Region One members focus on the future at The ARA Show 2023
by Brock Huffstutler
The long 16-month wait came to an end on Feb. 11 when The ARA Show™ 2023 kicked off at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
The last time the equipment and event rental community gathered face-to-face at the American Rental Association’s (ARA) premier event was in Las Vegas in October 2021. With the opening of the show in Orlando, it was time to get back on track with the show’s normal operating schedule. For those in attendance, there was no better place to be to reconnect and focus on the future.
“Innovation,” said Dov Goodman, Rent A Tool, Brooklyn, N.Y., when asked what was his primary reason for coming to the show. “In our organization, innovation is very, very important because that’s what we do. And to connect with actual business peers — to know where they are and what they are doing.”
The 66th edition of the world’s largest equipment and event rental industry-specific convention and trade show offered attendees plenty of opportunities to network and learn from peers, industry experts and vendors.
Saturday, Feb. 11, featured two brand-new education sessions, Future of Equipment Rental for those on the equipment side of the industry, and EventsU (formerly Events & Tents) designed exclusively for those in event rental, brought unique insights.
The education continued on Sunday with presentations delivered by engaging, expert speakers and rental industry panel discussions covering tracks grouped into four themes: “Learn and Lead,” “Connect and Collaborate,” “Empower and Engage” and “Plan and Strategize.” Then, following Monday’s Keynote Session presented by Daymond John, attendees focused on the trade show that featured more than 700 exhibitors.
Korinne Talham and Joseph Pastore, Pastore Rental Equipment, Hudson Falls, N.Y., were first-time attendees of the show. Talham said they came because “we see the show as a learning opportunity. We’ve been in business for four years now, but there’s still so much to learn. Even the first day of the show, we learned something as simple as changing something small on our business card that might help and lots of good stuff for culture.”
Pastore also felt the education offered at the show was beneficial. “The panels were good, with other people who are in the industry, from the beginning stages all the way up through seasoned guys who have been in business for a long time that you could learn from. The Q&A sessions were helpful, with other single-store operations that were explaining their difficulties, systems and processes.”
“We represent five to seven brands and we’re here [at the show] to see what the right brand is to add next into our business plan and portfolio to take to market and see if we can’t diversify a little bit rather than just grab another business and bolt it on,” said Mike Freundschuh, Upstate Equipment, Lockport, N.Y., of what he was looking for on the trade show floor. “We want to find that next brand we’re ready to partner with and implement as part of the offering we give to our customers — something we can really believe in and get behind. We’re going to look at aerial pretty heavily because we’ve always avoided it like the plague, but probably more of a specialized aerial approach — special applications, maybe things others don’t get into as much, just to offer a niche product. We’re going to look at some softwares and anything we can bring back with us with some tangible value that is new and on the cutting edge.”
Kevin Doherty, president, Dot Rental, Dorchester Center, Mass., said from the trade show floor that he was impressed with what he was seeing. “There are a lot of new products here,” he said. “I’m into excavation for the smaller machines like the small mini excavators, small mini loaders and a few attachments to maximize the small equipment that we have on our rental fleet.”
Doherty added that there were a few different exhibitor brands that he was looking at. “I’m looking at small hammers for machines, forks, post diggers — stuff like that. Most of the companies have all of the attachments that I need. And exhibitors are willing to talk to you and tell you what products are coming in the future, which is good,” he said.
Show floor comments from Brendon Blood, Blood’s Catering & Party Rentals, White River Junction, Vt., suggest that his expectations were surpassed at this year’s show. “We were just looking for crossback chairs that we don’t have. We were by no means planning on buying, but we just spent money we weren’t expecting on spending. It’s great. The nice part is the show gets you to buy things you don’t even know you need or want sometimes. We bought some patio heaters; we’ve never owned any. The vendors are really friendly and eager to write orders as usual. It seems like people are buying a lot and the inventories are there. They’re telling us they have the products. It’s nice to see the inventories coming back,” he said.
This was the first year of attending The ARA Show for Ammy Rice, Balcom Bros. Rentals, Milford, N.H. “Coming from the agriculture scene to the ARA show this year, I was highly impressed with the variety and quality of equipment, products and services the ARA brings together in one place to support the rental community,” she says. “I found the entire show to have this energetic buzz, bringing people together from different rental industries, mom-and-pop shops to the multi-location business. We were all there to learn more from each other, support each other and have fun together. From sitting through eight education classes to spending 2.5 days on the show floor, I have never been so impressed with the quality of the show. I thought all of the education topics presented had value and something you could bring back or provoked a thought about how you were doing something at your store that you could improve on. Overall, I had a blast! I left The ARA Show feeling empowered, enthused and excited to head back to New Hampshire to see what we can improve upon at our little store. We cannot wait for next year’s show in New Orleans!”
Show networking favorites like the Young Professional Network (YPN) Reception, Women in Rental Breakfast, ARAPAC Reception benefiting ARA’s political action committee and the ARA Foundation Charity Auction and Reception also returned.
“I came here to connect,” said Dov Goodman, who also attended the YPN Reception. “Connecting with people, like last night at the YPN event, is the bedrock of a business. The event was lovely, it was amazing. ARA is a very unique organization that supports the actual business of rental, which I do not see in other industries.”
Just before the wrap-up of the show, many attendees kicked back at the sold-out Tuesday Night Event at Universal Studios Orlando. It was one of the biggest parties ARA has ever thrown because the association reserved special areas of Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park just for show attendees.
ARA CEO Tony Conant summed up the experience this way: “The ARA Show proved again that it is the best place in the world to see rental equipment and products, get rental-specific professional development and network with the best group of people around!”