In just three years under new management, NJ PLANTS has established a high profile in the lucrative metro-area market as the green industry trade show and conference that delivers what industry leaders want.
Brisk business-to-business networking, effective educational programs, heavy foot traffic and efficient management of load in/load out logistics were features of the show most frequently praised by participants this year. The high degree of satisfaction has translated into rapid growth, with a 35 percent increase in attendance and a 20 to 25 percent expansion of the exhibitor base in each of the last three years.
"It takes time to develop a show that can have an impact on a field as diverse as the green trades," says Kevin McLaughlin of MAC Events, which assumed the role of show producer in 2011. "This was our watershed year, and we now feel that we are well established as a key event in a prime market that previously lacked a strong focus. Our success is no secret--our goal has been to make the show a great value for both attendees and exhibitors."
In addition to showcasing nearly 200 exhibiting companies, the show, held January 22-23 in Edison, offered a comprehensive seminar program with sessions aimed at putting practical information in the hands of green industry businesses.
Educational programs included multiple "tracks" to address the specific needs of each industry sector, from lawn care companies to garden center operations and public works departments. Speakers included Judy Sharpton on garden center marketing practices, Jerry Gaeta on small business management solutions and arborist Neil Hendrickson on post-Sandy restoration, as well as highly qualified instructors for an array of pesticide certification courses.
Good feedback from participants and strong advance publicity have helped NJ PLANTS gain momentum. Rob Woods of Garden State Bobcat was impressed by the vigorous preshow marketing and advertising program.
"If people don't know about the show, they can't come out," Woods says. "The sheer quantity of people was impressive for a two-day event, and those who walked through the booths were legitimate prospects."
Ed Kiley, director of sales and marketing for The Perennial Farm in Maryland, says the change in venue under MAC Events to the New Jersey Convention Center in Edison, a central and accessible location, has been crucial to attracting a wider base of support.
"It's an easy location to reach from all of New Jersey, Staten and Long islands, southern New York and eastern Pennsylvania," Kiley says. "It's a great show and there's nothing like it in the area. I would strongly encourage others to attend."
Franz Bach of the Koba Corp., a central New Jersey supplier of garden center pots and containers, gave NJ PLANTS high marks for making participation easy for exhibitors.
"We do a lot of trade shows, and moving in and out can be painful," Bach says. "Everything here was smooth and organized, and the help we got was phenomenal. The place was packed and it looked like everyone wanted to be a part of it. The show was great--they hit it out of the ballpark."
MAC Events, producer of trade and consumer shows for 40 years, has more recently expanded its presence in the green industry. In addition to producing the reinvigorated NJ PLANTS show, MAC Events makes its debut this year as producer of PANTS, the prestigious Penn Atlantic Nursery Trade Show. That long-running event also is moving under MAC Events to a new venue, the Philadelphia Convention Center in downtown Philly, and takes place July 31-August 1 this year.
"We're growing in the green trades industry and hope to add more events like these in other areas of the country," says McLaughlin. "We have a track record, and word is getting around that our shows work for everyone involved."