What we learned at SGIA 2014.
I was walking the floor on the second day of SGIA when I ran into an old acquaintance, the owner of an industrial-graphics printing business who is also a dignitary in the industry. We catch up each year at the show. (To spare us both the embarrassment of revealing how many times this has happened, I’ll just say that big hair was in style the first time we crossed paths.) Usually these meetings take place at the magazine’s booth, with the friendly but slightly formal air that often characterizes discussions between members of the press and officers of an industry’s trade association.
So I was more than a little surprised when I heard someone shout my name and turned to see my friend, dressed casually, stepping out from behind an LCD screen at a software vendor’s booth. He motioned to a cluster of people gathered around the monitor, listening intently to the exhibitor’s demonstration, and explained that they were all from his company. He’d brought six members of his team, the most he’d ever taken to a show. “We’re buying,” he said simply. “We came here with a list of things we want to see and put in place at our company as quickly as possible.” Then he excused himself, saying he didn’t want miss any more of the demo.
“Automation,” he called back to me as he rejoined his group. “This business is all about automation today.” And with that he gave his full attention back to the exhibitor.
My friend wasn’t the only attendee who came to Las Vegas prepared to invest in his business. Nearly every exhibitor I spoke to reported a strong show, and for the first time in recent memory, the DNA of the vendor (analog or digital, graphics or garment) didn’t appear to color the feedback. SGIA 2014 set records for both exhibitors and attendees, with more than 25,000 reported registrations. Following more than a half decade in which the economy in general and the specialty printing industry in particular were sluggish, the turnout and energy that characterized the Expo were welcome surprises. Most industry veterans I spoke to, when asked for a show of similar magnitude, went back to 2006 or earlier.
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