We invite you to attend the 2020 Elevate AEC Conference and Awards Gala in Denver, Colorado.  Bring your spouse, partners – even your entire team – to help celebrate the industry while learning from its best-performing firms and leaders. This evolved conference is certain to elevate you both personally and professionally. For more information, contact Marci Thompson at mthompson@zweiggroup.com, 202-725-4871, or visit zweiggroup.com.

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