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The equipment rental industry gathers in New Orleans for The ARA Show 2024

By Rental Management staff

February 25, 2024

The ARA Show™ 2024 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans offered plenty of opportunities to connect. In addition to seeing and placing orders with the more than 650 exhibitors on the show floor, attendees also came together for a number of educational and social events throughout the week.

On Saturday, Feb. 17, hundreds of event rental professionals gathered at the convention center for EventsU, a full day of education and networking designed exclusively for those in event rental.

On Sunday, attendees had the chance to see 16 unique learning opportunities on a wide variety of business and operational topics in education sessions presented by experts and industry peers. The sessions were broken up into four tracks — “Learn and Lead,” “Connect and Collaborate,” “Empower and Engage” and “Plan and Strategize.”

Also on Sunday, members of the equipment and event rental community gathered to recognize and honor volunteers during the ARA Industry Awards Lunch. The highlight of the event was the induction of Bruce Campbell and the late Jay D. Chapin into the Rental Hall of Fame. Learn more here.

Prior to Monday’s Keynote Session, Tony Conant, American Rental Association (ARA) CEO, introduced a new campaign called Born for This, which featured two new videos, one for equipment and one for event.

“We need to tell our story and invite anyone who isn’t afraid of work, who can think outside the box, and be gritty and resourceful, to come along with us,” Conant told the audience. “Those are the people we want to reach, so we thought we’d make it abundantly clear and connect the dots for them.”

The videos follow two people from childhood hobbies to honing those skills to present day where they work in the industry. An online and social media strategy surrounding Born for This will be executed throughout 2024 to engage audiences where they consume their news, information and entertainment.

Steve Mau, Brainerd General Rental, Brainerd, Minn., who became ARA chair at the conclusion of the show, passed the gavel to ARA’s 62nd president, Jeff Crotto, CERP, president, All About Events, Jacksonville, Fla. Crotto said when he first started his rental career 20 years ago, he was new to the industry.

“For me, rental awareness should be something on top of all our minds. The more we share, volunteer and participate in these efforts, the stronger our industry will be,” Crotto said.

The Keynote Session continued as Jon Taffer, star of the hit TV show “Bar Rescue” and an authority on turning struggling businesses into thriving successes, spoke about using time wisely, along with creating revenues and connectivity with customers. He also spoke about accountability in business.

Also on Monday, ARA released its latest forecast for the equipment and event rental industry, which indicates that the U.S. equipment rental industry’s growth has a fairly positive outlook. Last quarter, the year-over-year growth was expected to be 7.6 percent in 2023 and 3.1 percent in 2024. The most current projections indicate a 7.9 percent increase in 2024 totaling $77.3 billion in construction and general tool rental revenue.

The busy show floor gave attendees a variety of items to review from construction and general tool equipment to event equipment and rental software.

“We’re looking for software,” said Judy Fishgold, Altra Rental & Supply, Ontario, N.Y. “And our challenge with software is that we are also very heavy retail. We have boots, clothing and safety apparel — over 20,000 items in our store — so we need software that can handle retail and rental.”

Steve Mau passes the gavel to Jeff Crotto

Exhibitors expressed mostly optimism, many saying they were doing well with orders and traffic.

“It’s been great seeing a lot of our rental partners stopping by,” said Nick Stafanski, National Flooring Equipment, Minneapolis. “We’re staying busy.”

“This show is not good, but great,” said Terry Langston, Tifco Industries, Houston. “It’s the best show since post-COVID. I can’t remember a show where we got so much return on investment. Everybody was spending money at this show. They came to buy.”

Exhibitors were creative in building their customer base with Jared Hicks from Bootheel Rentals, Poplar Bluff, Mo., winning a Genie GTH-5519 during a contest where participants had to stand on a platform to win the coveted prize. Hicks spent a total of 18 hours, 18 minutes and 40 seconds on his platform.

First-time rental store attendees had the opportunity to connect with exhibitors and peers alike.

“This is my first time coming to the show,” said Alliyah Taylor, Admar Supply Co., Rochester, N.Y. “I’m very new to the industry, so I’m here to learn and meet some new people and, as a purchasing specialist, talk to some vendors and hopefully get some orders in. I’ve met some new people, which is ‘what I’m here to do. The venue is huge and it’s beautiful. Being here [In New Orleans) is beautiful. I’m excited to see all the equipment and all the vendors.”

On Tuesday morning, more than 650 attendees kicked off the day with the Women in Rental Breakfast, which offered the opportunity for learning and networking. The breakfast featured Dr. Michelle Rozen, a.k.a. The Change Doctor, who spoke on leadership, motivation and change.

Following another full day on the trade show floor, attendees moved to The ARA Foundation Charity Auction and Reception on Tuesday evening, where a record $206,500 was raised to support the ARA Foundation and its programs, thanks to bids on more than 30 items donated by exhibitors at the show and others in the rental community.

After the auction, attendees gathered for networking and fun at ARA’s Tuesday Night Event at House of Blues New Orleans, which also featured a concert by country singer Mitchell Tenpenny.

“The Tuesday night event was incredible,” said Stephanie Layson, Party Pro Rents, Tulsa, Okla. “I loved the venue, and Mitchell Tenpenny was an engaging performer. Whether you were a country fan or not, I think everyone had an excellent time.”

The show also featured other networking opportunities including the Young Professional Network (YPN) Reception on Sunday, Feb. 18; and the Regional Receptions and ARAPAC Reception on Monday, Feb. 19.

“It was so nice to see the rental community thriving in New Orleans,” said Conant. “From the opening program to the final bell, rental operators got everything they came for –education, networking, buying and entertainment. The Sunday education lineup and Tuesday night at House of Blues were some some of the best experiences folks had in many years. I heard nothing but positive feedback on the keynote speaker, Jon Taffer. He has a way of getting your attention and delivering a message that business owners need to hear.

“Equipment availability seems to be much better this year so the show floor was busy with deal seekers. 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 on the planet,” he said.