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IFAI Expo 2019

Snapshots of the show

[Publisher: Since posting this analysis, IFAI has issued a press release giving the final figures for the IFAI Expo 2019.  According to the release, there were 4,412 verified participants (attendees and exhibiting personnel) from 64 countries. There were 325 exhibiting companies, a slight decrease from the 329 originally reported below.

The IFAI Expo 2019 Analysis

The common feeling at the start of the show was “resigned expectations.”  There is no way to hide the fact the trade show floor was much smaller than in previous years.  It was an observation which was almost always the first thing an exhibitor said when I visited their booth.


In part, IFAI organizers battled a perception problem from the git-go.  Last year in Dallas, IFAI Expo 2018 was co-located with the CAMX composite show which had about the same size of floor space as the IFAI Expo 2018.  Together, they had more than 900 exhibitors.  This year the IFAI Expo was a stand-alone event.  Without the overall visual of two show floors flowing together, it was natural to perceive the IFAI Expo 2019 as a drastically smaller event than last year.  The show doesn’t help itself either with its layout, making some of the aisles as wide as a 4-lane highway. 


Perception, though, doesn’t explain away all the feeling of a smaller show than past years.  It was a physically smaller show:  The number of participating exhibitors decreased, a trend that started in 2017.  In 2016, there were 431 exhibitors. In 2017, there were 380 exhibitors.  In 2018, there were 370 exhibitors.  This year there were listed 329 exhibitors.  In the past 3 years, there has been a 25% drop in the number of exhibitors. 


The decreased floor space would have been even more apparent except IFAI’s own “Hub” booth was significantly expanded, growing from 11,300 sq. ft. in 2018 to 15,300 sq. ft. in 2019.  To put this in perspective, the IFAI booth on the show floor was larger than the combined space taken by the top 10 exhibitors.  Eliminate the IFAI Hub space and you’d really be looking at a much smaller floor footprint.


Show traffic?  Taking into account fewer exhibitors, I think attendance was decent compared to the crowd size I saw in 2018.  During the first two days, the 2019 show was busy in the morning and quiet in the afternoon.  There was never a big crowd at any one booth but there was steady business at most booths, especially in the mornings.  Although no official figures were given on-site, from my observations, I would say the final number will be about 4000-4200, slightly down from last year’s 4350.


There seemed to be good attendance from the marine fabricators and, surprising to me, from the manufacturers of medical products.  The rest were the usual suspects -- an eclectic mixture of what makes up this industry – custom awning shops to military contractors to contract sewers.  A few exhibitors were there because their own customers were exhibiting. 


I really need to give a shout out to the show staff for the “Campfire” sessions.  I have found them to be always well-attended and very informative, held in a surprisingly intimate setting right on the show floor.  Most attracted 10-20 people.  What’s really nice is that they don’t take people off the show floor.  If I had my druthers, I would do away with the formal educational programs held off the show floor and just hold more of these Campfire sessions.


Feedback from the exhibitors on the quantity and quality of the visitors?  It was mixed.  One exhibitor, Ted Fetterman, president of Bally Ribbon Mills, said this was the best opening day in visitors they have had since they started participating at IFAI Expo.  Hem Mills, a new exhibitor featuring hemp products, seemed very busy.  Same with Super Fabrics.  Jason Mills said they got a lot of good leads.  Most exhibitors, though, were subdued when talking about the visitors.  


What would it take for a rebound of the show back up to it's previous status as a "must attend" industry event:


Location – the show needs to be in the textile region of the US…or at least a manufacturing section that uses technical textiles.  It is an observation I made about the INDA IDEA show, too, an event that is always located in Miami.  You don’t need to have a destination location that has theme parks.  Do you want people in the show hall or do you want them going down Space Mountain with the family?  Park the show in the textile region (Atlanta – Charlotte) and you will get more exhibitors and more exhibitors will make the event more appealing to visitors. The past 3 IFAI shows were in New Orleans, Dallas and Orlando.  The best attended show in the last 4 years that also had a record number of exhibitors?  Charlotte in 2016.


Decrease the distractions – A distraction for me was the “Pet a Puppy” booth.  No denying it was being done for a great cause -- and boy were those puppies lovable -- but to me, it had no place on the show floor.  I’ll probably come off as a cranky old guy on this one, but I fail to see why it was located right in the middle of a row of exhibitors. Were those exhibitors nearby happy?  Nope.  This is a business trade show.  Keep the booth, just move it off the show floor.  


End the splicing and dicing of the trade show floor – Do away with the Advanced Textiles vs. Specialty Fabrics groupings.  It’s not that big of a show.  Put everyone together.  What the heck is the difference between advanced textiles and specialty fabrics?  If it is sophistication and complexity of the products, as a visitor, I’d like to see variety of suppliers up and down the aisles.  IFAI did away with the Shade section a couple of years ago and nobody noticed.


Deliver for the seminar speakers – This advice is for all show organizers:  Don’t hold seminars into the late afternoon.  It’s deadly.  I talked with speakers in Orlando who unfortunately had those late afternoon speaking slots.  Some had only 3 people in the room.  It’s a disservice to the speakers to have them work hard in preparation and then find the organization not able to deliver at least a sizeable audience.  And, no disrespect intended to those who volunteer, but too many times I see the same speakers listed year after year.  Get some fresh voices.  Require them to give an outline of what they want to cover…and, as the organizer, give them your thoughts on what you want in the presentation.


Next year IFAI Expo 2020 will be in Indianapolis, Indiana.  It’s not in the textile region but still it is a very good location.  There is a ton of manufacturing being done in the region.  It’s not an ideal location for international travelers but put together an appealing trade exhibition and interesting seminars, and they will come.  Being held November 3-6 is a plus, too, as it gives more promotion time after the summer break in North America, Europe and Asia.  


One of the IFAI board’s objective is to have more than 5500 attendees at IFAI Expo by 2022.  I presume this to mean only visitors and not participating exhibitor personnel.  IFAI currently reports a combined visitor and exhibitor number when it releases the participation figures.  So, 5500 attendees is quite an ambitious objective, maybe doubling the number of non-exhibiting visitors coming to the show right now.


What is still impressive about the IFAI Expo is the commitment of the volunteer leadership, the skill and enthusiasm of the professional staff, and the loyalty of its supplier base which finances the operation.  They try different things each year to organize a successful event.  Some things work, some don’t.  The best advice I can give is don’t believe your own hype.  Stay hungry.  Pay critical attention to those who were not in Orlando but should have been there. 

IFAI Annual Meeting

Each year at the IFAI Expo, the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) holds its membership annual meeting.  Accomplishments are noted, financials are reviewed (too quickly, in my opinion), recognition is given, and new leadership is chosen.  This year, IFAI Chairman of the Board Steve Ellington, president of Trivantage, moderated the event. 


Chairman Ellington reported in FY 2019, which ended May 31, 2019, the association lost $159,00 on operating revenues of $8.6 million.


Chairman Ellington announced The Chairman’s Award, IFAI’s highest honor, was given to Scott Campbell of Rainier Industries for his contributions to the association and the industry.


Finally, Chairman Ellington announced the IFAI Board members recently elected.  Their terms will begin immediately after the close of the Annual Meeting:


■  Jonathon Palmer, Autometrix, Inc. – Director (3-year term)

■  Marc Shellshear, Value Vinyls, Inc. – Director (3-year term)

■  Ron Houle, Pivot Steph Consultants, LLC – Director (3-year term)

■  Roy Chism, The Chism Company – 2nd Vice Chairman (2-year term)

■  Amy Bircher, MMI Textiles – 1st Vice Chairman/Chairman-Elect (2-year term)


In his last duty as chairman, Mr. Ellington introduced the new Chairman of the Board Katherine Schaefer of Glawe Awning.  Ms. Schaefer outlined the new IFAI global objectives:


■  $3 million in net assets

■  2,000 members by the end of FY2023

■  New digital footprint by the end of 2021

■  5,500 attendees by IFAI Expo 2022

■  $10 million in annual revenue by end of FY 2023

IFAI’s 2019 Outstanding Volunteer Awards

At this year’s annual meeting during IFAI Expo 2019, IFAI presented the Outstanding Volunteer Awards, recognizing members who generously gave of their time to serve on different boards, task forces and committees, judged competitions and provided education and leadership to others in the industry.


This year’s winners:


Amy Bircher, president, MMI Textiles Inc.

Jonathan Chakales, national sales manager, Marlen Textiles

Valerie Cuchna, MFC, Material Resources Liaison, Fabric Images Inc.

Wendy McBay, marketing, Tensar Intl. Corp.

Brian Richardson, president, L & A Tent Rentals Inc.

Eric Sevy, production manager, Sugarhouse Industries


The Outstanding Volunteer Awards were created in 2012, designed to recognize volunteers who have regularly gone above and beyond to help, guide and advise. Since 2012, 33 people have received this award.

The International Achievement Awards is an annual IFAI program designed to showcase the best projects created by the industry. This year there were 217 entries (up from 200 submitted in 2018) in 31 categories.  Judging was done by 42 industry experts.

The following are those receiving the Award of Excellence:


Fabric Structures -- Tensile Structures (600-2300 Square Meters) | Greater Rochester International Airport, FabriTec Structures LLC, Dallas, Texas, USA


Fabric Structures -- Tensile Structures (More Than 2,300 Square Meters) | Allianz Field, FabricTec Structures LLC, Dallas, Texas, USA


Fabric Structures – Frame Supported Structures | Tennis Final Hall in Hangzhou Olympic Center, Beijing N&L Fabric Technology Co., Ltd., Beijing, China


Fabric Structures – Other Structures | Nordic Tipis, Baytex Manufacturing Co., Ltd., Mt., Maunganui, New Zealand


Awnings and Canopies – Commercial Awnings and Canopies | Old Spaghetti Factory, Tropical J’s Inc., Honolulu, Hawaii., USA


Awnings and Canopies – Commercial Awnings and Canopies | Oaktree Kindy, Fresco Shades NZ Limited, Wairau Valley, New Zealand


Awnings and Canopies – Tensioned Awnings and Canopies | Sebel, Fresco Shades NZ Limited, Wairau Valley, New Zealand


Awnings and Canopies – Residential Awnings and Canopies | Private Residence, SHADE Industries Inc., Phoenix, Ariz., USA


Awnings and Canopies – Shade Sales | Crossroads Park Splash Pad, Phoenix, Ariz., USA


Awnings and Canopies – Commercial Retractable Awnings and Canopies | OZTECH – All Weather Retractable Sunroof System, Kolorful Kanvas, Ltd., Christchurch, New Zealand


Awnings and Canopies – Residential Retractable Awnings and Canopies | Richardson & Taylor Retractable Awnings, Douglas Outdoor & Textile Innovation, Hastings, New Zealand


Awnings and Canopies – Freestanding Structures | Bishop Ranch, J Miller Canvas LLC, Santa Ana, Calif., USA


Awnings and Canopies – Freestanding Structures (Less Than 92 Square Meters) | McKesson GORILLABrellas, SHADE Industries Inc., Phoenix, Ariz., USA


Awnings and Canopies – Exterior Solar Shades and Screens | Irvine Spectrum Shade, J Miller Canvas LLC, Santa Ana, Calif., USA


Fabric Environments – Fabric Graphics | Washington Historical Society, Lawrence Fabric & Metal Structures Inc., Saint Louis, Mo., USA


Fabric Environments – Fabric Art | Serpentine, Transformit, Gorham, Maine, USA


Fabric Environments – Façade | University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute, Structureflex LLC, Kansas City, Mo., USA


Fabric Environments – Commercial Interiors| Acoustical “FireFlys”, Transformit, Gorham, Maine, USA


Fabric Environments – Interior Display| “Drop in the Ocean” Jellyfish, Transformit, Gorham, Maine, USA


Marine – Powerboat Soft Enclosures| Relax Time, David’s Custom Trimmers, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


Marine – Powerboat Rigid Enclosures| Neptunus, SeaCanvas LLC, Egg Harbor Township, N.J., USA


Marine – Sailboats| Cruising, David’s Custom Trimmers, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


Marine – Marine Interior Upholstery| Offshore Pontoon 1170, Charman Motor Trimmers & Upholsterers Ltd., Napier, New Zealand


Marine – Exterior Upholstery | A “Skater” with Style, Chicago, Ill., USA


Marine – Tops | Nautique FCTv3, Sewlong-Custom Covers, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA


Marine – Travel/Full Covers | Dual Purpose Yacht Covers, David’s Custom Trimmers, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


Marine – Marine Miscellaneous | Teak Covers That Look Like Teak, Even Keel Canvas, El Segundo, Calif., USA


Tent – Private Tent Rental | Ralph Lauren 50th Anniversary, Eventstar Structures, Medley, Fla., USA


Tent – Corporate Tent Rental | 190 Meter Long Pit Lane Building for Formula E in Saudi Arabia, Losberger GmbH, Bad Rappenau, Germany


Tent – Tent Manufacturing and Design | Coachella Heineken House 2019, Eventstar Structures, Medley, Fla., USA


Geosynthetic Projects – Roadways/Infra-Structure | Application of Geogrid Reinforced Structure for Abutment Protection in Taichung City, Taichung City, Taiwan


Geosynthetic Projects – Roadways/Infra-Structure | Davao City Coastal Road Project, TenCate Geosynthetics Americas, Pendergrass, Ga., USA


Geosynthetic Projects – Geosynthetic Miscellaneous | Druid Hill Reservoir – Temporary Lined Stone Cofferdam, Hallaton Environmental Linings, Sparks, Md., USA

Coming Events

  • January 16-18:  NECPA 2020 Conference & Expo, Worcester, Mass., USA
  • January 21-24:  SHOT Show, Las Vegas, Nev., USA
  • January 22-24:  IFAI Tent Conference, River Ranch, Fla., USA
  • January 28-29:  Elementary Nonwovens Training, Cary, M.C., USA
  • January 29-31:  2020 Winter Outdoor Retailer & Snow Show, Denver, Colo., USA

Click here to view the complete technical textiles events calendar that includes show information links.

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Posted January 7, 2020

Will Things Get Done in Washington in 2020?

The historic political fight in Washington may actually benefit the US technical textiles industry in 2020.  


In more "normal" times, even with bipartisan support of trade deals and building legislation, it's a slow process to get something done in Washington.  In a funny way, under the current polar vortex called impeachment, things may actually get done faster.  President Donald Trump wants to show he is still able to carry out his campaign promises and impeachment is not hindering his ability to administer.  The Democrats, fearful of a bogged down impeachment process that could wear down their public support, are eager to show they can also get something done and avoid a blame they are only consumed with getting rid of the president.


Thus, you see both sides touting what's in the United States/Mexico/Canada Agreement (USMCA).  The National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) is focused on the impact of what the agreement means in terms of fiber and yarn sourcing; however, I am more interested in the end product markets that benefit from the trade agreement.  In the USMCA, the amount of material made in North America that goes into a vehicle increases significantly.  The largest single end-market for technical textiles is the automotive industry.  The USMCA means more products like headliner material, airbags and seatbelts, acoustical and vibration dampening, carpeting, composites and industrial hoses will be needed.  USMCA is a terrific win for the many smaller technical textile parts makers in the US.


As for infrastructure, the current authorization, the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015, expires at the end of 2020.  President Trump wants more than $1 trillion to help fix the country's roads and bridges. There is a bipartisan support for the new legislation because it's passage will benefit so many states.  The winners for us?  It would hands-down be the geosynthetics industry, as well as those who make construction-used products like tarps and protective covers, and personal protection gear.


So, expect to see some things getting accomplished in Washington in 2020.  It is an election year and never underestimate the self-preservation instincts of a politician.


Steve Warner


Posted January 7, 2020

December 3, 2019

2019 Brief Analysis of China's Industrial Textile Industry

Thanks to the BeaverLake6 Report's arrangements with China Textile magazine and the China Nonwoven & Industrial Textile Association (CNITA), we have received the report "A Brief Analysis of Economic Operation of the Industrial Textile Industry in the First Half of 2019" writtened by CNITA's market research department.  


In the first half of 2019, China's economy faced a complicated development environment.  Issues such as the downturn in automotive demand and the US/China trade dispute are having an impact.  Production is still growing but the markets are relatively flat.  Click here to read the entire report in the China section.  Posted 

November 24, 2019

2019 Eurasian Geosynthetics Symposium Held in China

Flora Zhao, China Textiles

The second edition of the Eurasian Geosynthetics Symposium (EAGS 2019) was held November 18-19, 2019 in Beijing, China.  Many of the leading experts in geosynthetics delivered presentations.  Ms. Flora Zhao, the director of the editorial department for China Textile magazine, has given us an extensive review of the symposium program.  Click here to go to our China section to read her report. 

IFAI Expo 2019 Analysis

The IFAI Expo 2019 was held last week in Orlando, Fla., USA.  The exhibition was a smaller event than in years past but it still remains a powerful showcase of industry products.  In the Special Report section, you will find analysis of the show, plus news that comes from the Industrial Fabrics Association International's Annual Meeting and the winners of the International Achievement Awards. Click here to read the articles.  Posted October 10, 2019

Final Report Issued on 2018 China Industrial Textiles Industry

In 2018, China's industrial textile industry maintained a relatively rapid growth. The year, though, also found more complex challenges for the industry, including the tariff issues with the US. Thanks to BeaverLake6 Reports' exclusive arrangement with China Textile magazine, we are presenting the English-translated version of the final 2018 report written by the China Nonwovens & Industrial Textile Association (CNITA).  The report included information on fiber and material production, plus selected large end-product markets. Click here to read the report. Posted September 3, 2019

Do Profit and Convenience Muck Up the Moral Concern in Tariff Testimony by US Domestic Textile Industry?

NCTO Members Testifying at US International Trade Commission.  Surprisingly, there appears to be a little worry the announced new US tariffs on China (Section 301) may be reaching too far with its scope. The National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), which has been firmly behind most of the textile-tariffs against China over the last year, is expressing concern the new Tranche Four retaliatory tariffs may affect US imports on products needed by the US domestic textile industry. 


[Read the rest of my editorial that takes NCTO to task for its hypocritical "moral" argument supporting the proposed additional products but excluding its industry's suppliers by clicking here.]


Steve Warner


Posted June 17, 2019

China's Industrial Textile Market Demands Still Remains Vigorous

Despite the increasingly complex industry demands, the Chinese technical textiles market was relatively stable. Nonwovens output increased over last year. Key specific markets such as tire cord also increased in 2018 over 2017. Overall operating income for industrial textiles used in China reached $34 billion. Click here to read the complete summary provided to BeaverLake6 Report by China Textile magazine through our exclusive relationship. Posted February 15, 2019

Does IDEA Show Need to be in Miami Beach?

INDA, the Association of the Nonwovens Fabrics Industry, has issued its final report on IDEA19.  The event held March 25-27, 2019 in Miami Beach, Fla., USA, attracted 6,500+ participants and 509 exhibiting companies from 75 countries.  Show floor space was a record 168,600 square feet, a 9% increase over the previous show. 


Surprisingly, the people and exhibitor participation figures are not record numbers. The IDEA16 show in Boston, Mass., USA, attracted 7000+ and 555 exhibitors. 


So, why was participation down this year from IDEA16?  I think an explanation for the decline is the South Florida location of IDEA19.  Click here to read more.

President Li Lingshen, President, China Nonwovens & Industrial Texiles Association

President Li Lingshen

BeaverLake6 Report is pleased to provide an exclusive interview with Li Lingshen, Ph.D., Vice President of the China National Textile and Apparel Council, and President of the China Nonwovens & Industrial Textiles Association, the overseeing organization for the technical textiles industry in China. Click here to read the interview.

NCTO Neglects Automotive Textiles as Organizations Testify on Proposed USMCA Impact

Positive Reviews but Still Uncertainty. On November 16, 2018, two of the US textile industry associations testified before the US International Trade Commission (ITC) in a special hearing to determine the economic impact of the proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).  The leaders of the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) provided statements on how they feel the new agreement will affect their member companies. 


The two organizations clearly have different biases; however, in looking over the AAFA and NCTO statements, it appears to me that while the organizations both clearly said they were not offering an endorsement yet of the agreement, they gave general overall approval for USMCA, acknowledging the 1992 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) needed updating. Both organizations are taking a wait-and-see attitude to more fully look at how the agreement impacts the complex supply chain of textiles and apparel. Click here to read more.

NAFTA Replacement Agreement Negotiated. On October 1, President Donald Trump announced the US, Mexico and Canada had reached an agreement whichreplaces the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that went into effect in 1994. The new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) contains provisions and language that has an impact on the technical textiles industry; the most important are 1) a special section covering textiles and apparel and 2) rules of origin that will require 75% of automotive content (under NAFTA 62.5%) be made in North America. Mexico and Canada are the two largest importers of US made technical textiles and the automotive industry is the largest intended end market of these technical textiles. Click here to go to the United States Trade Representative's website and read the "Textiles and Apparel Goods" chapter. Posted October 3, 2018

State of the Chinese Technical Textiles Markets in 2017

Are you looking for a quick understanding of the China technical textiles industry? Through our special relationship with China Nonwovens & Industrial Textiles Association (CNITA) and their China Textile publication, BeaverLake6 Report is pleased to post the English-translation of the recently issued "Status Quo of China's Nonwovens and Industrial Textiles Industry, 2017." The report covers the different levels of the industry, geographic export demographics, and forecast the needs in the major end market applications. Click here to read the report in our China Textile website section. 

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Ron Gottlieb  


  Ricky Richards (Sales) Pty Ltd.

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