The Future is Now: A Refreshed RIA

The energy and excitement at this year’s RIA International Restoration Convention & Industry Expo was palpable. Using experience and feedback as their guide, it was clear everyone involved in the planning of this year’s event wanted it to be valuable and memorable, and they succeeded.

In this episode of the Restoration Today Podcast, we are joined by:

  • Kristy Cohen, RIA CEO
  • Katie Smith, President of the Board of Directors
  • Mark Springer, Immediate Past President
  • Ben Looper, President-Elect

We discuss a little bit about the conference, then dive into pressing questions about why today’s RIA is different, the immense value that it brings, real-life stories of RIA resources helping contractors, new initiatives, new membership opportunities, and more.

There has perhaps never been a better time to join RIA.

Below, we do want to highlight a few things from this year’s convention and introduce you to the newest Board of Directors:

Your 2022-2023 Board of Directors

Katie Smith, CR – President (PHC Restoration)
Ben Looper – President-Elect (Southeast Restoration Group)
Jeff Moore – Vice President (ATI)
Debbie Bogar – Treasurer (Woodard Cleaning & Restoration Services)
Warner Cruz – Secretary (BluSky)
Mark Springer – Immediate Past President (Dayspring Restoration)
Owen Boak – Dir. at Large (Elements Specialty Cleaning & Restoration)
Josh Hobbs – Dir. at Large (Dalworth Restoration)
Craig Kersemeier, WLS – Dir. at Large (K-Tech Kleening Systems)
Frank Mirabelli – Dir. at Large (First General Services North America)
Anthony Nelson – Dir. at Large (Premier Restoration Hawaii)
Russ Palmer – Dir. at Large (Titan Restoration)
Matthew Preston – Dir. at Large (SERVPRO Industries)
Marcie Richardson – Dir. at Large (Guarantee Restoration Services)
Andrew Zavodney – Dir. at Large (Kustom US)

2022 Award Winners

Contractors Choice Award Winners: Encircle & Virtual Vision

Patricia L. Harmon Golden Quill Award: Timothy Hull, CR

Martin L. King Award: John Pletcher

Peter C. Consigli Scholarship Award: Josh Prebill

Volunteer of the Year Award: Kelley Dolan

Phoenix Award Winners: Charter Construction & BluSky Restoration

Today’s RIA

Inevitably, as I compile this recap, I will forget someone or something, so please stick with me here – and know that if you missed this year’s event, you should add the 2023 event to your calendar now: April 24-26 at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Florida.

You can check out photo highlights from this year’s convention here!

The 2022 convention included the passing of the leadership torch. Now immediate past president Mark Springer helped launch the AGA in 2019 after seeing and writing about Our Greatest Need in our industry to level the playing field in regards to claims practices. Under his leadership, RIA turned a corner back toward relevancy and vibrance, with a firm focus on the future. Mark passed the baton into the incredibly talented and capable hands of Katie Smith, CR. A second-generation restorer who excels in empathy and service, Katie is just the the fourth woman to hold the title of president of RIA. She has been a tireless advocate of our industry and RIA for years, while serving her team and local community, and will undoubtedly be another great leader for the association.

We must also give credit to Association Headquarters for the RIA’s evolution in the last two years. AH took over managing the association in early 2020, just before the pandemic hit. During the Town Hall session, RIA CEO Kristy Cohen walked through what the association has accomplished in the last year:

  • New Ownership of C&R Magazine
  • Release of Deviation from Standardized Price Lists Position Statement
  • 26% increase in membership from 2020
  • 26% increase in investments into the AGA (Advocacy & Gov’t Affairs)
  • 133 attendees at the RIA’s Virtual Fall Technical Conference
  • Adoption of AGA Three-Year Strategic Plan which includes initiatives to:
    • Advance AGA Priorities (TPAs, TPCs, estimating/pricing, and legislation)
    • Involve members and industry stakeholders
    • Communicate progress broadly
    • Ensure financial resources needed are in place
  • Addition of 6 Enterprise Members: AdvantaClean, BluSky, First Onsite, Kustom US, PuroClean, and Rainbow Int’l
  • Development of Environmental Risk Specialist (ERS) Designation
  • Launch of Earthvisionz Affinity Program
  • Release of New Construction Price Lists Position Statement
  • Establishment of Regional Focus Groups
  • Discussions on Fuel Surcharge Tips with Ben Justesen
  • 112 attendees at RIA training courses
  • Launch of 2022 TPA Scorecard Survey
  • RIA Industry Briefing on data privacy with CoreLogic’s Garret Gray
  • Launch of AGA On-Demand Platform

During this Town Hall, several restorers shared their experiences with some AGA and RIA resources, and how they saved them time and money, avoided arguments with adjusters and carriers on price, and have proven invaluable to their company overall.

The creation of Regional Focus Groups is meant to bring contractors together in locations closer to home, while making it easier for restorers to complete courses toward earning advanced designations through the RIA. Focus group chairs are:

East Coast: Andy Zavodney and Jay Van Deusen

Central: Jeff Jones and Shawn Folks

Great Plains: Russ Palmer

Pacific: Jon Isaacson

Upcoming meeting dates:

June 8-11 in Baton Rouge (WLS course available)

Oct. 5-8 in Chicago, Ill. (FLS course available)

November TBD (CLS course available)

Dec. 6-9 in Miami, Fla. (ERS course available)

The various sessions at the convention were mainly held as general sessions – and featured heavy-hitting conversations. Actionable Insights Founder Mark Whatley had a candid, armchair conversation with Xactware CEO Mike Fulton on pricing, inflation, O&P, profit margins, and more. Many of Mike’s comments mirrored what he has spoken about on Restoration Today, and in other settings, and it is also clear some action is being taken to address certain contractor pain points.

Just Right Cleaning & Construction CEO Ben Justesen also held an on-stage conversation with CoreLogic President of Protect Garret Gray about the data company’s goals, Symbility, the creation and updating of their price lists, and more.

For women at the convention, another highlight was the Women’s Breakfast, hosted by FLEET Response. More than 60 women gathered for breakfast, conversation, and networking on Wednesday morning – and many walked away with new connections and the feeling of being heard and seen.

To learn more about RIA and how to join, visit

Michelle Blevins

Michelle BlevinsMichelle Blevins is a content creator, marketing consultant, and entrepreneur whose career has been centered around education and fostering relationships within the industry she serves.

A journalist by trade, Michelle is passionate about running a publication rooted in integrity and valuable education. She views her role as owner and publisher of C&R Magazine as a bridge between industry experts and restoration and cleaning contractors.

Since joining the restoration industry, Michelle has made it her business to stay on top of the latest industry trends. She has become a go-to resource for anyone looking to learn more about what’s happening within today’s restoration industry. This has earned her a spot on many industry stages facilitating panels and helpful discussion with industry experts on the biggest topics facing restorers and cleaners in the current market.

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