Where's the tradeshow for the regular Joes?

The recent ISH-North America Show in Atlanta can only be called disappointing. Attendance was sparse, and the show may be losing major sponsors. Perhaps it had something to do with the financial crisis and news reports of a gas shortage in Atlanta. If you take those two elements out of the picture, however, attendance might have only been as good as the previous show in Chicago, which wasn't all that

The recent ISH-North America Show in Atlanta can only be called disappointing. Attendance was sparse, and the show may be losing major sponsors. Perhaps it had something to do with the financial crisis and news reports of a gas shortage in Atlanta. If you take those two elements out of the picture, however, attendance might have only been as good as the previous show in Chicago, which wasn't all that hot either.

We're thinking that perhaps attendees were scared off because preregistrations were more than 170 for the green technology presentation, “Two Real Sharp P's in a Bright Green Pod,” presented by CONTRACTOR columnists Dave Yates and Mark Eatherton. Less than 30 people showed up. Most contractor attendees came from the 600 or so attending the co-located Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association convention.

We can contrast that with three other recent shows, the biennial American Society of Plumbing Engineers Engineered Plumbing Exposition, recently held in Long Beach, Calif., Solar Power International in San Diego, and the first WaterSmart Innovations Conference in Las Vegas.

The ASPE Show has long had a reputation as a worthwhile show attended by engineers and contractors eager to do business with the exhibitors by specifying or buying their products. This year's edition was no less impressive. The show was physically almost as large as ISH and attendance was more than 2,000 over two days, breaking at around 80% engineers and 20% contractors. The show attracted exhibitors such as Acorn Engineering, Crane, Delta, Kohler, Moen, Truebro and code bodies IAPMO and ICC.

Thousands of people from around the world attended Solar Power International in San Diego in October (see p. 5), the largest solar energy industry event in the Americas. Presented by Solar Electric Power Association and Solar Energy Industries Association, Solar Power International ‘08 is the largest solar energy event in the U.S. More than 17,000 people were pre-registered to attend. Educational seminars offered talks led by industry leaders and notable speakers. Just five years ago, the show started with 60 exhibitors and had 1,100 attendees.

The maiden voyage of the WaterSmart Innovations Conference was a smashing success with 1,200 attendees, 20% more than organizers had hoped. It was a broad, horizontal show with seminar tracks for water utilities, government and non-profits, but it also featured a strong plumbing track, with seminars such as, “High-Efficiency Toilets in Commercial Applications,” “MaP Testing - Five Year Anniversary,” “Sensor-Activated Plumbing Fixtures in Commercial Applications” and “Green Plumbers: Introducing the Future of Plumbing.”

During the keynote luncheon, Benjamin Grumbles, the Environmental Protection Agency's assistant administrator for water, gave two of the four first-ever WaterSense Partners of the Year awards to plumbing industry firms, Ferguson Enterprises and Kohler Co.

WaterSmart also had a full-blown tradeshow with booths from Acorn Engineering, American Standard, Caroma, Evolve Showerheads, Ferguson, Fluidmaster, Geberit/Chicago Faucet, Grundfos, IAPMO, J.R. Smith, Kohler, Niagara, PF Waterworks, Sloan, Toto, Waterless, Watts Premier and Zurn. We thought it was telling that a tradeshow that didn't exist last year could land American Standard and Kohler while ISH-North America could not. The show was helped by the attendance of 450 plumbers attending GreenPlumbers training workshops next door.

All three shows were head and shoulders above ISH-NA. The ISH-NA formula is not working and something has got to give. The question then is, what do we do for a tradeshow for regular plumbers and exhibits of behind-the-wall plumbing products? Co-locating such a show with the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show is probably not an option because the National Kitchen & Bath Association has zero interest in it.

At this point, it may be a good idea for PHCC-NA to co-locate with ASPE, especially now that the wholesalers' American Supply Association is going its own way. Both ASPE and PHCC have the same interest in fittings, fixtures, water and space heating, valves, manifolds, and the like that you would never get at a beauty contest like K/BIS. The regular Joes need a good tradeshow. We hope one comes along.