SeaDek In Marine Business Journal

SeaDek is featured in the recent Marine Business Journal article:

IBEX – One Year Later
All it took was a change in venue

Last year, IBEX wasn’t anchored at its usual Florida locale. Instead, the annual boatbuilders’ trade event cruised up the east coast in search of a more economically accessible port of call on the Ohio River. For 2011, the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition (IBEX) will return to the Kentucky Exposition Center, in Louisville, Kentucky.

Back in 2010, recession-weary boatwrights were presented with 71 new exhibitors in addition to the 459 who returned from the previous year’s show. Co-hosts Professional BoatBuilder Magazine and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) assembled a Louisville conference lineup that included 20 free exhibitor workshops, more than 60 seminar sessions in 12 tracks, and a number of special features designed to give boatbuilders a well-rounded menu of educational, technical and networking possibilities.

We wondered what effect the move to Louisville had on last year’s attendees. Starting at the top, we asked Thom Dammrich, President of NMMA, to give us some background on why the show was moved.

“We wanted to find a place that would make people feel better,” Dammrich said in a recent interview. “With the economy still in the slump, we understand that business must go on. Louisville offered us a great deal: less expensive across the board and centrally located—people could drive there and still save money.” Thom went on to say that IBEX is the show where new products and new innovations shine. NMMA needed to find a way for more companies to connect. The best way to do that—move farther north.

Sure, Miami Beach is a great location but according to many company spokespeople we interviewed, it’s just not conducive to getting much work done. Just what worked with the move and how did companies fare? We asked some long-time IBEX attendees as well as a few first-timers what they thought in hopes of finding out if indeed, NMMA’s experiment is working.
To give us some perspective on the history of IBEX, we spoke with Chuck Gilchrest, Marine Sales Manager for Edson Marine. Chuck used to attend the industry convention back when it was still called the IMTECH, and was held in Chicago. In fact, Chuck was one of the original proponents of moving the venue down to Miami. He told MBJ that he felt as though IBEX lost its direction when it moved south. “IBEX needs to have better access to the Midwestern market in order to maintain integrity as an educational and wholesale direct-to-builder show. It’s essential for its long-term success.”

Chuck also told us that he hopes to see more builders at this year’s show in Louisville “from a greater area than just the south.” He’d also like to see MAATS, the Marine Accessories Aftermarket Trade Show, expanded. “This is the first place where these companies can be seen prior to all the fall boat shows,” says Chuck. Another long-time IBEX-goer, Richard Schneider, President of API Marine, also used to attend the show back in Chicago. “Back then, boat builders had their own shows and dealers had their own shows,” Richard told us. “It was a time when there really wasn’t one show that focused just on the marine industry market. We went along out of loyalty for all those years, but when they switched to Louisville, it was like a shot of adrenaline! We loved Louisville because it cost us less overall, folks were helpful, and the sheer amount of good prospects exceeded anything we’d seen in years. Even with the down economy, we picked up some interesting customers and will return this year with the same optimism.” It must have worked because Richard reported that API’s sales are up about 30 percent this year.

In business since 1963, API—who manufactures private label engine parts—also sells to boatbuilders at the OEM level. “This year we’ll be facing the MAATS pavilion so that we can be available to both,” Richard said. He did have one contention, though, about the 2010 IBEX Show: ‘Speed dating!’ “Two years ago we were able to pay $75 for a 45-minute meeting with a potential customer. The ‘dating sessions’ were usually held just prior to the show start time. It was a phenomenal success—to give a one-on-one presentation.” He’s asked NMMA about whether they’ll bring it back, but has yet to get a definitive answer. Richard hopes they have it again at this year’s show.

Michael Stenberg, President of Dr. Shrink, Inc., had this to say: “Miami Beach is a fun place to recreate, but for a company like ours, located on the shores of Lake Michigan, we felt the show didn’t have much of the Midwest represented. The move to Louisville was appreciated for a number of reasons but mainly because we were able to have booths both inside and out and demo our product. So we liked the location.”
Jason Blackburn, VP of Sales & Marketing at Thomas G. Faria Corporation, logged in with this:

“Faria Corp has been coming to IBEX for 12 years. What did we like about Louisville? Lots! The centralized location and the lower costs associated with attending. Those come to mind first. But we also enjoyed the fact that more customers were able to attend by car. We’re returning again this year and appreciate the timing of the show. It means that more builders will be there and because the show is in October, it gives us enough time to handle all the tooling needs as those builders decide to make changes. We believe in building long-term relationships with our customers and Louisville is a great city in which to foster those relationships.”

Likewise, Jason Gardner, Co-owner of SeaDek Marine Products, responded:

“SeaDek attended the past six IBEX shows and felt that as the economy was looking so bleak, we considered not attending the 2010 show. Finally, we decided to go and were pleasantly surprised by what we found. The infusion of new people, especially those from the Midwest and Great Lakes made it totally worthwhile. We even saw pontoon boatbuilders! Everyone we spoke to seemed pleased with the show. If you ask me what made it a great experience, I’d have to say that primarily it was the lower costs. We had to travel farther than we did when the show was right in our state but it ended up costing less overall. We loved the location. Everything was close by, which allowed everyone to focus more on the business of the show. In Miami Beach it seemed that people got too caught up in the scene, like mixing work with pleasure. In Louisville, we could focus more on the business. That’s essential right now.

“In fact, where we had to lay off most of our workers just to survive last year, we not only hired all of them back, but we’re also adding some. We’re serious about growth right now. We’re not just in survival mode.”

Nicole Murray, Co-Founder of Anchorsuit, a first-time vendor to IBEX 2010 had this to say:

“The Louisville show was our first time at IBEX since we’re relatively new on the market. It was through our network on LinkedIn that we first found out about it. We decided to check it out though we were disappointed that it wasn’t near any water! We did find it very well organized and really appreciated Joanne Miller, our account rep from NMMA. She arranged lots of introductions to manufacturers and distributors for us. We found all the people we met very friendly, right down to the servers in the local restaurants who knew all about the show. We’re definitely returning this year and looking forward to increasing awareness of our products, meeting new distributors, retailers and marinas. If you have a trade show budget to spend this year, I would advise you to spend it at IBEX. I wish I’d done it sooner.”

Euroglass Protective Products exhibited at IBEX 2010. Neil Lawson, President commented:

“I must admit I was skeptical about the success of the show due to the move from Miami to Louisville. I will be the first to admit I was 100 percent incorrect. IBEX 2010 was the best IBEX we have attended. The overall friendly atmosphere in Louisville was unexpected, especially when we were used to the Miami attitude. The attendance was the best we have seen as far as quality attendees and exhibitors. The show people were very friendly and helpful and best of all, the costs were half of that in Miami, from food to accommodations. Our sales were over 50 percent more than when we exhibited at Miami’s IBEX. We at Euroglass are looking forward to IBEX 2011 in Louisville.

For those companies who make it back to IBEX, the show’s producer, NMMA, hopes to set records that will include the most expansive seminar series ever. IBEX 2011 boasts more than 100 industry authorities who will conduct at least 91 different educational seminars, up 30 percent from last year’s show. There will be something of interest for everyone from designers to dealers, boat yards to builders. And if that wasn’t enough, the show will host more than 500 OEM and aftermarket exhibitors and will feature specialty pavilions, pre-conference sessions, free exhibitor workshops and other special events.

Marine Business Journal will be there to cover things so if you spot us, say hello and tell us how you’re enjoying the show!

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