AREE continued to prove to be one of the premier energy marketing convention and trade shows in the Northeast this year once again at the Atlantic City Convention Center from May 3 – May 5. Although attendance was a about 5 percent down from last year, content of the seminars and networking opportunities provided the 4,100 attendees tools to take home to improve their businesses.
The number of exhibitors totaled 260, a 12 percent increase from last year’s show. However, from walking the show floor, it was apparent that many companies had scaled down the sizes of their booths. More than 45 exhibiting companies were new to the Atlantic City show. Some of these companies are sure to be strong contenders for the Fuel Oil News New Vendor Awards, to be announced in our August issue later this summer.
If the trade show floor appeared to be a bit sparser, one area of the show was packed—the educational sessions. The 20 business classes offered this year was a definite highlight for many of the attendees, as many of the rooms of the sessions were almost filled to capacity. The following a review of just a handful of those.
It is no secret the fuel oil industry is facing and undergoing a tremendous amount of change, and the seminars provided this year addressed many of those challenges and trends. John Huber, president of the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA), provided an update of the reauthorization of NORA. As pointed out, with the sunset of NORA in 2010, oil heat is now the only major home heating energy source that does not have a structured program to benefit its consumers. “Without NORA, there are no central funds available to improve the product and increase its value to consumers,” according to a fact packet distributed during the update. “Without NORA, the competing fuels are favored.”
As the industry evolves, many fuel oil businesses are looking to either grow their operations or leave it. One central question is how to determine the value of a business, whether buying or selling it. Steve Abbate, president of Cetane Associates, moderated a panel on “Valuing and Acquiring Businesses,” which included valuable insights from Mike Anton, CEO, HOP Energy LLC; Mark Cleaves, CEO, Energy USA Propane; Steve Goldman, COO Star Gas/Petro; and Brian Kottcamp, president of Shipley Energy.
Price programs continue to be on the decline in the heating oil industry. A lot of that can be attributed to miscommunication and misunderstandings of these programs, both by the consumers and the industry. Hedge Solutions led a seminar to discuss these issues in “Life After Price Programs.”
Sales pit and new participation
Attendees also had the opportunity to hear live presentations from a number of exhibitors in the “Sales Pit” on the trade show floor. Two designated areas allowed vendors to show off their offerings, among those that presented was Profit Strategies, a company providing solutions to maintenance agreement programs and more.
Angus Energy gave an overview of their company and recent developments at the company, such as the formation of the Angus Advisory and Finance Group. Possibly the most entertaining of the presentations was by ProOne Lubricants, which held a demonstration of their products’ successful performance during a bench cross axis friction machine test.
Additionally, AREE expanded its scope to include participation by the New Jersey Propane Gas Association. This association’s mission is to educate the public, the media, the industry and legislative and government officials about the safety and efficiency of propane and related products. Inclusion of the NJPGA demonstrates the diversification trends in the industry and how AREE is reflecting those changes.
Tragedy before the show
Overshadowing this year’s show was a tragic and major loss to the industry and AREE. William (Bill) Thomas Thiel passed away on April 30, 2011 in Dingman Twp., Pa. He was 77.
Bill was the associate director of the Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey and show manager of the FMA Trade Show, which grew into the Atlantic Region Energy Expo. He was employed by FMA for 30 years. He was also the retired owner and operator of Sparta Plumbing in Sparta, N.J.
A moment of silence was observed on the trade show floor in honor of his memory.