Angelo Gangone, the executive vice president of AWFS Fair has released a letter thanking the industry for its support during this year's event.
“I would like to begin by thanking everyone that participated in this year’s AWFS Fair. It was good to reconnect with so many friends and colleagues at this year’s event. For the vast majority of participants, the mood was upbeat as the show represented a return to what we had all taken for granted prior to 2020 and we had the opportunity to meet with our customers face-to-face once again.
“Back in March of 2020, the 2021 Fair was on-pace to expand once more as 83% of the total floor space of the 2019 show had already been sold. As we all know, once the nationwide lockdown began in April 2020, the landscape for all live events changed dramatically as postponements and cancellations became a daily occurrence. The ongoing effects of the pandemic ultimately led to a 21 per cent decline in exhibit space for this year’s Fair. However, even though registration was also lower this year (17 per cent lower than in 2019), in part due to an 80 per cent drop in international attendance, exhibitors echoed what we expected to hear: attendees came to the show with serious buying intentions. This was very welcome news for our exhibitors: resulting in AWFS finishing the event with the most “onsite” space ever sold in the Fair’s history and providing us with a great head start for 2023.
“Statistics aside, the staff and I realize that having the extremely good fortune to carry out a live event despite the circumstances and challenges we’ve faced since the pandemic began was a huge success within itself and something for which we are all truly grateful.
“The one major takeaway for me at this year’s Fair is that the biggest challenge our industry continues to face (current supply chain issues aside) is the ongoing shortage of skilled labor. As this shortage continues, more manufacturers will be forced to embrace technology as a means of automating their manufacturing processes. Some shops will see the potential in technology and move forward willingly; others may be forced to do so out of survival. Even with fewer exhibitors at this year’s event, I was still highly impressed by the technology on display and couldn’t help but imagine some of the innovations we will see over the course of this decade.
“Regardless of how much of manufacturing processes become automated, the need for a skilled workforce will still be a major necessity as tech-savvy individuals will be in high demand to run these advanced machines and work cells. I have frequently written about our decades-long endeavors at AWFS to support Career Technical Education and work with schools, educators, and organizations such as WCA, SkillsUSA and SkillsUSA California; to support and encourage young people to explore and pursue the opportunities our industry offers. Although we undertake these efforts on behalf of our association, it is our trade show that allows us to fund these programs. Therefore, it is paramount to all AWFS staff and the AWFS Board of Directors that you know that support of the Fair will ultimately lead to a lasting impact on our industry, even after many of us will no longer be an active part of its workforce.
“Over the next two years, you can expect to see more about how we plan to continue our efforts to strengthen our industry through the education and public policy initiatives we undertake on behalf of our members and their customers, as well as the exciting new show features that we will reveal for the 2023 Fair. AWFS also plans to be more proactive in reaching out to our member companies and informing them about the numerous volunteer opportunities our association has to offer, including ways to help fulfill our mission and give back to an industry that has afforded so many of us the opportunity to build careers and provide for ourselves and our families. We certainly hope that you consider joining us in helping build a stronger industry for today and for future generations of woodworking professionals.
“Once again, I would like to thank everyone that participated in the 2021 AWFS Fair. Your commitment and decision to support our industry during such uncertain and unprecedented times speaks volumes and was deeply appreciated by our entire team.”