Compared to the general fishing population, custom rod builders are few and far between. This is why an event like the Expo, which must support anywhere from 40 to 50 manufacturers and dealers exhibiting in 85 to 90 booths, will only work in a handful of possible locations here in the U.S.
There just aren’t enough rod builders in any particular region to support an event the size of the Expo. Put the event in the wrong place and you wide up with a regional event which at best will only draw a few hundred builders. This leads to financial losses for the exhibitors and precludes them exhibiting in the future. In other words, the event dies.
The International Custom Rod Building Exposition has enjoyed tremendous success these past 9 years. Luck, however, has had nothing to do with it. You don’t get lucky 9 times in a row!
Others have attempted to emulate the Expo but none have succeeded. Not for lack of trying or sincerity, but for a failure to understand the demographics of the craft and therefore not being able to locate their event in a place which meets all or at least most of the necessary criteria required in order to successfully stage something like the Expo.
The RodMaker Magazine mailing list provides a good general overview of rod building demographics in the U.S. When you look it over, you see that well over half of all the rod builders live east of the Mississippi River. If you want the event to be within a single day’s drive of the greatest number of rod builders, you’re faced with the fact that the event must be held in the eastern third of the Country.
A nearby international airport is an absolute must – we’re talking about it being within 15 miles or so of the event facility. Amtrak is nice, but not altogether required. Major interstate highways should run within a very few miles of the event facility and lodging.
Weather is your next concern. Northern winters, along with the similar harsh winters of the Southern Appalachian Highlands, put any such event at huge risk. So, you need to stay south of the Mason-Dixon line for the best weather luck. But not too far south or you’re no longer within that single day’s drive for most of the builders.
Only a few locations then become apparent. Atlanta is one of the top convention towns in America. It has almost every single thing going for it in terms of being a great place to host an event like the Expo. There’s just one catch – the bulk of the rod building industry is made up of mom-and-pop type companies. Only a handful could afford the cost to exhibit in a place like Atlanta. So, regretfully, scratch Atlanta. While it would be great for ICast or AFFTA, it’s just a tad bit out of the ICRBE’s reach.
Further south than Atlanta takes you out of that single day’s drive of most of the rod builders. So now you turn and look north of Atlanta, but not too far north – remember that the chance of a bad winter storm increases the further north you go.
So now you come to Nashville, Knoxville, Asheville or Charlotte. All have a lot going for them. But the high altitudes of Knoxville, and particularly Asheville, put you back in danger of major winter storms. The other two are still very much viable.
Raleigh just built a new convention center in its downtown. It’s one of a few cities that could make an outstanding location for the Expo all the way around. It certainly meets just about all the necessary criteria involved. I like Roanoke and Richmond too, but they miss on at least a few of the criteria needed.
And of course, High Point isn’t the home of the world’s largest trade show for no reason – the International Home Furnishings Market has been here since 1911 and neither Las Vegas, Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco nor Atlanta have been successful in their many attempts to lure it away. Imagine that.
Sister city Greensboro isn’t half bad but presents a few logistics problems for out of towners – it has convention facilities galore, but most are single hotel/convention complexes. Nice as they are, they can present logistics problems when your crowd prefers more than one hotel. The city’s large coliseum complex, is nowhere near walking distance of any hotel.
The bottom line is that everyone would like to have the Expo in their backyard. The reality is that such a thing just isn’t possible – not if you want something the size of the Expo to succeed. There are only a handful of places where this particular event is possible and tomorrow I’ll give you a great hint/riddle as to which one I’ve chosen.