Despite unseasonably cool temperatures for Central Florida, a strong turnout and well-attended education courses made for a successful 2010 Orlando Pool & Spa Show.
More than 3,800 industry professionals — up a few hundred from last year — passed through the doors of the Orange County Convention Center on Feb. 19 and 20.
“There was a sea of people waiting to get in when we opened up the hall on Friday,” said Wendy Parker Barsell, executive director of the Florida Swimming Pool Association, which coordinated the show. “It just proves that we’re rebounding nicely, and it makes me feel good about where we’re going as an industry.”
It’s no secret Florida has endured some of the toughest times of the current recession, with pool construction down as much as 70 percent statewide, according to some estimates.
Those numbers made FSPA’s 2010 showing all the more impressive. The show’s welcome party drew hundreds to the NASCAR Sports Grille at Universal CityWalk. And the convention itself featured a VGB Pavilion, New Product Showcase and silent auction benefiting the Swimming Pool Education & Safety Foundation and the Pool Industry Political Action Committee.
“Plus, our classes were especially strong. We had several with more than 100 people in attendance,” Parker Barsell added.
On the floor, the atmosphere was decidedly upbeat, with many of the 200 exhibitors reporting robust lead generation and positive feedback.
“I thought the show was excellent,” said John Miller, vice president of Aladdin Equipment Co. in Sarasota, Fla. “Looking at the quality of exhibitors and the type of people coming through the door, it doesn’t feel like a regional show. We’ve seen a huge improvement in the last few years; it’s gotten very professional.”
Many exhibitors did report a smaller builder presence compared with service, which is little surprise given that approximately 30 to 40 percent of the state’s installers have closed shop or revamped their businesses in the past few years.
But for first-time attendees such as Alicia Mazzara, the event proved valuable and encouraging.
“It’s been a good show. I’ve talked to a lot of people,” said Mazzara, sales and operations manager at Artistic Pools of Florida, a service, repair, construction and remodel firm in Clearwater. “We’ll definitely be coming back next year.”
That was another common theme among many in attendance: the feeling of cautious optimism. In spite of its documented struggles, a survey of 49 of Florida’s 67 counties found 135 more pool permits issued in December 2009 than in December 2008 (755 vs. 620), according to HBW Inc., which provides building permit information for the state.
Among the group, Lee, Pasco, Charlotte and Brevard counties showed the greatest gains in the Sunshine State.
Next year’s show is scheduled to return to the Orange County Convention Center on Feb. 11-12.