St. Paul, Minn. – October 29, 2014 – The Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) international textile trade event, Specialty Fabrics Expo 2014 and Advanced Textiles Expo, took place Oct. 14-16, 2014, in Minneapolis, Minn.
The annual event, in its 102nd year, is the largest annual display of specialty fabrics and technical textiles in the Americas. The show floor buzzed with excitement as 363 exhibitors from 20 countries filled the 85,000 square-feet of exhibition space in the Minneapolis Convention Center. This year was the first since 1951 that the show has been held in IFAI’s Minnesota home.
The floor opened with a ceremonial ribbon cutting by U.S. Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) of Minneapolis who cited IFAI members’ contributions to the economy. Exhibitors expressed positive responses regarding the quality of attendees. Kerry Ann Forsdahl, President, Jest Textiles Inc., exhibited and was very pleased with her experience at the show. “The quality of attendees was very good.” Forsdahl said “We were visited by buyers from Kimberly Clark and 3M. We were able to meet with potential customers and vendors as well. The show this year was definitely a worthwhile venture for us.”
The annual ShowStoppers competition had a record number of entries with 130 participants vying for a chance to win an award for innovative products and services. An Extreme Sports Display highlighted the specialty fabrics and technical textiles industries’ contribution to extreme sports with a wing suit, inflatable kayaks, and a cooling vest, among other products on display.
A comprehensive education component featured an Awning Symposium, a Marine Symposium, Advanced Textiles Programming, and a number of equipment workshops and a graphics and sewing shop tour. “The graphics and sewing shop tour was the best tour I’ve been on,” said Pat Hayes, Founder of Fabric Images Inc. “Both companies (hosting the tour) were open to full exposure of their methods and means of production, and showed extreme hospitality.”
IFAI President Mary Hennessy acknowledged that attendance numbers were off by about 20 percent from the conference’s usual numbers. “Although we had a beautiful venue and the weather in Minneapolis was great, we weren’t able to convince enough people to attend,” Hennessy said. “We’re processing feedback and working hard to make next year’s show the best yet.”
Despite the lower-than-expected numbers, exhibitors indicated positive experiences. “I had a good time in Minneapolis both on and off the show floor,” said Scott Massey, President, Awning Cleaning Industries. “We had a lot of good, solid contacts and have already begun to turn them into sales. Volume of attendees is important, but not the only criteria to judge a show by.”
Show participants filled a ballroom to capacity for the Opening Reception where awards and recognitions were presented. The annual International Achievement Awards were announced with 61 awards from 29 categories. ShowStoppers competition winners and Honored Life Members were also revealed.
Hennessy announced the association’s partnership with the Makers Coalition, forming the IFAI Makers Division. The partnership is a nationwide workforce development initiative to meet the demand for skilled labor in the cut and sew industry. “This is an exciting initiative that addresses a critical workforce shortage,” Hennessy said. “Providing a steady source of skilled labor will stimulate increased business and profitability throughout the supply chain.”
Next year, IFAI Expo will take place in Anaheim, Calif., and is already garnering a lot of buzz among exhibitors as 85 percent of exhibit space has already been sold.