After two successful years at the Riviera Hotel and Casino, the brain trust behind the Connections Convention and Trade Show, the largest event of its kind in the cleaning and restoration industry, decided it was time to find larger quarters to house its prize stallion. But where?
The answer came in the form of the Las Vegas Hilton. Just off the famed Las Vegas Strip, the Hilton would provide the upgrade in accommodations and service that the Connections Committee and Textile Consultants, the management company for Connections, were looking for.
"I think the cleaner hotel, the nicer location, everything that's involved with the Hilton Center is making the whole thing work better," Connections Chair Dennis Iverson said. "The showroom floor is a lot nicer, the exhibits outside are working really well, the hotel rooms are nicer. I think everything combined makes it a much better situation."
More than 2,500 attendees traversed the aisles in the Las Vegas Hilton Exhibition Hall, where the latest equipment and technology filled 230-plus exhibitor booths. Outside, just below the concrete track of the Las Vegas Monorail, the open-air exhibition and demonstration area provided the perfect place to view the industry's latest truckmounts, drying equipment and more in action.
"It's a good show," John Holibaugh, national sales director for Chemspec, said. "It's better than last year, and next year will be even better."
But what's making that happen? "Traffic," Holibaugh said. "They're getting the end users in.
The end user is definitely a big reason the show is as successful as it is. The show saw almost 25 percent growth from 2004, even with the hurricanes along the Gulf Coast and the travel difficulties that occurred as a result.
Which brings up an interesting thought: if Connections can grow this much in the midst of a series of natural disasters, what's to stop it from growing out of control when the weather is cooperating?
"You know what? Dennis is doing a great job," Shawn York, president of Vortex Cleaning Systems, said. "They're maintaining good control of the crowds, and everything seems to be folding together well. I haven't had any problems with this show. It looks like it gets bigger every year. I know that last year, our biggest day was smaller than our biggest day this year. There's lots of people showing up, lots of interest.
"It's been a fun show."
As important as the exhibition is, Connections wouldn't be Connections without its educational element. The show attracts the best of the best in the cleaning and restoration industry, something not lost on keynote speaker Joe Polish of Piranha Marketing.
"If there is a commonality in this room, it's that you all want to improve," Polish said in his opening remarks. "It's about developing capabilities to reach and maximize opportunities."
Speakers and topics ranged wide, from "Microbiology of the Indoor Environment" to "Step Up Your Marketing Efforts in 2005." Cleaning procedures, low-moisture applications, standards, association membership, carpet protectors, hands-on demonstrations, inspections, hard-surface problems, customer service, thermography, X-ray fluorescence; you name it, Connections 2005 had it.
Saturday night saw the Connections "Big Bash" reception and dinner. A mainstay of the Connections Events, the reception allows everyone to downshift, put on their evening finery and enjoy the company of their fellow professionals.
Neil Atkinson and ICS Publisher Evan Kessler
It also allows for the opportunity to recognize some members of the industry with an awards presentation. The Industry Connections Award, given to an individual, company or group that has forged connections between the cleaning and restoration industry and other industries, was presented to long-time industry figure and ICS Cleaning Specialist magazine founder Howard Olansky. The Connections Kenway Mead Leadership Award, presented to an individual, company or group that has displayed vision, leadership and tireless energy on behalf of the cleaning and restoration industry on a regional, national or international level, went to Chemspec founder Robert Hughes.
The last award of the evening, the ICS Cleaning Specialist Ralph Bloss Humanitarian Award, an award that honors members of the floor care industry whose compassion, self-sacrifice, leadership and creativity produce significant and outstanding benefits for mankind, was awarded to Neil Atkinson of Chase Carpet Care in Denver.
The Connections Convention and Trade Show is that rare occasion that offers something for everyone: the chance to network; view the latest and greatest equipment on the market; polish those cleaning skills and learn new techniques; or just the opportunity to reaffirm that there are indeed individuals out there who approach their chosen career with the same dedication and professionalism that you do.
"This has been the best trade show in the industry that I've been to in my ten years," Rick Raessler of DuPont said. "It's great to see it coming together and grow. I absolutely love the venue, this has been the best place, and I look forward to next year and the years to come."
The 2006 Connections Convention and Trade Show is scheduled to be held at the Las Vegas Hilton, Sept. 21-23. The 2006 Connections Conference and Exhibition will take place at the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort in Clearwater, Fla., May 4-6.