It’s all there: 2018 GIE+EXPO preview

October 8, 2018 -  By
GIE+EXPO tradeshow floor (Photo: GIE+EXPO)

Show time GIE+EXPO has seen lots of growth, with attendance increasing more than 50 percent since 2009 with 25,000 participants projected for 2018. (Photo: GIE+EXPO)

“I’ll see you in Louisville,” has become a common refrain for many landscape professionals and those who sell to and support them.

What’s the attraction to this northern Kentucky town, otherwise known for the Derby and the Bourbon Trail? GIE+EXPO—the industry’s only national trade show, which has been growing at a clip for the last decade.

The show has established itself as a hub for the industry, as new events—like Hardscape North America (HNA)—have co-located, its sponsoring associations have expanded their educational offerings and contractor-driven gatherings have sprouted up. Indoor square footage has doubled since 2009 and participant growth has increased more than 50 percent from about 16,500 in 2009 to 25,000 projected this year. In 2017, there were more than 1,005 exhibits indoors and out, including 226 new exhibitors. The indoor show floor has averaged a nearly 9 percent increase in square feet per year since 2009.

“We’ve struck upon a successful formula, and the audiences—dealers, landscapers, hardscapers—have responded,” says Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). “Word is getting out that the growth and the co-location of HNA has created a meaningful event. It’s not just a showcase. It’s not just education. You have the ability to see equipment indoors and try it outdoors. It’s more of a family reunion.”

This year’s event takes place Oct. 17-19 at the Kentucky Exposition Center, which has been its home since 2007. The show, which is managed by Sellers Expositions, is presented by OPEI, the Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) and the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP). HNA, an Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute event, has co-located with GIE+EXPO since 2010.

“It’s really become the show for the lawn and landscape industry,” says NALP CEO Sabeena Hickman. “Many exhibitors are getting larger booth sizes and the partnership with the hardscape show has been growing. Sellers has done a really good job of working to unify all segments of the industry under one show.”

GIE+EXPO growth chart (Chart: GIE+EXPO)

GIE+EXPO participant growth (Chart: GIE+EXPO)

A look back

GIE+EXPO debuted in 2007 after the International Lawn, Garden & Power Equipment Expo (Expo) and the Green Industry Expo (GIE) agreed to merge the year before. The Power Equipment Expo was historically a dealer show held in Louisville in July. GIE was a national conference and show for landscape and lawn care professionals sponsored by NALP (formerly the Professional Landcare Network) and PGMS. It moved locations year to year and was held in November. In the early 2000s, OPEI moved Expo from July to October—within weeks of GIE—which presented challenges for manufacturers exhibiting at both shows. Eventually, the two shows merged and agreed to stay in Louisville for several years.

Show management has incrementally expanded its stay there. Currently, GIE+EXPO is contracted to remain in Louisville through 2021 with talks to extend it to 2024. Louisville’s 20-acre outdoor demonstration area continues to be a main attraction that other convention venues can’t match. It also has become a better host city over the last decade, Kiser adds, with a number of improvements made to downtown.

“I’ve seen the conversation go from, ‘Ugh, Louisville,’ to ‘I’ll see you in Louisville,’” Hickman says. “The skepticism of going there every year has changed.”

Evolution of the show

In addition to adding HNA in 2010, the show instituted Dealer Day in 2012, which allowed outdoor power equipment dealers to access the indoor show floor a half day earlier than other attendees.

As a result of the show’s growth, GIE+EXPO is implementing a new format this year, giving contractors an extra day on the floor.

“We’ve heard the contractors asking for an additional day to visit exhibits and demo equipment,” Kiser says. “So, in 2018 we’re giving them access to the show floor on Wednesday.”

The indoor show floor will open exclusively for dealers, retailers and the media at noon on Oct. 17. Then, beginning at 3 p.m. and continuing Oct. 18-19, the entire industry has access to the exhibits. The outdoor demonstration area will be open Thursday and Friday.

That’s good news for landscape contractors like Naylor Taliaferro, owner of Clean Cut Lawn Care Services in Midlothian, Va., who looks forward to having more time on the trade show floor and at the outdoor demo.

“GIE+EXPO is twofold,” he says. “It’s the best place to go look at every single piece of equipment out there. It’s a one-stop shop. The second thing is the networking aspect. It’s impossible not to meet someone new, whether you’re sitting next to someone at lunch or in a class.”

Access to all the equipment in one place at one time can’t be beat, says Taliaferro, who has attended the show to research stand-on mowers and aerators before.

“We all have dealers in our area, but we’d have to coordinate all those visits, and that’s a lot of work,” he says. “At GIE, you can try every single brand known to mankind in two days. It’s very efficient. It’s all there.”

GIE Rally surfaces as contractor-driven networking event

Parallel to the growth of GIE+EXPO has been the advent of landscaper social media “influencers”—owner-operators with thousands of subscribers on platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.

Naylor Taliaferro, aka Lawn Care Rookie on YouTube, is one of these people.

“Four years ago, I think, somebody mentioned something about GIE+EXPO and how we should all go and meet up because it’s the biggest, baddest trade show in the industry,” he says. “That was the beginning of the GIE Rally.”

That year, a couple dozen people gathered at Pleasure Ridge Pizza in Louisville. The following year, about 50 people were there. In 2016, after being promoted in a Facebook group Taliaferro created called “Road to GIE,” 150 people showed up at the pizza place.

“We couldn’t all fit,” he says. “There was nowhere to park. It was craziness.”

Meanwhile, Taliaferro began connecting with several equipment manufacturers, thanks to social media. Echo was one of them.

“The people from Echo came to Pleasure Ridge Pizza and they were like, ‘You’re going to need a bigger boat. Maybe we can help you out,’” he said.

And they did. Last year, Echo and a handful of other manufacturers were the official sponsors of the GIE Rally at the Louisville Mega Cavern, drawing 300 people.

“It’s all just the power of social media and people getting together in one location just celebrating life and the green industry,” Taliaferro says, noting the Rally will be back at the Mega Cavern this year, expecting 300-plus. “It’s become a really good thing for our industry and our community. It’s becoming exponentially greater every year.”

This year’s sponsors are Echo, Jobber, Scag and Toro.

Details about the GIE Rally are available at Facebook.com/groups/roadtothegieexpo/.

NALP’s Landscapes conference provides education for the whole team

The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), which hosts its annual Landscapes convention in conjunction with GIE+EXPO, has moved to a new headquarters hotel—the new Omni Louisville Hotel—which will host some education sessions and most networking events, including the annual Awards of Excellence presentation, which shows off the industry’s best work. The awards presentation is free to all Landscapes attendees for the first time this year.

The schedule also has changed, adding a day, so workshops start on Oct. 16 along with the conference kick-off party, enabling additional education in the morning on Oct. 17. For the first time ever, a joint Kick-Off Keynote will be held at GIE+EXPO before the trade show opens on Oct. 17. That means more time on the show floor this year and education over four days.

“I would encourage folks who sign up for the EXPO to really take a hard look at the education that’s offered,” says NALP CEO Sabeena Hickman. “It’s an investment, but you’ll see a huge return if you partake in the education.”

Landscapes saw its highest attendance ever in 2017 at 1,942 attendees. That’s 37 percent higher than the attendance figure five years prior. Hickman expects this year to be even better, touting the association’s new mentorship offering, the Buddy Up! Program for first-year members and first-time Landscapes attendees. The objective is for members and attendees to maximize their return on investment through interaction with seasoned NALP members, who serve as mentors.

Also new this year, NALP has added workshops to the regular course offerings that include opportunities for business owners to expose more people from their companies to the association’s education. These sessions include:

Crew Leader Workshop, Phil Harwood
Oct. 17, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Account Manager Training Workshop, Ken Thomas and Ben Gandy
Oct. 16, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

OSHA 10-Hour Safety Course for the Landscape Industry, Sam Steel
Part I: Oct. 16, 11 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Part II, Oct. 17, 7:30 a.m. – 2:10 p.m.

Specialty Summits (Landscape Maintenance, Design Build, Lawn Care, Irrigation, and Snow and Ice)
Oct. 16, various times

Technical Training Workshop (English and Spanish)
Oct. 18, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and
Oct. 19, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Visit www.landscapesconvention.org to see the full schedule. Registration begins at $349 and is open to members and nonmembers. Some events, such as the workshops and courses mentioned above, require additional fees.

Workshops, Hardscape Demos and new “Kick-Off” Keynote for landscape pros

New at GIE+EXPO for 2018, contractors are invited to attend an opening keynote by noted explorer Robert Ballard on Oct. 17 at 1:30 p.m. Immediately following the keynote at 3:00 p.m., the show floor will open.

The GIE+EXPO Workshops, set for Oct. 18 and Oct. 19, will cover a variety of management topics specifically for landscape contractors’ businesses. In addition, Hardscape North America’s co-location with GIE+EXPO provides the opportunity to learn about the hardscape market.

Kick-Off Keynote

Free with trade show admission, sponsored by John Deere

Wednesday, Oct. 17
1:30 – 3:00 p.m.

Science, Exploration and the Miracles of Human Achievement
Dr. Robert Ballard

Ballard will share his stories of exploration, environmental discovery and leadership. With a passion for the last great uncharted territory and a practical approach to team building and execution, Ballard will entertain and motivate as he discusses his discoveries and adventures, including the 1985 discovery of the Titanic wreckage. You’ll walk away inspired to think outside the box and take risks to achieve your long-term goals.

2018 GIE+EXPO Workshops

NALP Workshops: $85; Hardscape Workshops: $50, advance registration required at gie-expo.com.

Thursday, Oct. 18
8:00 – 9:15 a.m.

Hardscape Workshop 1: Manage, Motivate & Prepare Your Hardscape Team to Generate Winning Projects
Jerry Gaeta

9:30 – 10:45 a.m.
Hardscape Workshop 2: Better Job Costing and Labor Controls to Increase Hardscape Projects
Leslie Shiner

1:00 – 2:15 p.m.
NALP Workshop 1: Commitment, Accountability and Communication…the Path to Keeping My Job Safe
Steve Hamilton and Art Marquez

1:00 – 2:15 p.m.
NALP Workshop 2: Inspiring a New Generation of Landscape Professionals
Phil Harwood

2:30 – 3:45 p.m.
NALP Workshop 3: How Much Equipment Do You Really Need?
Ed Schultheis

2:30 – 3:45 p.m.
NALP Workshop 4: Design Build Systems That Start Clean, Finish Clean
Ken Thomas

Friday, Oct. 19
8:00 – 9:15 a.m.

NALP Workshop 5: Getting To The Heart Of Customer Relationships
Jeff Korhan

8:00 – 9:15 a.m.
NALP Workshop 6: Getting the Most Out of Your Managers
Bill Silverman

9:30 – 10:45 a.m.
NALP Workshop 7: Turnaround Tour Round 2: Stories of Success
Bill Arman and Ed Laflamme

9:30 – 10:45 a.m.
NALP Workshop 8: Next Level Marketing & Sales Strategies for Lawn & Landscape Companies
Dana Davis

Hardscape Demonstrations

(Held in the tented Hardscape North America Outdoor Arena) Frank Bourque, an award-winning hardscape professional, speaker, writer, consultant and entrepreneur, will present “Hardscapes Meet Water,” where attendees will learn how to install hardscapes around pools and water features for long-lasting results. Attendees who only want to attend the Hardscape Demonstrations can upgrade their trade show registration at gie-expo.com for $50 to include all six live demos.

Thursday, Oct. 18
10:00 – 11:00 a.m.

Tools of the Trade

12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Base Construction & Paver Installation

2:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Raised Patios, Walls & Steps

4:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Outdoor Kitchens, BBQs & Fire Pits

Friday, Oct. 19
9:30 – 10:30 p.m.

Pools, Water Features & Hardscape Lighting

11:30 AM – 12:30 PM
Permeable Pavers 101

Colt Ford, Jana Kramer to headline free concerts

Attendees at the 2018 GIE+EXPO and Hardscape North America, set for Oct. 17-19, will be treated to three nights of free, top-notch entertainment. New this year, the after-show-hours entertainment will kick off on Tuesday with the popular party rock band The Crashers. Wednesday and Thursday headliners include country/blues/rock/rap singer Colt Ford and country music’s brightest new star Jana Kramer, thanks to sponsors Bob-Cat Mowers and Mercedes-Benz Vans.

“We’re excited to have Bob-Cat and Mercedes back on board to bring three nights of networking for attendees, and we’re shaking things up this year with a Tuesday concert,” said Warren Sellers, show director. “Attendees who plan to be on hand Wednesday for the new industrywide show hours, opening keynotes and education can get an early start on the networking and fun.”

Concert Lineup

On the Mercedes-Benz Vans Stage at 4th Street Live! in downtown Louisville.

Oct. 16, 8 p.m.
Headliner: The Crashers

Oct. 17, 8 p.m.
Opening Act: Kelleigh Bannen
Headliner: Colt Ford

Oct. 18, 8 p.m.
Opening Act: Mackenzie Porter
Headliner: Jana Kramer

Updated Oct. 8 to name the correct sponsors of this year’s GIE Rally.

Marisa Palmieri

About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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