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Leaner IWF provided time to see everything

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On with the show, this is it! Last month, I managed to work Sylvester the Cat into this column. This month, I present Bugs Bunny. I, of course, think I'm a genius.

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On with the show.

That's the feeling I've had for the last 12 months or so. The IWF was soldiering on to produce its 2010 show while absorbing significant setbacks. The big exhibitors of CNC machinery weren't coming. A big distributor would be absent. The economy had yet to really turn around. There wasn't exactly a lot of initial excitement about the Atlanta show.

The IWF producers responded by selling the show as an opportunity for the smaller exhibitors to shine. And more exhibitors signed up as the August show drew near. There were just 700 early this year, then 800 by mid-summer, and ultimately 900-plus by opening day. The ship was definitely steaming into port, the result of some aggressive and innovative marketing efforts. I'd like to think one of the highlights was WoodTech News, a digital publication produced in partnership with the IWF. The drive was to get people to the show, where they'd be pleasantly surprised.

It worked.

Attendees and exhibitors were wearing their happy faces at the Georgia World Congress Center, site of the four-day show. Exhibitors reported decent leads and better-than-expected sales. Attendees had some enticing show specials to ponder and about as much face time with exhibitors as they needed. Hall B, where the tool and machinery manufacturers had their booths, experienced moderate to above-average foot traffic on the first three days and less on the last day. Hall A, dominated by hardware and wood products suppliers, wasn't as busy as Hall B.

This is it?

That was my second thought midway through the show. I know, it doesn't make a lot of sense with more than 900 booths to visit, but I spent most of the four days in the manufacturing hall - which is usually two halls. This was the smallest IWF in years and probably the quietest, which took some getting used to.

But for the first time, I left Atlanta with the feeling that I had seen just about everything IWF had to offer. Two halls meant less walking between appointments. Smaller crowds made it easier to navigate. I had more time to spend with exhibitors. And the smaller exhibitors shined.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised.

* * *

A funny thing happened to me as I was preparing to moderate an estimating seminar at IWF. I had no panelists. I mean, I had some, but then I didn't.

Anyway, it was a bit of scramble to get a three-person panel. Greg Kasten, president of Mortensen Woodwork in Union City, Ga.; Bob Buckley, owner of True32 Custom Cabinetry in La Vergne, Tenn., and president of True32 Corp.; and Ralph Bagnall, senior consultant at, based in Murfreesboro, Tenn., saved the day and did a great job. I thank them for their efforts.

Thanks also to Jim Wulfekuhle and his staff at IWF, Dave Grulke and the rest of the Cabinet Makers Association. Estimating. Go figure.

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue.

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