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IFAI Sets Sail In San Diego

IFAI Expo 2009 will gather more than 8,000 specialty fabrics industry professionals in San Diego for educational programs, exhibits and networking opportunities.

TW Special Report

I t's been more than 10 years since the Roseville, Minn.-based Industrial Fabrics Association International's (IFAI's) annual show was held in San Diego. According to Todd Lindemann, IFAI vice president of conference management, San Diego has been the organization's most popular show destination in the past. This year, the largest specialty fabrics trade show in the Americas will return to San Diego for IFAI Expo 2009, to be held at the San Diego Convention Center September 23-25, with pre-show activities scheduled on September 22. Considered an ideal location for visitors wanting to combine business with pleasure, San Diego also offers easy access from Latin America and the Asia Pacific region.

Last year's IFAI Expo, held in Charlotte, had 470 exhibitors showing their products and services to a record-breaking 8,210 registered participants from 58 countries. IFAI President and CEO Stephen M. Warner says participation most likely will be down this year, in line with the troubled economy: "We're expecting a reduced attendance, which doesn't necessarily mean a reduced number of companies participating, just fewer people participating from those companies."

However, Warner believes there will be a good show of business at this year's expo. "With the economic recovery expected to begin by the fourth quarter of 2009, the thinking is that there's a pent-up demand there, and people have been waiting for the opportunity to shop. Our show is a proven buyer's show," he said.

The Sails Pavilion of the San Diego Convention Center
— host to IFAI Expo 2009 — features a
polytetrafluoroethylene-coated fiberglass fabric membrane
roof designed and installed by Birdair Inc.
Photographed by Timothy Hursley for Visit San Diego.

Green Focus
Sustainability is a predominant theme at this year's Expo. "One of the emerging trends in the last few years has been the green/environmental movement," Warner said. "Energy savings is extremely important, and our industry can contribute greatly to these efforts."

A workshop offered free of charge to licensed architects, titled "How To Design Green Roofs/Landscapes," will present geosynthetics and textile materials and how they can be used to facilitate designing energy-efficient environments and buildings. A symposium titled "Sustainable Printing - Ensuring Our Future" will address sustainable printing practices and the related opportunities and challenges that face the fabric graphics community. "Become a Sustainable Shading Expert," an exclusive IFAI symposium available in English and Spanish, and offered to all industry professionals, will examine how fabrics are harvesting solar energy, emitting light and generating new business, among other topics.


Smart Textiles And More
Another trend Warner is seeing in the technical textiles industry -- and which also is a focus of the expo -- is smart textiles: "Our industry is very dynamic, very flexible. It changes to adapt to the changes that need to be made out there to go forward. New technologies are bringing new companies into IFAI's membership base - companies that are not even in the textiles business, per se, but in the automotive or plastics/ resins industries."

Programs will cover such topics as "Smart, E-Textiles Solutions," a symposium presenting emerging textile applications in electronics; "Patching Holes in Human Tissue," covering current medical and biomedical textile applications; "Technical Textiles Rocketing to Space," exploring the latest forecasts for technical textiles in aerospace applications; and "New Strategies for Marine Fabricators," discussing marine and upholstery applications.

Warner also notes the military is a staple for the domestic technical textile industry. "There's always going to be a strong core group of domestic providers; therefore, there will be a demand for textiles all throughout the value chain supplying the military as well as other security and service-type needs," he said. The interactive forum titled "Forecasts for US Military & Government Textile Needs" will provide the opportunity for manufacturers and military procurement officers to interface.

Expo Highlights
Veteran financial industry journalist and observer Ron Insana of CNBC will be this year's keynote speaker. In his address, "Now What? Managing Money Through the Economic Storm," Insana will present his personal viewpoint on handling the economic crisis. Topics will include how to avoid making speculative mistakes involving finances; how to understand the cause and evolution of the crisis; and what types of government solutions are needed to stabilize the private sector.

Special events will include the Fourth Annual Industrial Fabrics Foundation (IFF) Golf Tournament, benefiting annual scholarships and industry research; the Welcome Reception and 7th Annual IFF Silent Auction; the IFAI Annual Meeting; and the expo-closing Chairman's Gala. The Innovation Theater, a new feature at last year's expo, will return. The theater offers free sessions to attendees, who can view exhibitors' new product presentations as well as the IFAI International Achievement Awards (IAA), including special interviews with various award winners telling "How They Did It."

Australia-based SOS Marine’s Divers’ Recovery Vest
won a 2008 IAA Award of Excellence
in the Safety & Protective category.

Global Initiatives
The US Department of Commerce has designated IFAI Expo 2009 as a participant in the International Buyer Program (IBP) for the third year in a row. The expo is one of only 38 trade shows this year invited to participate in the program, which promotes US exhibitions worldwide via US Commercial Service offices and US diplomatic missions. It is also the only textile show to be awarded IBP status.

IFAI recently brought into the organization a third country sector, IFAI New Zealand - formerly known as the Outdoor Fabric Products Association of New Zealand (OFPANZ) - to join IFAI Canada and IFAI Japan (See "OFPANZ Merges With IFAI," www.TextileWorld.com, Nov. 18, 2008) .

Conferences scheduled for the upcoming year include an automotive symposium to be held in China, and Advanced Textiles, a European/US entrepreneurial networking conference to be held in June 2010 in Paris.

Warner said IFAI is experiencing high interest for the upcoming IFAI Expo Asia, a new trade show and conference scheduled to debut in Singapore in March 2011. Approximately 150 exhibitors are expected to attend the event, organized by Singapore-based MP International and supported by a number of leading Asia Pacific organizations. IFAI's membership base is growing internationally as well, up by about 25 percent. "The specialty fabrics industry is a global industry, and these companies - not only in the United States but also outside of the country - recognize they need to communicate and do business with each other," Warner said.

The Future Of IFAI
IFAI views itself as a marketplace for the specialty fabrics industry. According to Warner, specialty fabrics is the heart of the textile industry. "There are three major segments: apparel, home furnishings, and a 'catch all' area, which we call specialty fabrics. If the industry itself can get out of the mindset of 'textiles and apparel' and call it 'textiles,' then I think we're better off," he said. "The market shares have flip-flopped, and that is what makes our industry so exciting - all these new opportunities. You have technologies that create new applications, or new applications that drive new technologies, but they both translate into new opportunities for the industry. And now we're blending technical/specialty applications with apparel into e-textiles, fire protection and other functional applications."

For more information about IFAI Expo 2009, visit www.ifaiexpo.com.

July/August 2009