One you stepped onto the show floor of the 2021 NECA Trade Show & Conference held Oct. 9-12 in Nashville, TN, you quickly got the sense that the event was not just another electrical show.
It was the first major electrical trade show since the pandemic, and exhibit exhibitors and attendees were glad to be at a live event again. Electrical manufacturers, estimating companies, electrical distributors and other tech firms exhibiting in the show’s 250 booths were eager to talk about the new products they had been working on over the past 18 months, and they seemed relieved they could talk with real live customers about their latest products.
Energy on the floor of any trade show can be tough to measure, and when the final numbers are in for the NECA 2021 they will most likely show declines from NECA’s last live annual event in Las Vegas back in October 2019. Statistics on exhibition space provided by the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) for the 2021 event and for the Las Vegas event did show a decline in exhibitors from 328 companies to 250 booths. However, the booth traffic at this year’s show was surprisingly good and the only large electrical manufacturer and regular NECA Show exhibitor not at this year’s show was Southwire.
Some attendees said exhibitors seemed to have smaller booths than at previous shows, but the show floor had a good buzz to it, and while final attendance figures will most likely show a drop from the 8,546 total participants and 6,066 professional attendees at the 2019 Las Vegas event, booth traffic overall was decent. One contributing factor to any decline in attendance at this year’s NECA Show from 2019 will be Southwest Airlines debacle on the weekend of the show, where more than 1,000 flights were cancelled.
For the folks that did make it to Nashville, there was all sorts of rowdiness in the country music bars and party wagons along Broadway, and plenty of new products to see on the show floor. Schneider Electric threw a launch party at the Ole Red restaurant & music venue just off Broadway to show their new FlexSet low-voltage switchboard and PowerPacT circuit breakers. FlexSet offers a modular design that allows for lead times of as little as 72 hours, and the PowerPacT breakers incorporate Zigbee wireless technology to provide customers with real-time remote notifications of any technical issues.
ABB used NECA to showcase the synergies of its legacy and GE Industrial business units with a monstrous travel van that it has been driving around the country loaded with its latest switchboards, circuit breakers, transfer switches and other distribution equipment. The company also has several other smaller demo trucks on the road to show off some the latest T&B products and its related electrical installation offerings.
Electrical contractors also had plenty of new hand and power tools and job-site equipment to play with at the show. Milwaukee Tool displayed its new battery powered M12 12-Volt Lithium-Ion Cordless 3/8 in. stapler and a new line of hardhats with related accessories including headlamps and marker clips. Milwaukee Tool salespeople compared the strength and integrity of the hardhats to “Brand X” with one of their infamous “tool torture” devices. In this demonstration they dropped a heavy weight onto both hardhats to see which one would come out unscathed.
Greenlee’s booth was also loaded with new tool offerings and one of the more popular displays at the show was its new Mobile Bending Table for its pipe benders, which included a lockable storage area for bender shoes. Some other new tools of note were on display at the Knipex booth. They included the Knipex Forged Wire Stripper, Twin-Grip Slip Joint Pliers and Stepcut cable cutters.
Trimble also had a busy booth at the show and was giving attendees at preview of its new model-based estimating workflow introduced a few days after NECA. The new workflow system connects Trimble’s Building Information Model (BIM) to the estimate for electrical contractors. It’s powered by a direct API connection between Trimble SysQue detailing software and Trimble Estimation MEP cloud estimating software.
Next year’s NECA show will be held Oct. 15-18, 2022 in Austin, TX.