A typical trade show charges exhibitors quite a bit of money for space to set up booths or other product displays, and charges other attendees a comparatively small admission fee or even lets them in for free. A reverse trade show, like the one the Gulf Coast Builders Xchange (GCBX) held on March 31, charges exhibitors nothing, but charges attendees a nominal admission fee.
In this case the admission fee was $25 for GCBX members and $55 for non-members. Over 300 people paid this fee, which meant the ballroom at the Polo Grill in Lakewood Ranch was buzzing with activity.
There were over 30 exhibiters, including virtually all of our region's major general contractors. This is where the "reverse" part of this show come in; in a normal trade show situation, exhibitors try to sell their products or services to attendees. At this show, the attendees were mostly subcontractors and others in the building industry who were there to present their services and products to the general contractors.
But is there any construction work out there to be had?
Yes, said GCBX Chairman Bill Jarvis. The dropoff in local building activity is "not as bad as a lot of the media claim," and there is still lots of work out there if you go out and look for it.
Jarvis said his employer, Lakewood Ranch, "has more homes under construction now than in 2006," and that "contractors who are aggressively looking for work are finding it."
In addition to residential work, Jarvis said, "there's still a lot of work in commercial construction," and that while a lot of it "might be small stuff," many contractors are keeping their crews busy by taking on many small jobs instead of a few big ones.
Keeping work local
The idea behind the reverse trade show is to keep work local by introducing large general contractors to local subcontractors they might not otherwise meet. Jarvis said, "Our motto is 'Members working with members,'" and that the reverse trade show's purpose was to help make that happen.
This is the first time GCBX has tried anything like this. But the reverse trade show has been such a great success, Jarvis said, that they're sure to do it again in the future.