AHR around the bend

Unquestionably, the main event for our industry is the AHR Expo. This year’s event will be in the always-popular Chicago McCormick Center, on January 26-28. Dress warmly!

Chicago is as famous for its low temperatures and wind chill as it is for its hot dogs. Despite the snow, attendance records were broken last year at the event in New York, with 42,000 registered visitors. The international guest numbers tallied at 8,815. With the economy improving, I have no reason not to expect that the 2015 expo will be the largest ever.

A few other impressive statistics follow. Last year, 91 percent of the attendees stated they were looking for new suppliers; 68 percent said the products they saw at the show will factor into their purchase;, and a whopping 84 percent said the time spent was valuable for their business. (Stats are from the AHR Expo website.)

Ready to go? At the AHR website, www.ahrexpo.com, click on the Visitors button at the top of the page, then go to the Show Planner. It is helpful to have a plan of the booths and folks you want to see. It’s a big show, easy to get caught up in the moment and run out of time to see the faces and places on the top of your list. Just having a floor plan, mapped out with the number of the booths you want to attend and the seminar times, will help you get the most out of the two days.

I get multiple wins from the show. It’s a chance to see and catch up with industry friends. I have been attending the show for 30 years now, so my friends are getting older, but wiser. I enjoy seeing the newest products and inventions that are showcased. I like the international flavor and enjoy seeing what is coming to the market from other countries.

The seminars and trainings are always excellent, so plan in advance so you cover your “must see” choices and leave time for shopping the show floor. With over 100 educational seminars listed, you should leave with a wealth of new knowledge. Note also that many manufacturers have “mini” training sessions in their booth during the show.

The show is unique in that it covers most of the mechanical trades. Plumbing, HVAC, hydronics, refrigeration, and tools both large and small to support those trades. Truck manufacturers capitalize on the trade crowd with contractor-specific offerings.

Any and all things you may need for the business end of your operation can be found in the software aisles; from accounting to heat loss programs, truck tracking, and sophisticated customer relationship management software. Now is the time to update your chisel and marble and move to tablets and cloud based information systems. The people who write and support the software are live and in person. What a great way to try before you buy.

The publishers of Phc News will have a booth at the show. Be sure to stop by and meet the team. Share your thoughts for topics you would like them to cover. Let them know any other ideas and thoughts as to how they can best serve your needs in print or online. Volunteer to provide some trade savvy content, as readers enjoy hearing tales from the field. It’s fun to put faces and voices to the names on the bylines.

Look up and or join an association. They will represent at the show and have booths and offer terrific seminars with their trainers. Shop for a niche business to add to your company, like solar, GEO, hydronics, and possible renewable energy (RE) options.

Getting to the expo is fairly easy whether you are driving, flying, or using public transportation. The show provides large comfortable buses running to and from many of the major downtown hotels from opening to closing. Grab the “El” elevated train from O’Hare airport to downtown for a classic commuter experience. It’s the third busiest rail mass transit in the U.S., with sections dating back to 1892. That is second only to the Boston “T.”

If you find some spare time beyond hospitality suite hopping, don’t miss out on the opportunity to take a walking tour around downtown Chicago. The Windy City is one of my top dining destinations. Shopping Michigan Avenue is always a crowd pleaser, or take a stool in a bar and spend some time people watching. Check out the “Bean” – aka Cloud Gate – at Millennium Park. Stay the weekend, and put a museum tour on your list. The Science and Industry Museum and the Field Museum are my two favorites.

Wear comfortable walking shoes, and bring a backpack to collect the handouts and product samples. Be sure to stop by the Caleffi booth and say, “howdy.”

Come one, come all! This is a show not to miss.

Bob “Hot Rod” Rohr has been a plumbing, radiant heat and solar contractor and installer for 30 years. Rohr is a longtime RPA member and Plumbing Engineer and Phc News columnist. Bob joined Caleffi North America as manager of training and education.

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