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February 6, 2020

NSCA Recognizes Three Deserving Industry Leaders in 2020

Michael Hester, Steve Emspak and Nate Ross were honored during the 22nd annual Business & Leadership Conference (BLC) held Feb. 26-28, 2020, in Irving, Texas.


CEDAR RAPIDS, IA, Feb. 6, 2020 — NSCA, the leading not-for-profit association representing the commercial low-voltage electronic systems industry, is excited to announce three award honorees for 2020. Recipients will be honored during the 22nd annual Business & Leadership Conference (BLC) held Feb. 26-28, 2020, in Irving, Texas.

Per Haugen Lifetime Achievement Award: Michael Hester

Michael Hester – a former NSCA president who also served on the NSCA Board of Directors – is the recipient of the 2020 Per Haugen Lifetime Achievement Award. Hester’s career in both business and in the NSCA community is emblematic of the American dream.

Like so many in the integration industry, Hester started out in music. As a teenager, he worked a soundboard for a local Houston band that was prominent enough to tour with major acts of the day, including The Who and Janis Joplin. So high school student Hester found himself traveling with and surrounded by the likes of Joplin and Keith Moon.

That experience, Hester says, hooked him on audio technology.

After high school, Hester entered the U.S. Army where he excelled in a leadership program. He then studied communications at the University of Houston. After graduation, Hester worked for healthcare and school communication and life safety solutions provider Rauland-Borg (now Rauland, a Division of AMETEK, Inc.) for years before launching AV and life safety integration firm Beacon Communications in 1998.

Hester says he founded Beacon Communications as a customer-service-oriented integration firm. His focus on the business and leadership sides of integration led him to become involved in NSCA, eventually becoming a board member and president.

“Mike Hester is a great leader and even better person,” says NSCA Executive Director Chuck Wilson. “He built a business using the principles, ethics, and core values consistent with the criteria this award is based upon.”

The first 10 years at Beacon Communications weren’t easy. Along with wife Kiffie, they took on roles in sales, design, ordering, project management, and installation. Smart decision-making and key personnel hiring, such as eventual successor Brad Walsh, led to steady growth for Beacon Communications.

Learn More about NSCA’s 22nd Annual Business & Leadership Conference 

It was during his term as NSCA president that he entered the retirement phase of his career. Even in semi-retirement, Hester continued to set an example for the NSCA community while executing a succession plan case study – grooming Walsh to leverage his IT industry experience and continue to evolve Beacon Communications.

“I am very honored to be appreciated and recognized by NSCA,” Hester says. “These are the very people I have admired and worked so hard to emulate. That is why this is so extraordinary for me.”

These days, Michael and Kiffie Hester, who worked so tirelessly to build up Beacon Communications, spend their time exploring on their boat and touring the world – demonstrating that American dream. They’ll take a break to be recognized at NSCA’s BLC.

NSCA’s Per Haugen Lifetime Achievement Award is designed to recognize individuals who exemplify characteristics of former NSCA President Per Haugen. These include volunteer efforts, leadership, generosity, ethics, core values, integrity, strength of professional relationships, and strategic vision for both their company and the integration industry.

Founders Award: Steve Emspak

Steve Emspak, 2020 NSCA Education Foundation Founders Award Winner
Steve Emspak, 2020 NSCA Education Foundation Founders Award Winner

Steve Emspak, a partner at the global consulting firm Shen Milsom & Wilke, LLC and an NSCA Education Foundation Board of Directors member, is the recipient of the 2020 NSCA Education Foundation Founders Award. It’s difficult to overstate Emspak’s contributions to the Education Foundation. A driving force behind the Drunk Unkles band, he has led fundraising efforts for the Foundation for the past 15 years.

The band, in aggregate, has raised over $1 million through its charity performances. As an organization, however, NSCA has benefited in an unquantifiable way from Emspak’s efforts.

“Steve Emspak has worked tirelessly for many years as a fundraiser and board member for the NSCA Education Foundation,” Wilson says. “He truly values the mission, and his contributions will leave a lasting mark on the industry.”

“I’m honored and humbled to receive this award,” Emspak says. “Finding NSCA, an organization that truly cares about their constituents, has been an incredible discovery. Over my many years in the industry, finding a place within that organization where I felt I could make a difference has been an extremely rewarding and gratifying experience.”

Volunteer of the Year Award: Nate Ross

Nate Ross, 2020 Volunteer of the Year Award Winner
Nate Ross, 2020 Volunteer of the Year Award Winner

The 2020 Volunteer of the Year Award is being given to Nate Ross of AVI Systems. A full-time digital marketing manager and part-time golf pro, Ross has championed six golf tournaments on behalf of the NSCA Education Foundation, specifically for the Ignite initiative, and brought in $100,000.

The Ignite initiative connects students, educators, and employers to meet the demand for a new generation of leaders in the thriving communications technology industry. This initiative would not be possible without volunteers, such as Ross.

“Nate Ross loves golf, and he loves serving the organization,” Wilson says. “His contributions have helped the Foundation immensely. He embodies the true spirit of volunteering.”

About NSCA

The National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA) is the leading not-for-profit association representing the commercial low-voltage electronic systems industry. NSCA is a powerful advocate for all who work within the low-voltage industry, including systems contractors/integrators, product manufacturers, consultants, sales representatives, architects, specifying engineers, and other allied professionals. NSCA is dedicated to serving its contractor members and all channel stakeholders through advocacy, education, member services, and networking designed to improve business performance. For more information, visit

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