The 2016 International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo), held January 25 to 27 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., welcomed 60,926 registered attendees to the world’s largest HVACR marketplace.
In 2014, the New York City Expo was pounded by a blizzard, yet the show went on and was a success. This year, heavy snow covered the east coast just a few days prior to the show's opening and threatened to disrupt the Orlando event by playing havoc with travel schedules.
But no dice. Despite havoc from Winter Storm Jonas, including canceled flights across the country and travel bans in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, the 2016 AHR Expo was successful in welcoming tens of thousands of contractors and engineers, OEMs, distributors and plant managers from all facets of the global HVACR industry.
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The final Expo report says 469,540 square feet of exhibit space was occupied by 2,063 exhibitors, 334 of which participated in AHR Expo for the first time in 2016. This year’s 18,254 exhibitor personnel addressed 42,672 visitors, based on a preliminary attendance count by the show’s management company, International Exposition Company.
Exemplifying the AHR Expo’s global appeal and relevance, a notable 561 international exhibitors, and 3,570 in personnel, participated in this year’s show in Orlando. On preliminary count, 9,410 international visitors were also present at the 2016 AHR Expo.
Canadian engagement in AHR Expo remained strong for 2016, with 1,312 exhibitor personnel and 2,218 visitors present in Orlando this year.
“A lot goes into making this show such a valued platform for today’s professionals to come together, but I’m proud to be part of making it all happen,” said Clay Stevens, president of International Exposition Company. “Based on early feedback, we’re already working on several aspects of next year’s show to accommodate more attendees and to make the experience even more worthwhile.”
The 2016 AHR Expo show floor encompassed a compelling 20 football fields’ worth of exhibits throughout Florida’s largest convention center. Many exhibiting companies, including Beloit, Wisc.-based Regal Beloit America, Inc., which develops systems for converting power into motion in climate solutions and other market applications, returned as well-seasoned AHR Expo participants.
“Regal has been exhibiting at AHR Expo for well over 30 years, and I’ve been coming for 16 of those years in various roles,” said Heather Scaggs-Richardson, marketing communications manager at Regal Beloit America, Inc. “AHR Expo is the premier event for HVACR professionals, and one of the few places to see what’s happening, live and in person, in our ever-changing industry. It would take a lot to get me to pass up the opportunity to come each year.”
In addition to thousands of returning companies, more than 300 exhibitors set up shop for the first time at AHR Expo in 2016. Adam Bowen, first-time exhibitor and partner at ClimaSkinz, commented on the overwhelming scale of the show and ongoing traffic at his company’s booth.
“Coming into AHR Expo, we knew it was a huge event that would bring thousands of people past our booth, but we weren’t entirely sure what to expect for our company,” said Bowen. “We’re a relatively small company, but we work hard and care about our customers and I think that showed. We were very pleased with the amount of positive feedback we received, and we’re going home with a handful of promising new leads. Before we left I made sure to reserve our spot for 2017 in Vegas.”
When asked about the value in attending AHR Expo, many exhibitors shared common sentiments. Both Lindsey Ford, manager of multi-channel communications at Rheem, and Dan Berry, executive vice president of TPI Corporation, remarked on how an influx of international attendees has positively affected both networking and sales efforts.
“Rheem has been exhibiting at AHR Expo for years – it’s a great networking opportunity that sets the tone for the year,” said Ford. “The show has become much more international lately, allowing us to establish relationships and connections around the world. Admittedly, it’s sometimes easier to use technology, but you can’t put a price on the face-to-face interaction you get by attending.”
“There is always value in attending this show, and in fact I don’t see another show with as much value and expertise as AHR Expo,” noted Berry. “Holding the show in Orlando this year is one of the best decisions show management has made. South and Central America are enormous markets, but attendees don’t typically come to shows in the Northern U.S. Orlando is the perfect place to draw in that big market of international customers.”
Several others, including Anthony Quinn, key account manager at Danfoss, and Lindsey Simpson, business development associate at Rinnai America Corporation, noted the importance of keeping up with industry standards and trends.
“Efficiency is a major buzzword on everyone’s minds these days,” said Quinn. “A lot of people are having to redesign systems to meet newly imposed standards. Coming to AHR Expo allows us to scope out what other companies are offering and receive in-person reactions to the solutions we propose. Our new product line meets all of ASHRAE’s new standards, but we want to know what we can be doing even better.”
“We work in an industry that is rapidly changing, particularly in recent years,” said Simpson. “It’s tough to stay on top of the Department of Energy standards. Yes, a lot of us are in competition with one another, but on the other hand, we have to work together to meet these standards to better the world we live in. By exhibiting at AHR Expo, we get names, faces and a better understanding of who’s on our team.”
While there was no shortage of things to see and discover on the show floor, the thousands of AHR Expo attendees and exhibitors also had the opportunity to engage in a full schedule of educational programs. A mix of exhibitors’ new product and technology presentations, ASHRAE Learning Institute courses, certification exams, PM Live seminars and many free programs offered by endorsing associations and other groups filled the Orange County Convention Center’s many conference rooms. Attendees and exhibitors were able to expand their knowledge on a wide range of topics – from how to commission an economizer, to cyber security measures for intelligent buildings, to the latest advancements in China’s indoor air quality market.
“If you have any sort of need in the HVACR industry, AHR Expo is the place to be, but the educational aspect of this show is truly invaluable,” remarked Juliet Pagliaro Herman, Johnson Controls’ director of service marketing for systems and services, North America. “I don’t see why someone would come to this show and not partake in the array of seminars offered. They’re something I look forward to each year as I schedule my time onsite.”
Brent Adams, product marketing manager at Harsco Industrial Patterson-Kelley, echoed Herman’s feelings. “The AHR Expo is the crown jewel of our industry because every additional facet of the show adds that much more value. The breadth of knowledge you gain from walking the show floor and participating in educational sessions and technology showcases is incomparable. Sometimes I can return to my booth and immediately start applying the business practices or information I’d just learned in a session. I love that I can leave the AHR Expo every year feeling more informed than I was when I arrived. It plays a huge role in my decision to return year after year.”
Additionally, Tuesday afternoon’s presentation of the 2016 AHR Expo Innovation Awards, and announcement of Aeroseal’s duct sealing technology as the 2016 Product of the Year winner, drew a standing room only crowd. Companies in ten product categories – building automation, cooling, green building, heating, indoor air quality, plumbing, refrigeration, software, tools & instruments, and ventilation – also received awards.
“This year was particularly exciting for Plasma Air because we were presented with an AHR Expo Innovation Award for our PlasmaSoft 2.0 IAQ Procedure Software,” said Larry Sunshine, vice president of sales and marketing for Plasma Air, which received a 2016 AHR Expo Innovation Award in the Software category. “As the air purification industry continues to evolve, it has been both fun and challenging to develop new products that assist the industry in its growth. Being recognized specifically by ASHRAE and the HVACR industry as a whole validates our work and shows our customer base and rep network that we’re leaders in product innovation.”
At the close of three action-packed days in Orlando, many 2016 AHR Expo attendees were eager to share their experiences.
“I put a lot of time into researching companies before traveling to AHR Expo, to give myself an idea of who I want to focus on talking to,” said Toby Giberston, partner at a mechanical contracting company based in Montreal, Quebec. “However, one of the most wonderful things about attending is the unexpected finds and connections. AHR Expo and the great variety of people I’ve met over the years have led to applications and products that would have never come to fruition otherwise. Sometimes all it takes is a simple introduction to the right person to create something new, and there’s no place that better facilitates that than the AHR Expo floor.”
According to Michael Ohlander, president at MT Mechanical in Wallkill, N.Y. and winner of last year’s “Fastest Hands in HVAC/R” competition (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ucu_kFxZxKU) held on the show floor by 2016 AHR Expo exhibitor hilmor®, “It’s eye-opening to see what products are out there.”
“While you’re at AHR Expo, you start to remember different issues you’ve had over the past year that seemed insignificant or forgettable at the time, but suddenly you’re presented with all of these innovative and new solutions,” Ohlander continued. “The variety of products and technologies is astounding.”
“When I first thought about coming here, I thought it was just a bunch of vendors showing things that I may or may not use,” said David Perrotta, president/owner of P P C Contractors in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. “What I’ve learned is that many of the exhibitors are not only willing to talk to you, but are willing to train you and give you very informative demonstrations on their products. You can’t get that over the phone or via email. The in-person meetings are invaluable.”
Exhibitors like John Black, director of marketing at Emerson Climate Technologies, underscored the compelling success of their participation in the 2016 AHR Expo.
“AHR Expo is a very important show in this quickly changing industry,” said Black. “We’re seeing a dramatic change in the way contractors complete their work as more people demand wifi-connected devices and universal tools. That being said, we could be facing entirely new demands by this time next year, which is why I encourage everyone I meet to attend the 2017 show in Las Vegas. I anticipate even more technology developments and a broader range of attendees there and I can’t wait to be part of it.”
Next year’s AHR Expo, co-sponsored by ASHRAE and AHRI, will be held in Las Vegas from January 30 to February 1, 2017. For additional information, visit ahrexpo.com.