There was plenty to do in Central Florida last month beyond the Daytona 500 and the NBA’s All-Star Game.
In fact, attendees of the Orlando Pool & Spa Show, held Feb.24-25 at the Orange County Convention Center, found ample discussion, education and equipment geared toward a pair of pending requirements: updated statewide energy regulations and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, both of which took effect March 15.
“We’re certainly pleased to see a push toward the use of less energy,” said Paul Hackett, CEO of exhibitor H2flow, a Maumee, Ohio-based manufacturer that displayed its new flow meter for variable-speed pumps. “We’re in a unique position, and we see the Florida market, in addition to the Sunbelt states as a whole, as being particularly good opportunities for us.”
Of course, the annual trade show and conference offered much more, including seminars and classes that ran the gamut from water chemistry to management strategies. A lively Welcome Party drew more than 900 people; and 25 projects were honored with Design Awards from the Florida Swimming Pool Association, which organized the show.
General attendance was up approximately 7 percent over 2011, said FSPA Executive Director Wendy Parker Barsell. She noted that 33,000 net square feet of booth space (14 percent more than in 2011) contributed to the robust foot traffic both days.
“Because we had more exhibitors, I think it took people more time to get through the hall,” she said. “It also illustrated that attendees are optimistic about the future of their industry: You don’t go to a show if you don’t have any business.”
While the last several years have taken a toll on Florida’s pool and spa trade — new residential construction remains 60 to 70 percent below the peak years of 2005-06 — the area is showing signs of revival. Statewide, new-pool permits for 2011 were up each month over the previous year, according to HBW Inc., a data tracking service based in Debary, Fla.
And many of Florida’s million-plus existing pools, particularly those built in the 1970s and ’80s, now are ripe for renovation. Those segments, in addition to maintenance and service, have largely kept the state’s industry afloat in recent years.
Still, several major contractors in attendance reported improved sales figures, and reason for further optimism heading into swim season.
“People do see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Barbara Gudgel, marketing director at Cox Pools in Panama City Beach, Fla., adding that the company recently marked its busiest January in four years. “There’s no doubt that last year and the year before were pretty horrible, but we’re now in recovery mode.”
Also, as part of the Welcome Reception and Design Awards, FSPA announced Richard Moseley as its 2011 Person of the Year. Moseley, vice president of Champagne Aquatech Pools in Sanford, Fla., served as the association’s president in 2011.