As many of you already know, PLANET and PGMS have extended their contracts (and partnerships) with OPEI/GIE+EXPO through 2018. Yes, we enjoy working with both OPEI and PGMS, but that in and of itself would never be reason enough to commit to several more years in Louisville. Instead, the move happens to be a very sound business decision from several perspectives, not the least of which include the venue, the trade show, and PLANET’s educational program.
Let’s start with the venue. Louisville is a midlatitude city that is within driving distance for 60 percent of America’s population. The distance, or lack of distance, is very important to many of our smaller company members who make up a large portion of PLANET’s membership. Simply put, they cannot afford the airfare and neither can many larger companies that have been forced to cut back in recent years. Familiarity with host facilities and downtown Louisville allows advance planning with no surprises, thereby enhancing one’s stay and networking opportunities.
Louisville also sports one of only nine facilities east of the Mississippi that could house the GIE+EXPO, which is now the ninth largest trade show in the country. Furthermore, the other facilities do not offer the outdoor demonstration area that Louisville offers or are as affordable, allowing PLANET to keep registration costs low.
The partnership has been instrumental in creating a quality trade show that continues to attract all segments of the green industry, from top vendors and dealers to association members and other landscape professionals. Last year, that number totaled 18,500, allowing the PLANET brand to reach a broad audience.
Two years ago, the show attracted another trade group, Hardscape North America. The new exhibitors and an expanded educational program created even more value for attendees.
This brings us to the important educational perspective. When PLANET and its legacy groups sponsored their own shows, they were much smaller with a limited number of seminars, workshops, and other learning opportunities. Many of our members come to Louisville and GIE+EXPO for the educational experience presented by the Green Industry Conference. Frankly, the depth and breadth of that experience wouldn’t be possible without the support of our sponsors, the trade show, and our partnership with OPEI.
Education is only one of the enhanced member benefits created by the trade show’s positive revenue stream. The profit PLANET brings home goes directly to support other products and services, including an expanded certification program, industry lobbying efforts, a better website, and more resources. In this economy especially, there is not another partnership model that allows the same financial reward as well as support of our supplier members.
I admit the renewed partnership was not welcomed in every corner. It has a few detractors from those who suffer from “Louisville fatigue.” The syndrome usually surfaces in attendees who like to double up their convention time with vacation or use the event as a way to reward staff members. Staying in the same hotels, eating in the same restaurants, and seeing the same sights for them can bring on symptoms. The cure, of course, is to take stock in what the partnership with the city and the GIE+EXPO returns to PLANET members and the overall green industry.
Any partnership, of course, is not a one-way street. The GIE+EXPO, for example, benefits from having PLANET members attend the trade show, and the city’s hotel and restaurant owners enjoy the additional traffic members bring in.
Still, it’s not all about revenue. Knowing that we will be in Louisville for the foreseeable future, PLANET wanted to do something for the city. Hence, on the Wednesday of last year’s GIC, we launched the first annual Louisville community service project called PLANET Gives Back. Approximately 40 PLANET volunteers teamed up with Metro United Way, a local United Way affiliate, to enhance four downtown facilities.
Any partnership has to pay dividends to all partners. Our relationship with OPEI and GIE+EXPO is a win-win for everyone, and that’s a winning formula for a long-lasting relationship.