Are we beyond using the COVID pandemic years of 2020-2021 as a benchmark for anything moving forward? Ok, this will be my last but I felt that AHR 2024 knocked it out of the park, with attendance numbers equaling that of shows past, pre-pandemic. I actually heard, and this hasn’t been verified as of yet, but the day one on-site registration was nearing record levels. And day two crowds were still buzzing as traffic on the floor filled the aisles. (THIS JUST IN FROM AHR: It was clear to anyone filling the halls on Monday morning of the show that attendance was strong, welcoming 48,034 attendees there to interact with the 1,875 exhibitors spread across North and South Halls. )
To a booth, everyone was satisfied with the turnout and conversations during the show. The show marked a return to business as usual, at a much more accelerated pace. And to think, this is during mid-January, polar vortex temps, no less. (Don’t miss next year’s show February 10-12 in Orlando.)
Technology, innovation and new products dazzled, with heat pumps and the push toward electrification still dominating the topics of conversation. We heard more of VR and simulation training as a trending topic as well, with Artificial Intelligence, Workforce Development, Decarbonization all playing big parts at the show.
The Mechanical Hub team had a busy three days shooting videos in-booth, recording both Make Trades Great Again and Appetite for Construction podcasts, and we were even asked to emcee—and be a part of—a Coffee with Caleffi panel in the Caleffi booth on Monday morning. There, hosts John Mesenbrink and Tim Ward talked with industry bigs John Siegenthaler, Bob “Hot Rod” Rohr, Eric Aune and Andy Mickelson.
The discussion revolved around lifelong learning in the trades: where do these legends go to learn? Forgetting more than most of us will ever learn, Siegenthaler and Rohr talked about outlets for learning and continued training. Aune and Mickelson gave the point of view from a current business owner and working contractor, and the impact of social media in today’s PHVAC trades.
We can’t forget about the after-parties and the go-to for us has always been the Taco event Monday evening. It’s a chance to meet up with old and new friends alike.
One event I had the pleasure of attending—and it was my first time—was the HVAC Tactical Awards extravaganza held at the Planetarium downtown Chicago. I believe this was the fourth annual event, and the tagline, “It’s a mindset” is turning into “It’s a movement.” This was another great event to see good friends, and the idea of night of “Blue Collar Goes Black Tie” can’t be overstated.
The industry needs events like this to showcase the trades in the best, shining light there is. And this event, with the red-carpet entry, exclusive red-carpet interviews, cocktail parties pre and post, and the awards ceremony, give this a gala-type feel, with everyone dressed to the nines, and I think everyone digs that vibe, at least for one night.