AWFS® was very pleased with the outcome of this year’s show which saw a 45% increase in the number exhibiting companies, comprising 173 first-time exhibitors, helping to account for a 9% increase in booth space compared to the 2021 event, a 7% increase in buyer attendance and 13.5% increase in overall attendance, which benefited from a significant boost from international markets. In addition, re-signs for the 2025 AWFS®Fair are off to a strong start, as space re-signs represented the second highest total the Fair has ever obtained on show site.
The College of Woodworking Knowledge classroom seminar program was back in full swing with over 50 sessions throughout three days. We were excited to introduce some new, more interactive sessions which were well received by attendees. The three-hour hands-on CNC training workshop for teachers was sold out, where teachers programmed name signs in software and then produced them on ShopBot CNCs; this is a project that they can now introduce to their students. Sessions on mainstay topics such as finishing, including HVLP spray finishing, water-based finishing, Diane Shattuck’s popular ‘Finishing Failures’ and pricing and job costing had a large attendance. A panel discussion on succession planning was well received, as was Steve Baker’s workshop on the ‘Great Game of Business’, sponsored by AWI. Meanwhile on our AWFS®Fair Show Floor Live stage, Dr. Chris Kuehl drew an audience for his economic update webinar; Eric Marshall held a crowd in his session on trends in the Closet industry; Dom Rubino entertained attendees while sharing secrets to business success. In the mornings, exhibitors provided brief Rapid-Fire presentations on hardware, software, and machinery topics.
With the 2023 event behind us, plans for our next event which will take place July 22 -25, 2025 will begin later this fall while the 2025 AWFS®Fair Space Draw is scheduled to begin in early February. Throughout 2024, AWFS will provide periodic updates on new show features that will be introduced for the next show along the introduction of a new program that will enhance and simplify our exhibitor’s overall show experience and expand their ability to promote their presence at our next event using simple, convenient, and cost-effective tools.
One thing that remains apparent after every event is the continuing trend toward automation due to higher labor demands and growing production needs. Yet, amidst this technological shift, the significance of skilled labor remains undiminished. This is why AWFS® remains steadfast in its commitment to strengthening career technical education by continuing our collaboration with educational institutions, educators, and organizations such as WCA, SkillsUSA, and SkillsUSA California and working in conjunction with other industry associations, including AWI, WMIA, and WMMA, on the unified efforts of the Wood Industry Resource Collaborative (WIRC) that is helping expand industry awareness while modernizing the image of the wood industry and providing resources to those interested in exploring career opportunities in the wood sector. Through all these partnerships, the ultimate goal is to inspire and encourage young people, and those seeking to make a career change, to explore the countless opportunities our industry offers with the goal of expanding and strengthening our industry’s workforce.
AWFS® also plans to place an even greater focus on proactive engagement with our member companies, sharing essential insights about the range of volunteer opportunities available through our association. These avenues contribute to our mission and reinforce our dedication to giving back to an industry that has given so many of us the chance to build meaningful careers and provide for our families. We invite all member companies to consider partnering with us in this united endeavor to support a resilient industry—one that not only flourishes in the present but also lays the foundation for future generations of wood industry professionals.
While these endeavors are executed by our association, it is the AWFS®Fair that serves as the cornerstone for these initiatives. Thus, supporting the Fair has a lasting impact on our industry. This message, of course, is not exclusive to AWFS® but to all trade shows, conferences and events that are owned and operated by industry associations, which we encourage our member companies to support.
In closing, we wish to extend our gratitude to every individual who played a role in the success of the 2023 AWFS®Fair. Your participation is greatly appreciated, and our board and staff remain dedicated to developing and implementing programs and services that help us deliver greater value to our members and maximizing our efforts in serving our industry.
Angelo Gangone, Executive VP of AWFS®