For the first time in six years, the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM) held its Annual Convention & Trade Show in Las Vegas.

And although Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret were not in the building, NATM executives were so pleased with the attendance and productivity that they were tempted to shout, “Viva Las Vegas!”

The 26th annual event drew the second-highest number of registrants in recent history—880, a 15% increase over 2013—and the highest number of trailer manufacturers since 2010. The trade show floor also was sold out three weeks in advance of the event, which was held February 26-28 at South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa.

The exhibitors and attendees gave the event a high rating.

According to a survey, 100% of exhibitors said that the event is a high-quality exhibition that benefits their company; 14% were first-time exhibitors, a significant increase; and 46% of exhibitors introduced a new product.

Of the attendees, 95% said the value of the show was good to excellent; they gave the trade show a rating of four out of five; 89% of the responding attendees have a role in purchasing products; 13% were there for the first time, a significant increase; and 92% said they will definitely or probably attend next year’s show in New Orleans.

“Las Vegas is definitely a draw,” NATM executive director Pam O’Toole Trusdale said. “We’re still going to alternate between East and West Coast locations, but our West location will probably be Las Vegas for the next few. We already have a contract at South Point for 2016, and we’re looking at South Point for 2018.

“The facility was great. Members liked having everything under one roof. When we go to a convention center, sometimes the trade show is there and other functions are at the hotel. They liked having everything there at South Point. We got good room rates, and the service and food were good. It’s just a great facility.”

There were between 70 and 100 attendees for all of the workshop sessions, and in some cases there wasn’t enough room to accommodate them.

Trusdale chalked that up to changes that were made for this year’s event. After reviewing 2013 convention evaluations, the convention committee eliminated the workshop sessions from Friday afternoon and moved the trade show up an hour on Friday, so it ended at noon. Instead of the Friday lunch, there was a Friday breakfast with the exhibitors. Friday also offered an opportunity for exhibitors to provide product demos in a theater on the trade show floor.

“It was different this year,” Trusdale said. “Usually, we had three workshops at a time, and typically two were really well-attended and one not so much. So we decided to focus on technical topics and business issues and do two at a time, focusing on good speakers and attendance. We will do that again next year. Our technical forums were very popular. We will use the same format for next year.”

NATM presented Aluminum Trailer Company (ATC Trailers) of Nappanee, Indiana, with the NATM Green Manufacturing Award at the Awards Luncheon. The NATM Green Manufacturing Award is presented to an NATM trailer manufacturing member annually to recognize the best innovation or novel solutions by a manufacturer in the industry that positively impact the environment.

NATM has partnered with PPG Industries Inc, the founding sponsor of the Green Award, which donates $5000 to the charity selected by the award recipient. The financial support reflects PPG’s commitment to improving the environment.

ATC Trailers has been proactive in its commitment to sustainability. A pillar of ATC’s core values is to enhance surrounding communities. Examples of ATC’s commitment to sustainability include recycling of 100% of wood scrap, aluminum and steel, while also recycling employee waste and eliminating one-time use paper products. This alone has generated an average of $4500 per month as well as keeps the waste from filling landfills.

ATC has increased its energy efficiency and is in its fourth year of a lean manufacturing transition. The company has utilized natural ventilation for the summer months and a high-efficiency, wood-fired boiler in the winter months. One result of this effort is a huge reduction of utility costs from $221,520 to $113,625 annually. The company also complies with water-run off requirements, and has improved air quality through a new ventilation system and placed limits placed on smoking areas.

ATC has plans to continue with its green improvements with a switch to energy-efficient light bulbs and increase natural lighting as well as introducing a rain capturing system in order to utilize the grey water in the facility.

NATM President Mike Lloyd and Ron Yarnell of PPG presented Lucas Landis the 2014 Green Award to ATC Trailers. ATC selected Goshen’s Farmer’s Market to receive the donation. Goshen Farmer’s Market is governed by The Community Sustainability Project, an Indiana non-profit corporation with a mission to create a viable market for locally grown and crafted products in order to promote and educate about agricultural, environmental, economic, and community sustainability.

The 27th Annual Convention & Trade Show is set for New Orleans at the Ernest M Morial Convention Center from February 11-13, 2015.

Trusdale said the goal is to continue to grow attendance.

“We’ve already sold 50% of the booth space for next year,” she said. “We give them a special rate if they exhibited this year and sign up within 45 days of this year’s convention for next year. We’re going to grow a bit and will have a few extra booths next year.

“We had some promotions to get new members and first-time people there. We gave a free room and registration to one person per company to those who had never attended from a company. We want to reward not just new members but also long-time supporters, so with every full registration, a company could bring its purchasing agent for free. We had quite a few new manufacturers there this year, and that was our goal. We’re constantly trying to improve our educational events and have workshops with topics our members want to hear.” ♦