If you are actively involved in the HVAC business—whether wet heat, forced air or some creative combination of the two—and chose not to attend AHR Expo 2012 in Chicago last month, you owe yourself a heart-felt apology. You really should have made the scene—no excuses, please (if you didn’t, there’s always AHR Expo 2013 in Dallas).
The beleaguered construction market of recent years has taken a terrible toll on everyone’s marketing budget, and trade shows have been a particularly conspicuous target of sharp spending cuts. More and more decision-makers, potential exhibitors and attendees, are opting to hang onto their cash and stay home with scant regret, convinced there is precious little ROI to be gained spending another four or five days living out of a suitcase in Las Vegas, Orlando, or Wherever.
But while it may be a bitter season for most exhibitions, the annual AHR Expo continues to flourish. You’d think the prospect of spending three days in Chicago in mid-January would be reason enough for all interested parties to just say “no,” but you’d be wrong. In fact, this year’s event broke all the records any trade show covets. According to the AHR Expo’s website, the 2012 event saw…
- Record visitor attendance: over 39,000 contractors, engineers, distributors, facility managers, manufacturers, reps and other HVACR professionals.
- Record total attendance: over 58,000 visitors and exhibitor personnel.
- Record exhibit floor: more than 428,000 net square feet of booth space in two halls at McCormick Place.
Much of the credit for this success goes to ASHRAE, its staff and membership for all the hard work that goes into making a successful exposition of this magnitude year after year after year. But I don’t think it’s especially radical to suggest there’s an even larger, more critical reality at play here, given the enthusiastic crowds at the AHR Expo in recent times.
National phenomenon: It comes down to two words: energy efficiency, and the galvanizing impact this movement is having despite the economy, or perhaps because of it. This impact affects not only on the people who attend the Expo, but also—and more importantly—American society as a whole. After all, absent a vibrant market for energy-efficient products, the number of exhibitors and attendees at the AHR Expo would be far fewer, no matter how hard show organizers worked.
Americans continue to regard the green movement in general with a skeptical eye. But when it comes to saving money on their fuel bills, a critical mass of homeowners are “all in.” A recent article by John K. McIlwain in Urban Land, the online publication of the Urban Land Institute, summed up the trend by quoting an unnamed developer to the effect that energy efficiency has become the “new granite countertop.”
“After all, no one asks what the payback period is for a countertop. Just as items that were once added to a new home or condo for an additional price are now standard, so too are energy-efficient equipment and design becoming standard features expected by the buyer or renter.” (Italics mine.)
The makers, designers, specifiers and installers of heating, ventilating and air conditioning equipment understand this happy reality, and its beneficial resonance on their businesses and their careers. That’s why McCormick Place was humming with activity in late January—at least for the first two days of the AHR Expo—and why it will likely be humming again next January when the show moves to Dallas, and then in 2014 when it returns to New York, New York.
It’s also why if energy efficiency is the core rationale for how you earn your daily bread, you just might want to check out the AHR Expo, one of the very few trade shows these days that isn’t struggling to justify its existence.