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Introducing Equip Exposition

November 9, 2021 -  By
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of the board, president and CEO, The Toro Co.; Greg Fischer, Mayor, Louisville; Dan Ariens, CEO, Ariens Co. (Photo: Allie Filley)

Left to right: Lee Sowell, president, outdoor products group, Techtronic Industries; Cleo Battle, president and CEO, Louisville Tourism; Mike Clancy, CEO, Chervon North America; Tom Duncan, CEO, Positec; Brian Melka, group president – power, Kohler Co.; Joe Wright, president and CEO, Excel Industries; Mike Berry, secretary, Kentucky Tourism, Arts & Heritage; Tim Dorsey, president, Echo; Kris Kiser, president and CEO, OPEI; Rick Olson, chairman of the board, president and CEO, The Toro Co.; Greg Fischer, Mayor, Louisville; Dan Ariens, CEO, Ariens Co. (Photo: Allie Filley)

Don’t call it a divorce, but for professionals in the lawn care and landscape industry, starting next year, they might be getting two Christmases.

It was announced at last month’s GIE+EXPO that next year’s event in Louisville will be different. It will be held without the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ (NALP) annual Landscapes show, it will have new educational partners (including this magazine) and it has a new name: Equip Exposition.

Meanwhile, NALP’s event Landscapes, which had coincided with GIE+EXPO for the last 15 years, also announced a new name and location. Now known as Elevate (see sidebar), it will rotate locations beginning in September 2022. The first Elevate will be hosted at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Conference Center in Orlando.

The name game

Kris Kiser, president of Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, says the new name, Equip Exposition, defines what the show is all about.

“Louisville has been our home for 40 years, and we hope it’s our home for another 40.” —Kris Kiser, OPEI (Photo: Allie Filley)

“Louisville has been our home for 40 years, and we hope it’s our home for another 40.” —Kris Kiser, OPEI (Photo: Allie Filley)

“It’s simple; it captures us,” he says. “We have quite a bit of diversity of product from golf cars to trenchers, portable generators and mowers to chainsaws. It’s quite a mix. All that stuff equips you to do your job. Equip is both noun and verb. It’s all-encompassing.”

“I love it. I think it hits the bull’s-eye,” Dan Ariens, chairman and CEO of the Ariens Co., and Equip Exposition show chairman, says of the new name. “Equip is who we are. We’re equipment from construction and installation to mowing and maintenance to any of the handheld products. It talks about all the equipment that we all know is helping a customer be more efficient, more productive and reduce the labor on the job.”

Beyond the new name, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), owner of the trade show, announced further developments, including the opening of its new facility in downtown Louisville; a partnership with Landscape Management magazine, Bob Clements International and the Professional Grounds Management Society to host a series of educational seminars; and the announcement of country music star Trace Adkins as the marquee concert for 2022 and golf funnyman David Feherty as the 2022 keynote speaker.

“We want to grow our show, and my board of directors want to grow this show,” Kiser says. “They’re adding significant resources for us to invest in the show. We’ve stepped up the talent. We hope over time, people identify our show, and they know what that show is and where that show is.”

Things change

Also at the show, the NALP announced the future plan for Landscapes, along with its new name: Elevate.
Kiser stresses it was an amicable separation.

“It was NALP’s decision. We work with (NALP) all the time, and we support each other with political things, like paying for a lobbyist,” Kiser says. “The decision was NALP’s alone. I think it wanted to return to its earlier format of rotating around, generating membership therefrom. It chose to leave at the end of the contract term, which is this year.”

Roger Phelps, communications manager for Stihl, was on the board of directors for NALP prior to the decision being made to separate from GIE+EXPO.

He says he thinks it all comes down to being time to try something else.

“The fact that there was that long of a run together, I think is a real testament to both organizations and how well they did,” Phelps says. “Sometimes I think there’s a need for change. The NALP first and foremost has to serve its membership. If the members are asking for something different, it has to respond.

“Everything has a life cycle,” Phelps continues. “GIE+EXPO itself has tried a couple things, ran with it then said, ‘You know that was good, but it’s nothing we need to continue to do.’ That’s the great thing about our industry — we are always adapting and innovating to make sure we’re effective and efficient in the market. This is just one of those things. No one has to lose sleep over it.”

— Dan Ariens, chairman and CEO of the Ariens Co., and Equip Exposition show chairman (Photo: Allie Filley)

“Equip is who we are. We’re equipment from construction and installation to mowing and maintenance to any of the handheld products.” — Dan Ariens, chairman and CEO of the Ariens Co., and Equip Exposition show chairman (Photo: Allie Filley)

Top 10 event

OPEI committing to stay in Louisville was welcome news for the city, which has come to depend on GIE+EXPO’s massive attendance and massive dollars.

The 2019 GIE+EXPO was the sixth-largest in the U.S., according to the Gold 100. It attracted more than 20,000 attendees hailing from all 50 U.S. states and 54 countries. The show has an economic impact on Louisville of more than $20 million. It co-locates with Hardscape North America (and will continue to in 2022).

The 2021 event was also a hugely successful show, however, as of press time attendance numbers were not yet released.

Cleo Battle, president and CEO of Louisville Tourism, says that more than 850 meetings, conventions and events visited Louisville in 2019. Based on the size and scope of GIE+EXPO, now Equip Exposition, Battle says the event easily holds a spot in the top 10 of most important events to visit the city each year.

“You think about the participants of the show and the opportunity for our city to have the diversity of people who attend that show is huge for us,” Battle says. “You take a handful of shows like (Equip Exposition), and you really create a partnership. What can we do more as a city so it’s sustainable? We want the show to grow and have more depth for its own members.”

OPEI believes that having an office in Louisville year-round will only be good for Equip.

“We have a very significant investment in the office,” Kiser says. “It’ll be an OPEI office as well. I’ve hired Karen Williams, former CEO of Louisville Tourism, and she’ll be a senior vice president. Louisville has been our home for 40 years, and we hope it’s our home for another 40. Part of our job is to promote Louisville in a more meaningful way. It’s a year-round effort. That’s why you have a year-round staff.”

Dan Ariens says the future for Equip Expo is bright and adds that OPEI’s Kris Kiser has his “arms around” what Equip Exposition needs to do to be successful.

“I talk to Kris Kiser more than ever before because of this change,” Ariens says. “Putting a presence in the heart of Louisville is one of the changes that will allow us to go forward. We want to be part of the energy in the city. We’re changing 40 years of personalities and management. Fresh eyes, fresh energy are always good for business.”

NALP announces Elevate event

Conference set for September 2022 in Orlando

The event previously known as Landscapes has separated from what was known as GIE+EXPO, and will now change locations each September. The new conference will be called Elevate.

“We are ready to get the industry engaged and motivated,” NALP CEO Britt Wood said to a packed room at what was the final Landscapes annual meeting last month. “We’re going to bring back site visits and we’re going to educate, inspire and entertain.”

The event draws landscape and lawn care professionals from across the nation. Next September’s event will take place at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Conference Center in Orlando. The 2023 event will be held at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Conference Center in Dallas.

“Elevate will do exactly what its name says; it will provide crucial education and networking to enable contractors to elevate their businesses,” Wood said. “After 15 years in Louisville, our members and attendees wanted a change. So, we’ve created an experience that will educate and inspire lawn care and landscape contractors from across the U.S.”

Wood said there will be a trade show element to Elevate, but it will be a much smaller affair than what attendees see at GIE+EXPO.

“We deliberately designed our Expo to be a more manageable size to enable attendees to find the right tools for their businesses and have focused conversations with industry suppliers that can truly make a difference,” Wood said.

Come next fall, lawn care and landscape professionals will have a choice to make: Orlando for Elevate or Louisville for Equip. Or, as Roger Phelps of Stihl speculates … both.

“Nothing is preventing (NALP members) from coming to (Equip Exposition) in the future,” Phelps says. “In fact, I’d expect many of them to do that because it’s unique — you’re not going to get that experience anywhere else.”

Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 19 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.

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