The Way We Were
As we write this piece at the end of February, all trends point to a positive Conexpo 2023. Exhibit space is sold out, reasonable hotel rooms are at a premium, and—best of all—there’s no earth-upending event like a pandemic on the horizon.
Many trade show veterans—at least those who had timely outbound plane reservations—already speak of 2020’s mass exodus from Las Vegas with a glint of sentimentality, an experience shared with thousands of other industry professionals desperate to get home before the worst happen, even if we weren’t sure at the time what the “worst” would be. Well, we found that out pretty quickly, didn’t we?
Now, it seems mid-March will see a reverse migration from across North America and beyond with a similar shared goal—to take part in and enjoy a “normal,” largely restriction-free construction mega-show amidst the Las Vegas glitz that never goes out of style, but rather gets reinvited from time to time.
(I still thank the cable TV gods for running the original “Ocean’s 11,” “Diamonds Are Forever,” and “Casino” in the two weeks leading up to my first visit to Vegas many, many moons ago.)
Conexpo 2023’s “warm-up act”—World of Concrete—came close enough to its pre-pandemic numbers to suggest a return to the way things used to be, before masking-up and social distancing became part of the daily lexicon. To be sure, the shows’ respective target audiences overlap only so far. But at least the idea of trekking to a crowded industry trade show appears near-universally appealing again.
Another indicator, Conexpo’s packed press event calendar, similarly suggests that there should be no shortage of product roll-outs, manufacturer news, and other highlights to discover amid the aisles. Let’s just hope that Las Vegas’s mid-March weather is at least a little more springlike than it was in January, as there’ll surely be some long walks through the exhibit halls and outdoor areas.
Could anything rain on Conexpo’s parade? Certainly. Some areas continue to struggle economically, while elevated costs and supply chain hiccups, though easing, are still very much with us, on and off the jobsite. It’s also the rare construction firm that isn’t contending with a staffing crunch. Any of these factors could depress those seeming rosy attendance numbers or dim the mood around the Las Vegas Convention Center, leading those who do attend more inclined to invest their disposal income at the gambling tables than in new equipment.
But that’s part of the wisdom of staging North America’s triennial construction trade mecca in Las Vegas. Just as the city always has a new attraction to offer along with the comforts of familiar haunts, Conexpo provides acre upon acre of gee-whiz construction innovation in the company of long-time dealer and manufacturer contacts, and thousands of other folks who have come for the see what there is to see. And have a good time doing it...just like old times.
Jim Parsons, Senior Editor