Vegas, in a Word

When you make your living reporting, as I often do, you strive to provide perfect descriptions and compelling stories. When you can do so in paragraphs, you feel good. When you do so in sentences, you feel pretty accomplished. And you hit the etymological jackpot when you find a perfect one-word description. I might have found it for the Glassbuild America (GBA) show that took place late last month in Las Vegas.

It was distinct from any GBA show that had come before it. It was unique in appearance, feel, and how people interacted with each other. Las Vegas was,  in a word, different.

I felt privileged to present Dan DeGorter (left) and Pete DeGorter (right) with a personalized USGlass magazine cover in celebration of the company’s 100th anniversary.

First, the look of the event was different. Though the floor plan was depicted as horizontal, the main entrance was at one end, leading to a tube-like feeling and a long walk to get to the middle. That walk was made even more memorable by the lack of carpeted aisles (save the middle one) this year. Many shows cut back on carpeting, first citing COVID mitigation and now increased carpeting costs as the reason. Coupled with the lower unfinished ceiling, the show’s feel was more like glasstec West than a traditional GBA.

Indeed the amount and placement of machinery on the floor made it clear GBA sees itself as an equipment and machinery show. The more those exhibitors come and bring to GBA, the less necessary it will be for North Americans to travel to glasstec to find their new technology. The shift is part of why the show felt different.

Attendees who made it to the far end of the floor were rewarded with the carpeted aisles of the World Millwork Alliance’s (WMA) show, which was co-located with GBA on an experimental basis this year. Reviews on the success of the experiment are still out. As a company that has exhibited in both shows, I can see how choosing one or the other could be challenging.

Second, the attendees were different. Usually, Vegas attracts more window shoppers, but not this year. Participants had the determination you typically see in attendees in Atlanta (the show has alternated between Atlanta and Vegas for more than 20 years). Like their Atlanta counterparts, Vegas visitors were goal-directed and ready to buy. Chalk it up to pent-up demand after the years of COVID curtailment or to the need for more efficient equipment in light of the current labor and economic condition. Either way, it led to one busy trade show floor.

Third, GBA also tried a few new things this year. It had a session on mental health and suicide prevention that was welcome and timely. It held a charity “tailgate party” on the last day, though some exhibitors were quite displeased that the party took attendees off the show floor and out of the building for 40% of Friday’s show hours. GBA also included a “women supporting women” rally on Thursday morning that was well-attended.

Here are my top takeaways from the 2022 show:

  1. You’ve got to move it, move it. The “it” in this case, is glass. There was a significant emphasis on the safe and efficient movement of all glass types, including large-sized and coated glass. The show floor was dotted with manipulators the way the city of Austin is dotted with cranes. New, more efficient, economical glass handling equipment also debuted during the show.
  2. Your place —or mine? The increased focus on machinery brought more offerings than one would traditionally see at glasstec to the U.S. Whether this is a trend or a reaction to the challenges of travel in the time of COVID remains to be seen.
  3. Timing is everything. Amid the discussions of tighter energy codes, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released its stricter energy codes. DOE published the final Energy Star 7 guidelines the last day of the show. Our sister publication, Door & Window Market [DWM] magazine, covered the release in real-time on the last morning of the show. Visit https://www.dwmmag.com/epa-finalizes-energy-star-7-0/ for more info.
  4. A celebration proclamation. Several companies celebrated milestone anniversaries while at GBA. Notable among them, DeGorter Inc. commemorated 100 years with an evening of fun at Top Golf. (In honor of the DeGorter’s centennial USGlass magazine provided a little memento to Dan and Peter DeGorter at the event. Walker Glass commemorated 80 years with a disco-themed reception.
  5. It’s the economy—maybe. So how’s business? The answers were consistent and did not depend on who you asked but the time frame to which you were referring. Business now and in the future is strong, though inflation is a worry. But there’s an unease in the discussion of how strong business will be in 24 months. Economist Connor Lokar expects a marked downturn in construction in 18 to 24 months but emphasizes the volatility of the factors that generally affect business conditions.
  6. Laboring for labor. One item on which everyone can agree: nobody has enough people. Period.

It will be interesting to see if the things that made the show different this year stick around. Though if they do, the word “different” will no longer apply.

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