Every year, hundreds of shop owners and technicians make their way to ATRA’s Powertrain Expo: the largest collection of transmission specialists to get together under one roof. This year marked the 30th show I’ve had the pleasure of participating in.
You might think it’d get passé after so many years. And, honestly, there’ve been a few shows over the years that left me with a “there’s another one down” mindset afterward.
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy working the show; I always do. It’s one of the great pleasures of my job. But the real excitement for the show doesn’t come from me, or anyone from ATRA. It comes from the folks who made their way here to take part in this special event. That’s right: It comes from you.
Over the last 30 years, we’ve seen our share of economic downturns where, even if people showed up, they weren’t all that excited about the industry. They came, they went to the seminars, they went to the show floor, they went to the luncheon and reception, and then they went home… “There’s another one down.”
But this year? This year was terrific! No… it was fantastic! The people who came were excited and enthusiastic. The attendance at the seminars was exceptional and the people were excited to be there. I think a lot of it was because shops are making money again. And I like to think that some of that is because of what they learned at earlier Expos.
Remember, it was just 10 years ago that the naysayers swore that the transmission industry was dying… that it was on its way out. This year’s show put those predictions to rest in a big way. The innovation we saw on the trade show floor and the enthusiasm of everyone around made it clear that we’re here for the long haul.
There were a few other things about this show that made it different, so perhaps just “shaking things up” had a bit to do with it. This year, we started the seminars on Wednesday afternoon. For years, the seminars began on Thursday, but with everyone flying in on Wednesday, it only made sense to begin the seminar program when people arrived.
Another change this year was that we ended the show on Saturday evening, so everyone had a full day to get home, so they could be back to work on Monday morning. We closed the event with the ATRA reception, which gave people who planned to stay the night a chance for one last hurrah before calling it a night. Then again, I’m sure some didn’t “call it a night” until the wee hours of the following morning. After all, it is Las Vegas!
Powertrain Expo is also the place for groups in the industry to get together for their own annual event. This year, Mister Transmission from Canada held a company-wide event, which I was happy to attend.
There was also a meeting of the Transmission Brotherhood. Founded by John Myers of B&B Transmissions, the Transmission Brotherhood is a group of transmission repair professionals who correspond on a dedicated Facebook page. Over Expo weekend, they’d just accepted their 1000th subscriber. Don Stone, from AA Quality Transmissions, supplied custom t-shirts for the gang and we all took a group photo by the entrance to the trade show floor.
This year’s show was a smash and I even sang a little ditty during the performance at the Friday luncheon. (Don’t expect an encore performance; you just had to be there!)
Returning to ATRA was a bit different, too. We’re already busy making plans for the 2019 show at Caesar’s Palace. I wish it were next week but I guess I’ll have to wait. It’s the Expo Effect and it shows that the transmission industry really is alive and well.
Be part of it! See you there!