Report from the Field: AHR Expo

The good news about the AHR Expo is that it continues to grow and draw very well, not matter its location.

The bad news, is that this show, which industry types for years called ASHRAE for it’s association ties) is that it seems still stuck in another decade long past.

Now, that isn’t necessarily a criticism.  For those who go to shows to admire the exhibits and branding and appearance, this isn’t your show.

The 2013 edition of the International Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigerating Exposition set up camp in the Dallas Convention Center, January 28-30.

With few exceptions this is a show about engaging its broad clientele directly and with the tools of their trade.  While broad, generalized statements and messaging are a good thing, at this show you can’t be critical of showcases full of component parts and machines actually cutting sheet metal on the floor.  This show has been growing each year for the past 20 years.

“We are actually bursting at the seams here in Dallas,” Clay Stevens of the International Exposition Company told me. “And we expect Javits Center in New York in 2014 to be just as full.”

While the exhibits aren’t sexy, there were a lot of them. All of the exhibit halls in Dallas (A through F) as well as downstairs space and the area area were jammed.  Aisles were narrow and numbered in an unusual fashion to accommodate the large number of exhibitors (numbering over 1000). Meeting spaces were also filled both in the convention center as well as the neighboring Omni Hotel.

Those numbers are what attracted Gary Donatell of CenterPoint Exhibits.  He has been associated, either as a trade show manager or account executive with this show since the early 1990s.

“We see an opportunity in this show,” Gary said. “With the growth in the housing and commercial real estate industry it is only natural to see a growth in the HVAC business. It is a good indicator industry to follow and be a part of.”

The day I walked the show supported that idea.  The aisles were packed shoulder to shoulder with visitors and many exhibits were filled with visitors spilling out into the aisles. A large number of international visitors were a big part of the crowd.

“Our show in Mexico has grown way beyond our expectations,” Stevens added.

From a design standpoint, this was not a groundbreaking show.  For every brand-centric booth like a Grundfos, there are dozens like Duravent, Bitzer and DuctSox relying on hardware or show and tell of products to engage visitors.

At any rate, seeing this show in Dallas this time of year was a good thing.  Until the city had the convention center hotel. hosting shows of this magnitude was just a dream.


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