Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chicago Features Opportunities, Green Building, and Trepidation

HARDI had a very busy week at the AHR Expo. General consenus was that total numbers were down, but the quality of attendees was up. Distributor attendance appeared to be relatively strong. Here are a few observations:

  1. Despite a sluggish US economy, there's plenty of interest in the US market by foreign manufacturers and many of them were looking for HARDI for help to access it. South American and Chinese companies were the most prevalent. In addition, HARDI was invited to join AHRI at a meeting hosted by members of the China Refrigeration Association to overview the US market and HVACR channel.

  2. At a reception hosted by the USGBC, one of their staff members commented that there were many more "Green Product" signs in booths at this year's Expo compared to last year, but expressed concerns about "greenwashing". In contrast, a member of industry suggested that it may have taken several years for many manufacturers to realize that the products they've always sold are actually "green". Regardless, many of the Expo seminars revolved around green building, and specifically LEED, including one offered by HARDI that overviewed green building trends and drivers and a presentation on VRF technology by Mitsubishi that was filled to capacity. HARDI's Sustainable Building Committee held a luncheon meeting that set into motion efforts to create simple, easy to use resources to help HARDI members quickly find their way in the "green" world.

  3. Expo attendance was down along with prospects for the economy in 2009. While in general most companies I talked to were holding their own in recent months, most seem to be expecting serious challenges this year. Concerns about contractors' businesses and their ability to pay their bills top the list followed closely by little confidence in any resurgence in the construction markets. Prospects for unitary equipment sales in '09 were not bolstered by the noticeable absences on the trade show floor of several major OEMs.

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