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Two sets of organizers vie to launch machine-tool shows in Vegas.

Used to be, Las Vegas, Nevada, was considered a non-starter as an appropriate venue for a metalworking trade show: Wrong image, poor demographics, distant from geographic centers of manufacturing, etc.

Things change. After a long, massive campaign by the city's convention and visitors authority to portrays it as a family-friendly destination that emphasizes nightclub shows, restaurants, and shopping--rather than acres of gambling tables--Las Vegas is being re-thought by many manufacturing professionals. America's fastest-growing city certainly has the infrastructure of an easily accessible fly-in destination: 38.5-million people visit each year, and 17 of the country's 20 largest hotels are there. In the past four years, a handful of exhibitors at Westec in Los Angeles have been suggesting alternating the location for that yearly event between L.A. and Vegas (nothing came of those notions). AMT--The Assn. for Mfg. Technology next month will stage its 2006 annual meeting there--the first time it's been to the area. The show office of FMA, the Fabricators & Manufacturers Assn. Int'l, is considering Las Vegas as a site for a future Fabtech show, as early as 2008.

Small wonder, then, that Smith Publishing, which puts out Machining magazine, decided to launch its American Manufacturing Expo ( in Las Vegas next year. It reserved two halls in the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center, totaling about 230,000 sq. ft., for Sept. 18-20, 2007 and started publicizing the expo in its magazine.

The event's description, "demonstrating technology to keep American manufacturing competitive and profitable in the face of offshore outsourcing," certainly is in keeping with the thrust of its magazine's editorial stance. Calling itself "the voice of American manufacturing," Machining started regular emphasis on political and economic-policy themes when publisher Joseph K. Smith, owner of Smith Publishing (Valley Stream, N.Y.) acquired Machine Shop Guide in 2002 and renamed it.

Smith's new American Manufacturing Expo then partnered with NTMA, the National Tooling & Machining Assn., to present tech sessions and to promote the exposition to its members. It's hired Doug Jones & Associates (Scottsdale, Ariz.) as a consultant on the launch; that advertising agency's owner had operated Tradeshow Marketing Inc., which ran several regional metalworking trade shows before the company was sold seven years ago.

Other publicizing supporters of the proposed American Manufacturing Expo include Production Technology. News (formerly Metalworking Digest), CNC West, and Today's Medical Developments magazines as well as Thomas Register and NTMA's Record.

With most of his ducks seemingly in a row, Joe Smith and his sales force set about selling exhibit space for the upcoming launch in Vegas a year from now. The opening days of last week's IMTS in Chicago represented a target-rich environment to hawk space at a national metalworking trade show in an off-IMTS year.

It was just after the start of the IMTS that a group of officers of the American Machine Tool Distributors' Assn. (Rockville, Md.) decided to take the wraps off a project proposal they'd been working on for several months, a separate machine-tool show in Las Vegas. A brochure describing the first Machine Tool Exposition Las Vegas (MTELV) was circulated at the Chicago event, setting Sept. 10-13, 2007 as the dates.
 This second exhibition is slated for the week
 before the opening of the American Manufacturing
 Expo in a different set of halls in the city's
 Convention Center; in fact, the move-in/out dates
 for the two shows would overlap.

Lynne Anderson, the president of Massachusetts-based Able Machine Tool Sales who currently chairs the distributors' trade association, says that trade shows have been a major concern for the group's directors for a number of years. Recently show business became a topic of conversation at the last annual meeting (see M.I.R., 5/12/06). There, facing up to a new reality of lowered travel budgets, an Internet-savvy customer base, and higher costs of mounting outside exhibitions, AMTDA's planners came up with a re-jiggered slate of exhibition plans.

The trade association ( last month renewed its long-term contract with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers to co-sponsor the APEX (Advanced Productivity Exhibition) series of shows that for 2007 include Houstex, Westec, Eastec, Grand Rapids' Great Lakes APEX, and Charlotte's South-Tec. Next year AMTDA also will itself run two machine-tool shows--in the Philadelphia area in October and in Santa Clara in November. Another avenue, explains the group's president, John Healy, is AMTDA's increased emphasis on "Manufacturing Days" or distributor open-house sessions in which the association in effect stages a private show at a distributor member company's headquarters, with concomitant lower costs compared to carting big machines off-site.

Yet another avenue the AMTDA board became intent on exploring, explains Anderson, is a large machine-tool show in odd-numbered (off-IMTS) years in a location other than Chicago. The original suggestion, she tells M.I.R., came most strongly from non-distributor members of the organization, that is, from builders and importers. Its focus would be more on presenting new concepts and educating an audience than on simply moving iron.

Such a trade expo, alternating years with the Chicago International Manufacturing Technology Show, probably would not be attempted by AMT, Anderson relates, because of AMT's decades-long non-infringement understanding with European sponsors of the massive EMO, which alternates years with IMTS and which will run next year in Germany. (And in fact AMT's exhibitions vice president Peter Eelman strongly emphasizes that his organization has absolutely no connection to any U.S. show next year.)

So a group within the distributors' association, following the advice of an outside consultant, tentatively selected Las Vegas and set up the skeleton for a machine-tool show at that city's Convention Center. Blocking dates via a third party, the AMTDA faction settled on the MTELV title and prepared a brochure as a selling tool. After an AMTDA board meeting in Chicago on the second day of IMTS, a decision was made to spread the brochure around the show "as a trial balloon," according to chairman Anderson.

At IMTS, word of the proposed MTELV dates instantaneously got the attention of promoters of the American Manufacturing Expo. Its president, Joe Smith, immediately contacted the managers of the Las Vegas Convention Center asking about the clause in his contract that protects his show with a six-month window in each direction that should bar competing trade expos. "They, AMTDA, have put together a brochure on a show that does not exist," Smith fumed to reporters in Chicago.

Indeed, no contract has yet been signed between AMTDA and the Las Vegas Convention Center, acknowledges AMTDA's Anderson, who says it's still early in the process. She reports that her group is talking with all parties of interest in the matter. Conversation topics reportedly include the size and scope of both proposed shows, the prospective intended audiences, the fiscal wherewithal of the sponsoring organizations, and the target exhibitors.

It's not the first time potentially competitive metalworking trade shows have brushed up against each other. Three years ago the German national Metav's expansion into a second venue, Munich, brought it toe-to-toe with the privately run Fameta show nearby (see M.I.R., 11/1/03). And back in the 1990s, Tradeshow Marketing Inc. ran up against larger-organization-sponsored metalworking-equipment shows in eastern Pennsylvania and again in the Greenville--Spartanburg area of South Carolina. Outcomes of those confrontations were each very different.

Meanwhile, if an exhibit-space sales rep approaches with an offer to reserve booth space in a metalworking-equipment trade show in Las Vegas next September, remember to ask, "Which one?"
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Publication:Metalworking Insiders' Report
Date:Sep 18, 2006
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