Article by Rich Donnell, Editor-in-Chief, Timber Processing September 2021
A tip of the cap goes to Eric Gee, executive director of Southern Forest Products Assn., and his SFPA team for producing an excellent machinery exposition in mid-August at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. The in-person trade show world has taken a severe hit since the onslaught of the pandemic. Cancellations and altered dates have become the norm. But SFPA Expo was held right on schedule, and when you think back to when the last SFPA Expo was held in summer 2019, before the virus, and all that has transpired since then, it’s really a marvel that it stayed true to form. As for Eric, who has been the exposition director since 1997, he also became executive director of the association this past spring, in case he didn’t have enough on his plate leading up to the Expo.
Masks were recommended, not required, and safe distancing was emphasized. Also, every attendee before entering the show had to complete a short questionnaire on his or her’s current health situation, which if nothing else made everyone feel a little better that everyone else on the show floor at least said they were feeling okay. I would be shocked if absolutely no one who attended contracted the virus, given the bizarre behavior of the Delta variant. But my feeling was that the people in attendance really wanted to be there and had probably prepared themselves as best as they could going into it.
Shortly before the show, the rumor was that a few of the larger corporations had advised their ranks not to attend and perhaps I did see fewer of those personnel. But I did see personnel from the likes of Charles Ingram Lumber, McShan Lumber, Westervelt, Sierra Pacific Industries, Dempsey Wood Products, Cross City Lumber, Jordan Lumber, Culp Lumber, Varn Wood Products and many others. It was great to see them in person.
While we have always exhibited our magazines at SFPA Expo, we had a little more involvement in the show this time. On the first afternoon we presented our 2021 Person of the Year award on the show floor, which created some buzz on the grounds. And on the second day we produced the Productivity & Efficiency Conference, which covered three subjects, featured a dozen speakers, and had good attendance. We had presented our Person of the Year at the Timber Processing & Energy Expo in Portland, Ore. a couple of years ago and it went over quite well, and we asked Eric Gee if SFPA would be open to us doing it in Atlanta and he obliged.
Speaking of the Portland show, our 2022 Person of the Year award will be presented there, September 28-30, at the Portland Exposition Center. Following the cancellation of the 2020 event in Portland due to the pandemic, and because of the civil unrest in Portland, we took a serious look at other venues in the West. But none of them quite fit our expo—either the venues were oddly shaped, or too small, or in locations that were too far off the beaten path. So in the end the Portland Expo Center won out again because obviously it can handle our expo and is an easy access for many lumbermen in the West.
Who knows, maybe by the next Portland show, the virus will be gone. Now that would be worth seeing.
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