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Hustle, bustle and energy marks IWF 2012

IWF 2012 had the look and feel of what it proclaims to be: the largest showcase of machinery, materials, supplies and services in the Western Hemisphere for woodworking and related industries. The four-day trade show, held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, drew an estimated 23,000 visitors, including 15,000 registered attendees and more than 8,000 exhibitors, according to show management.

“This was a show that everybody needed,” IWF president and CEO Patrick LaFramboise says.

“We generally draw heaviest from the Southeast, but we also did particularly well drawing from the West Coast and Northeast this year. We’ve seen very strong numbers out of California, New York and Michigan. We also had a nice international representation from Europe, South America, Asia and Canada. I think there really is no other show in the industry that has the diversity of exhibitors we do.”

LaFramboise believes exhibitors focused more than ever on affordable pricing and referred to several models of CNC machines in the $50,000 to $70,000 range. For example, Biesse offered the new Biesse Rover J1530, an entry-level CNC machine starting at $49,800.

LaFramboise also observed exhibitors giving personal attention to booth visitors. “I think the most important thing [woodworkers] are taking away from the show is that there are a lot of suppliers out there that are really willing to help them with their businesses by helping them lower their prices and solving their technological problems. Those kinds of questions are really the mainstay now. People can’t afford to say ‘Here’s what we have to sell you, you have to take it as-is off the shelf.’ It’s more like, ‘We’re here to help you solve your problem,’” he says.

First-time attendees, such as William Robillard of Encore Restorations in De Pere, Wis., were glad they came.

“First and foremost, I thought that the show was well worth the expense and time. What I had not expected was the amount of synergism created by the collection of the various disciplines. For example, veneer manufacturers alongside of stone and metal providers cannot help but ignite new lines of creative thinking,” Robillard says.

“IWF is massive and covered every aspect of our business,” says Jim Fox, owner of Fox Woodworking in Kimberton, Pa. “The show was well-organized and there were plenty of helpful people on hand to answer any questions about the venue or directions to particular areas.

“I was able to walk by all the exhibitors and had many opportunities to talk to them and learn about their products, even if I have no current use for them. I actually attended the show all four days and only finished seeing the last exhibitor’s booths around lunchtime on Saturday (the final day).”

With a host of new products, student design competitions, product innovation awards and educational sessions, there was something for everyone.

“The show was much better than in 2010,” says Philip Bibeau, executive director of the Wood Products Manufacturers Association. “Attendees were pleased to see the big machinery dealers back and I heard many comments that people were there to purchase equipment.”

“I have seen attendance steadily decline at the show over the past several years. Something was different and refreshing about this one,” adds Clint Johnson, product design and development instructor at Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston, Va. “There seemed to be more exhibitors and attendees. As an educator, it was reassuring to see that there has been positive growth in the wood industry.”

Product exhibitors, such as Andrew Fera of Bessey Tools, were equally impressed. “Show traffic was up, show attendees were more engaged and in-booth purchases were up. It was a much better show than the last one.”

“The show was the best we have had in several years, based on the amount of sales on the show floor, leads generated and foot traffic through our booth,” says Paul Losavio of software-provider Planit Solutions. “The most promising aspect of the show was how positive our customers were about their outlook for the market. Most of the businesses we met with seemed to be busy and were attending the show looking for ways to retool in anticipation of things picking up even more.”

Shawn Buinicky, manufacturing engineer for Laguna Tools, says the pace of the show was so furious that no one at his booth had time to see the rest of the exhibitors or even break for lunch.

“We had an amazing show at IWF this year. We sold machines to Peru, Trinidad, Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico, as well as 10 U.S. states that I know of. Our SmartShop CNC was very well-received and we had several orders written on opening day. We also released our newest four-axis CNC at the show and the response was very exciting.”

“We thought the IWF was a great success,” adds Angelo Gangone, executive vice president for the competing AWFS fair, which returns in July 2013. “Exhibitors seemed to be very happy and that’s always a good precursor for next year’s AWFS. The crowds were steady but most importantly, the buyers were there and they were serious. The 2013 AWFS fair is shaping up nicely and IWF definitely helped create momentum for us. We anticipate growth for both exhibitors and attendees.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue.

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