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Wide audience traveled for NexGen 2009

Second event planned for February 2010 after Biesse America and Stiles Machinery had success with new open house

Biesse America and Stiles Machinery hosted the first NextGen event at its North Carolina facilities in June.

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Company leaders for Biesse America and Stiles Machinery, who collaborated to organize the recent NexGen 2009 event, have agreed to hold another event in February 2010. From June 8-13, the companies held concurrent open houses at their North Carolina facilities and it proved to be a successful week of interaction between attendees and company employees regarding the use of CNC machinery and other types of woodworking machinery the companies offer.

Stephan Waltman, vice president of sales and marketing for Stiles Machinery, says a healthy turnout of visitors indicated the two companies should continue to pursue this type of event. There were close to 300 representatives from about 200 woodworking industry companies in attendance during the combined three locations of the event.

Surprisingly, attendees came from various locations throughout the U.S. About 50 percent were from the Carolinas; the other 50 percent were from states as far away as the West Coast, says Waltman.

"These are difficult times, and nobody's particularly excited about traveling. For people to travel from as far away as the West Coast to come and learn what these machines can do for them to help their companies was surprising and optimistic for me."

Product demonstrations and machinery exhibits were held at the two companies' North Carolina showrooms - Biesse in Charlotte and Stiles in High Point and Gastonia. Products on display included panel saws, CNC routers, edgebanders, finishing machinery, molders and sanders.

Clearly, the demonstrations that utilized real-world technology seemed to have the biggest impact in what attendees were looking for, rather than bargains on equipment, says Waltman.

Regardless of the enthusiasm attendees expressed in the machinery, few equipment sales were made. Customer representatives expressed that their credit lines have been restricted and their owners were being cautious about spending funds on research and development, as well as boosting manufacturing capabilities, says Waltman.

"In terms of whether equipment on display will help these company leaders in the short- or long-term, there were a lot of very positive comments about what Biesse showed them, and what we showed them. They were all very optimistic, they all wanted to move ahead, but this overriding negative economic environment that we're dealing with right now kept everybody's hands off their checkbooks."

This event was originally designed to correlate with cutting back costs as the recession heightened in the spring. The companies wanted to save costs related to trade show expenses such as transporting equipment and employee travel to July's AWFS fair in Las Vegas.

"We're a big fan of trade shows and we're looking at this just as being an alternative way to present technology," says Waltman, who believes the NexGen event gives attendees a better opportunity to be intimately presented with technology.

"When attendees actually visit our locations and Biesse's location, they get to see a little more about the company and who is standing behind the brand. They look at things related to parts and service and education, probably more than they would have an opportunity to do at a trade show."

Waltman added that he and Federico Broccoli, president and CEO of Biesse America, strategically planned the dates of this event so it would not overlap with AWFS.

A meeting on NexGen 2010 is scheduled for July. Waltman speculates there will be at least 10 to 12 similar machinery companies from the North Carolina region that will join them next year.

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This article originally appeared in the August 2009 issue.

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