Fastener Fair USA was held in Cleveland, Ohio over the past three days. I’m probably going to be a bit biased as Cleveland is my home town and the convenience factor cannot be ignored. Still, I think the show was great, especially for an inaugural show.
There were a lot of attendees from Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky. Speaking with show management during the show, they confirmed there was a lot of activity from those areas but they also assured me they will share demographic information with me in order to see who else was in attendance. Let’s be candid – I recognize the people from Ohio and the surrounding states whereas I cannot immediately identify people from Missouri or Connecticut. It will be interesting to see the statistics.
What was impressive about this show was the number of individuals that were being sent by local distributors. Many companies sent between 5-10 people so it was just not just the owners and managers at this show – it was also the “worker bees” who do not always get invited to other show. Must also acknowledge, the show did have some feeling of being a regional show, but what a good region to attract. The Midwest is still very distributor strong – there are a LOT of distributors in these states and a ton of them showed up. Prior to the show there was quite a bit of advertising that end users were being invited to the show. I know there were some there but not near the number of them as there were distributor participants. Once again, maybe I did not recognize those individuals to know who they were, and this is where I’d invite some of you to participate and share what you saw.
I attended the opening panel discussion on the “Future of the Fastener Industry” and I liked it a lot. Based on the feedback from the panel, two of the major challenges our industry continues to face is attracting young talent into our “less than sexy” industry and training individuals in our industry. Fastener associations offer fastener training classes (North Coast Fastener Association is offering a print reading class with MWFA’s assistance the morning of May 17 before our Distributor Social, just in case you are fortunate enough to be returning to Cleveland for that event) and companies sometimes offer training, Brighton Best being the one I hear of most frequently. But, I must repeat, training just keeps coming up over and over as a concern for the industry. I spent some time to with John Wachman and Jo Morris at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and we discussed the Fastener Training Institute and the great work their organization does. The number of classes and webinars they offer is impressive and very, very important to our industry. Please consider supporting this group by participating and even donating. They do great work but it is expensive to keep the organization running and growing – and we really need them to keep up the good work. But, we will take this up another day. Back to Fastener Fair…
The traffic at the show was really good. As is usually the case, Day 1 was much more active than Day 2 but there were a lot of big name companies walking the aisles even on Day 2. National VMI distributors sent a lot of people there even on the 2nd day. Quite honestly, I got to spend more time with some people at the show than I am usually able spend at them when I visit. The atmosphere was very casual and the show was a good size to hang out in the aisles without being overcrowded. Again, I’m not sure how many distributors came from the east coast or further west of, let’s say, Indiana, but I can assure you if you sell to any of the large VMI distributors or many of the large catalog houses throughout the country – their people were there!! And that is a great think for the show. If you can attract decision makers then you will certainly attract suppliers.
Finally, I think the choice of holding the show in Cleveland turned out very good. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame reception was as good as one could hope for. They had a band playing in the main area (Tim Vath of Solution Industries played bass for the band, adding a little fastener connection to the festivities) and everyone seemed to be walking through the museum taking in all the exhibits. It was a great night. Afterwards, people scattered for dinner and headed out to any one of the many great restaurants Cleveland has in the downtown area, all within walking distance or a short Uber ride. Even the night before the show started, a large group of maybe 50-60 fastener people gathered at Punchbowl Social to do what fastener people do – network and share a cocktail or two.
All in all I think it was an excellent show. There were many suppliers from Asia, and I don’t know if they saw the traffic at their booths that some of the U.S. based suppliers were enjoying but that is something I’m sure they will discuss with Show Management. I’ll share more later but wanted to get out my initial thoughts — and I welcome you to respond with yours!