Held on the West Coast for the first time since its beginnings in 1987, StonExpo 2004 took place in conjunction with the Marble Institute of America (MIA) Convention from October 28 to 30 in Los Angeles, CA. Moving the location of the exhibition was a strategic decision that proved successful -- resulting in stronger attendance, according to show organizers.

“We believe StonExpo's first-ever West Coast location and expanded educational opportunities, combined with the growing market for natural stone, made this an outstanding event,” stated Pennie Sabel, Executive Director of the StonExpo Federation, the nonprofit organization that produced the event. The exhibition offered the latest developments in natural stone technology, products and services; an extensive educational program; and a forum for networking and conducting business among industry professionals.

Many exhibitors provided those in attendance with live demonstrations of large equipment such as CNC machines, bridge saws and edge polishers as well as smaller hand-held machines. Additionally, numerous displays of hand tools and accessories were on display throughout the exhibition hall.

Moreover, producers and suppliers of natural stone from around the world showcased their latest product lines -- offering new colors, textures and sizes of materials such as marble, granite, limestone, travertine and onyx. Displays also included fresh innovations in mosaics, borders and other decorative trim pieces.

Overall, exhibitors and attendees alike were pleased with the turnout of StonExpo 2004, reported show organizers. “New ideas, new business, important networking, and the industry's highest quality education programming and seminars are just a few of the reasons the who's who of the stone industry make attending StonExpo a top priority every year,” stated Sabel.

MIA happenings

StonExpo 2004 also provided attendees with the opportunity to learn from industry's leading experts through more than 40 Stone Industry Education seminars sponsored by the MIA. These sessions were designed to deliver expert guidance on skill improvement and business development.

“Based on the overwhelming response to MIA seminars offered at StonExpo 2003 -- more than 3,100 registered for 28 programs, an increase of nearly 75% over 2002 -- we expected attendance at this year's seminars to reach a new all-time high,” stated Sabel.

The seminars were scheduled throughout the three days of the exhibition as well as several extended-length programs that were also held on Wednesday, October 27 for stone professionals already in the area or arriving early for the event.

“We offered more seminars than ever before on an exciting range of technical and business topics critical to success in the natural stone industry,” stated Gary Distelhorst, Executive Vice President of MIA, which is among StonExpo's largest co-sponsors. Among the new topics were seminars focusing on enhancing customer relations, streamlining business operations and increasing profitability.

The MIA also presented its Pinnacle Awards at an annual meeting and luncheon, which is held during StonExpo 2004. These awards recognize outstanding projects whose beauty, creativity, ingenuity, and craftsmanship exemplify professional mastery in the use of natural stone in commercial and residential settings.

This year's competition attracted a near record number of entries from MIA members worldwide, according to the association. Entries were judged by a panel of experts representing the natural stone, architecture and design professions.

During the meeting, MIA members also elected Scott Lardner of Rocky Mountain Stone Co. in Albuquerque, NM, as the new president of the association's Board of Directors. “It is truly an honor to serve MIA in this capacity at this exciting time, when membership continues to swell in response to the very real advances MIA is making in serving the needs of the natural stone professional and the natural stone industry as a whole,” stated Lardner, who succeeds Paul Vigna of Artisan Tile & Marble of New Jersey.

MIA also held its annual gala reception for its members. The event, which was co-sponsored by Stone World, Schechner Lifson, Park Industries and Kepco+, provided an enjoyable atmosphere for members to mingle.

Now under the organization of Hanley Wood, greater expectations are foreseen for StonExpo 2005. The event will take place from October 20 to 22, 2005, at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV.

StonExpo under new ownership

After careful consideration, StonExpo Federation's Board of Directors recently voted to relinquish ownership of the StonExpo exhibition and conference to Hanley Wood, LLC, a leading media company serving housing and construction. The agreement was signed on October 29, 2004, by the leadership of the StonExpo Federation, Marble Institute of America and Hanley Wood, LLC.

This purchasing agreement provides the StonExpo Federation and the Marble Institute of America (MIA) with 45-year sponsorship agreements, making the Federation and MIA the official sponsors of StonExpo. Hanley Wood will work closely with MIA and its Educational Advisory Council in development of the show's educational curriculum.

Those involved in making the decision believe that Hanley Wood has the capabilities to improve the exhibition by attracting new attendees and increasing its size and scope. While the show has grown significantly since it was started in 1987, the Board of Directors of the StonExpo Federation have confidence that with the right marketing and sales force there is even greater potential for future shows.

The StonExpo Federation is comprised of representatives from various stone associations, vendors and publications, including Allied Stone Industries, American Monument Association, Barre Granite Association, Building Stone Institute, Canadian Stone Association, Elberton Granite Association, Inc., Indiana Limestone Institute, Marble Institute of America, National Building Granite Quarries Association, Northwest Granite Manufacturers Association and Stone World.

Stone World presents Technological Achievement Award

Since 1987, a committee of stone industry veterans has worked together to select the winners of the Stone World Technological Achievement Award. The award, which is given to a North American stone quarrier or fabricator, is based on the following criteria:

--cooperativeness in sharing technology with the industry
--willingness to pioneer the use of new technology
--fostering educational programs for the training of stoneworkers in industry methods
--promoting technological progress through association work

This year's award was given to Tim and Scott Buechel of Buechel Stone Corp. in Chilton, WI.

Buechel Stone Corp. has been an industry leading supplier for a variety of natural stone products since their founding in 1964 by Alyce Buechel. A privately owned family company, President Tim Buechel and Vice President Scott Buechel are openly passionate about their stone and the industry they serve. Their enthusiasm has led them to implement a series of “Rock Colleges” -- informational seminars designed to educate their customers on the different types of stone, project applications and stone care and maintenance. Their recent adoption of re-volutionary new automated processing machinery for creating thin-stone natural veneer marks this company as one of the most progressive advocates of new stoneworking technologies.

The current roster of winners of the Stone World Technological Achievement Award is as follows:

2004 -- Tim and Scott Buechel, Buechel Stone Corp.
2003 -- Kip Cameron, Granite-Tops
2002 -- Fred Becker, Becker & Becker Stone Co.
2001 -- Connie and Brenda Edwards, TexaStone Quarries
1999 -- Walter Dusenbery, Johnson-Atelier School of Sculpture
1998 -- Harold Stobbe, Owen Sound Ledgerock
1996 -- Willard Vetter, Vetter Stone Co.
1995 -- Chuck Monson, Dakota Granite Co.
1994 -- Linus Dingman, Cold Spring Granite Co.
1993 -- David Teitelbaum of Cathedral Stoneworks
1991 -- Wilbur Bybee, Bybee Stone Co.
1989 -- Tony Ramos, New England Stone Industries
1988 -- Jim Stengel, Dakota Granite Co.
1987 -- David Elliott, Elliott Stone Co.

Tim and Scott Buechel of Buechel Stone Corp. in Chilton, WI, were the winners of the 2004 Stone World Technological Achievement Award. Stone World Editor Michael Reis presented Tim Buechel the award at a ceremony that was held during the show.