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ACCESS 2012, the Exhibit Designers and Producers Association’s (EDPA) Annual Conference and Showcase, recently ended its three-day run at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort in Palm Springs, Calif. Attendance at this year’s event surpassed ACCESS 2011, reaching more than 300 exhibit designers, builders and industry suppliers.



Jeff Provost, executive director of the EDPA, addresses the crowd at ACCESS 2012.

During the three-day event, attendees were engaged by educational sessions, keynote speakers, a supplier showcase and a worldwide track that presented France as the featured country.

Cam Stevens, outgoing EDPA president and president of Stevens Exhibit Design Group, welcomed attendees to ACCESS 2012 and set the tone for the annual meeting.

“These events keep getting better and better every year and it is really important to recognize those who make this event possible and make it as good as it is,” said Stevens. “Of course we are in the industry of face-to-face meetings and we continue to challenge each other every year to come up with something new and exciting. We have certainly done that this year.”

The theme to ACCESS 2012 was “Connect and Create” and it was apparent throughout the show. The opening keynote, given by Doctor and comedian Will Miller, focused on creating essential relationships, a sold-out speed networking event brought buyers and suppliers together and a new educational session entitled Behind the Scenes: Show Organizers and General Service Contractors gave attendees a glimpse at another side of the business.

As part of the Down To Business learning track, Kelli Glasser, president and COO of Exhibit Concepts and vice president of finance for the EDPA, delivered a session on the 2011 Economic Survey Report. The session was titled Financial State of Affairs: Annual EDPA Economic State of the Union.

The data gathered for the survey included a year-over-year comparison versus 2010 for a number of different business aspects for the exhibit design industry.

For the purposes of the survey, companies were broken down into 3 groups. Firms with sales in excess of $25 million, sales of $6.5 million to $25 million and sales of less than $6.5 million.

Glasser reported that once again in 2011, the price per square foot for exhibits declined for all three company groups. However, she did note that net profit as a percentage of revenue did grow for all three company sizes. Last year, all three groups had a razor thin margin of only 1.5 percent net profit

“It was very interesting for me to see that our under $6.5 million companies were able to grow that number to about 7 percent,” said Glasser. “The mid size group doubled that number to more than 3 percent and the largest companies showed an increase as well.”
Glasser also reported that she is beginning to see a year-over-year trend for EDPA companies in regards to sales with no paid commissions.

“We are seeing those numbers heading up and that has really been a trend,” said Glasser. “In the earlier part of the decade we saw them trended down, but as the economy got tighter, people are leaning more toward salaried sales positions.”

Aside from advocating for companies in the U.S., the EDPA is also aggressively growing its international presence. Marco Alvarez, international committee chair for the EDPA and CEO of Fabric Images, reported that membership for the International Chapter of the association has grown to 48 members in 2012 from just 28 in 2008.

“We are continuing to grow and our goal for 2013 is an aggressive one,” said Alvarez. “We look to have a total of 62 chapter members and as the world becomes smaller and smaller, the relationships we develop on an international basis become more important for us and all of our customers. We at the EDPA are committed to growing our influence throughout the world.”

The EDPA also announced several award winners at ACCESS 2012.

Gene Winther, owner and CEO of Expon Exhibits, won the coveted Hazels Hays award for his significant contributions to the knowledge of the exhibit industry and his influence in the tradeshow industry as a whole.

Norm Friedrich, owner of Octanorm USA, walked away with the Ambassador Award in recognition of an EDPA member who has made an outstanding contribution to the organization and the industry.

Justin Dworak, creative director at Star Exhibits, was named the Designer of the Year for his innovative designs and his contribution to enhancing the professional standards of exhibit design.

The Midwest Chapter of the EDPA won the Chapter of the Year Award for its diligence and hard work in promoting the EDPA. The Las Vegas chapter had won the award for the last three years.

It was also announced that the Silent Auction raised more than $17,000 for the EDPA Foundation, which will use the proceeds to offer financial support when tragedy strikes the family of industry members and towards providing scholarships to industry students.

Finally, the winners of the annual Golf Open Scramble Tournament consisted of Peggy Swords of Excalibur Exhibits, Bill Glasser of Exhibit Concepts, Fred Kong of Production Resource Group and James Zacharias of Brumark.

ACCESS 2013 will be held Dec. 4-6 at the Marco Island Resort & Spa in Marco Island, Fla.

“Next year’s event will continue to deliver high-level, cutting edge content delivered by some of the world’s most influential driving forces,” said Anna Lawler, senior manager for sponsorship and exhibit sales for the EDPA. “Numerous networking forums will be available for innovators to share ideas and learn of new products and solutions to enhance business.”

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