I recently moved from the suburbs to a Chicago neighborhood near O'Hare. I now realize that I wasn't too organized when I moved. I failed to place a value on a city dweller's important possession—secured parking. My new place requires me to find space on a crowded residential street.

Winter draws out a territorial veracity when it comes to parking spaces. If you dig out a spot in the deep freeze, you believe it's yours until the next thaw. To guard against any usurping of space, normally friendly people barricade their shoveled-out spaces with furniture or recruit retired folks to serve as space watchers. During one particularly snowy, nasty week in January, I arrived home late three nights in a row, forcing me to dig out three new parking spaces. I just hope that some deserving seniors were the scoundrels who commandeered my first two spots.

I'm not sure whether it was luck or misfortune, but in February I wasn't too concerned about securing my parking spot. Thanks to the planning of our collective industry leadership, I wasn't home much. I relinquished my parking space to my neighbors, as I had attended a triad of concrete trade shows that occurred in a span of three weeks.

While I like to travel, I believe it's time to rethink the value of so many equipment trade shows in our relatively small industry. I'm not referring to conventions, table-top greeting areas, or education venues. These important and profitable events allow social and professional interaction and bring an important focus to important topics.

This year each show's attendance was down. While these equipment expositions may have been cash generators at one time, they are now cash drains.

I wasn't the only one with these reflections. There was talk on each trade show floor suggesting that association executives are reacting to the problem. Some suggest that there's talk about creating one “big” show, recombining past associations venues, or joining ConExpo-Con/Agg every three years.

Unfortunately, there's one proposal that wasn't talked about. Why is everyone afraid of trying to work out a deal with World of Concrete?

Like my neighbors who guard their winter parking spaces with lawn chairs, I think it's a matter of turf. In the past, execs have told me reasons why they wanted separate trade shows. These include “WOC is too big; we'd lose our identity;” “We'd have to change the way we serve our manufacturer-members;” and “Las Vegas is not a place our members want to go.”

I'm not sure I accept these reasons. Some of the concrete industry's largest, most well-funded, and influential associations have been part of WOC for many years. And they seem to be doing just fine. At this year's show, they launched new e-learning initiatives, held successful fundraisers, recruited new members, and influenced customers and specifiers by offering their marketing ideas to the entire concrete industry. Their key staffers presented seminars, certified craftsmen, and participated in key industry symposiums. All of these activities seemed pretty successful to me. (World of Concrete is owned and operated by Hanley Wood LLC, which publishes TCP.)

It might be time to urge your associations to increase marketing budgets to gain market share by going after plastic, wood, and steel in lieu of soliciting trade show exhibitor space. And it's time to urge our leaders to present a unified voice to the outside world, at least once a year.

ryelton@hanleywood.com