Just before this year’s Expo kicked off, ATRA President Jim Rodd predicted that the 2015 Expo would be the best one ever.
Was he right? Was Powertrain 2015 really the best one ever? I suppose that depends on how you measure it.
If your gauge is about attendance, it was certainly a terrific year. According to ATRA Event Coordinator Vanessa Velasquez, “Last year’s program had the highest attendance in about 10 years, and this year’s numbers are awfully close… if not slightly higher.” The count is ongoing, but the numbers are looking impressive.
If you’re basing your judgment on the show floor exhibitors, there were more there this year than last year. And every exhibitor we talked to claimed this year’s attendance numbers exceeded their expectations.
The stories don’t end there: From the seminars to the BookStore, the numbers kept on growing. According to ATRA Technical Director Lance Wiggins, this year’s BookStore sales were the highest in recent memory. And the seminars were well represented on both sides of the aisle.
So was Jim right? Was Powertrain 2015 the best ever? The consensus seems to be a resounding “Yes!” And it was an Expo that’ll be hard to beat next year.
The program began early Thursday morning with the first technical seminars. You might think that the audience would be sparse that early in the day, but a quick count revealed attendance was nearly 80% of total registration. That’s pretty impressive for be ginning so early, and on a Thursday, no less. And it wasn’t long before they reached full attendance.
The programs were well received; you couldn’t go more than a few steps without hearing someone talking about how much they were learning. Some didn’t even have to wait to get home to put what they were learning to work!
“I overheard one technician talking about having learned about the solution to a 6L80 they were fighting with back at the shop,” says Lance. “He called the shop to share what he’d just learned, and sure enough, that fixed it.”
On the management side, the early part of the day was open, allowing attendees to assemble an impromptu golf outing at the Badlands golf course. According to GEARS Managing Editor Rodger Bland, the name of the course was highly appropriate: “It was a terrific afternoon, but the real winners are the guys who collect used golf balls. We probably ‘donated’ 60 balls on that course; I think it must be sponsored by Titleist!”
But regardless of the terrain, golf is a game, and the high spirits and camaraderie exhibited afterward in the show halls proved that the golf outing was a terrific way to kick things off before the management seminars began at 3 PM.
The seminars ended at 6 PM, just in time for the doors to open for ATRA’s encore pizza-and-ice cream Welcome Reception. And, just like last year, the event was met with warmth and goodwill from everyone in attendance.
The celebration ended early so everyone could get a good night’s rest for what was sure to be a busy Friday.
And “busy” is an understatement: The ATRA Member Meeting began promptly at 7 AM, and the tech seminars began at 7:30. Management started at 8. Both seminar programs kept a tight pace until noon, when the doors opened for the ATRA Luncheon, sponsored by Raybestos Powertrain.
This year’s luncheon was something special… something that had the whole program restless in anticipation. This year’s luncheon was packed to the rafters, with the highest number of individually purchased tickets in recent memory: double what was purchased last year.
The program began with a brief presentation from Raybestos. Then ATRA’s CEO Dennis Madden presented the Distinguished Supplier Award to Precision International for their support and dedication to the industry and the training they’ve provided over the years. Frank Miller, VP of sales for Precision, accepted the award.
Then the moment everyone was waiting for… the one that had every seat in the house filled. Dennis Madden introduced the keynote speaker for the event: John Ratzenberger, star of TV show Cheers and every Pixar film every made.
John’s presence had created an air of anticipation since it was announced that he’d be there, and he didn’t disappoint. The audience was transfixed as John shared his take on the situation we’re all facing, as more and more young people are being shepherded toward college degrees instead of a career in skilled labor.
He shared his personal experiences — sometimes somber, sometimes humorous, but always engaging — and afterward he was gracious about allowing folks to come by for a picture with him. He didn’t have time for the beer he promised, but he and I did get a few minutes to talk before the doors opened, and he made it a point to pose for a photo with me.
After a sumptuous luncheon, courtesy of Raybestos, it was off to the ribbon cutting ceremony to open the trade show floor. Before cutting the ribbon, Dennis Madden honored Transtar Industries for 40 years of supplying the industry. Transtar CEO Ed Orzetti accepted the award, flanked by his entire staff.
As always, the crowds were heavy right after lunch, but this year the numbers never really dropped off. Things stayed pretty busy all day, till just before the doors closed at 7.
Of course, as 7 PM approached, a lot of attendees ran back to their rooms to deposit their swag, change clothes, and get ready for the Friday evening reception hosted by Transtar. This year’s reception had to be moved indoors due to forecasts of high winds. But you’d never have known about the last minute changeup, as the event began without a hiccup.
The reception included a complete buffet, open bar, and terrific music by an outstanding Eagles cover band. The mood was one of family, and ran late into the evening.
Saturday’s seminars went on smoothly, providing exceptional training that was well received by all those in attendance. The trade show doors reopened at noon and remained busy as many local attendees showed up later in the afternoon.
As the show was winding down, the entire ATRA staff got together to share stories, and Dennis Madden let everyone know how proud he was of the job they did. According to Dennis, “the results speak for themselves.”
Then a number of folks headed off to the Strip or Freemont Street to wander about and enjoy the atmosphere of Halloween in Las Vegas, as normally rational folks step out of themselves and dress up for an evening of gaiety and abandon. It was a memorable night for all.
Sunday morning things kicked off again for those who remained. Scott Johnson from ProfitBoost hosted a breakfast meeting for the management seminar attendees.
Then Maylon Newton shared his experiences over the last year as he cheated death and discovered the necessity of preparing for the day when you suddenly aren’t there to run your business. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
So, yeah, Powertrain 2015 may well have been the “best Expo ever”… at least until next year. If you didn’t make it to Vegas, it’s too late for this year. But then again, it’s only about 11 months until Powertrain 2016, October 27–30 at the Paris Hotel and Casino, right on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip.
Now’s your chance to start making plans for what may well become “the best Expo ever.” Don’t miss out: Begin making plans to attend today, and we’ll look for you in Vegas in 2016!