StonExpo East took place from March 22 to 24 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA.

The first edition of StonExpo East took place at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA, from March 22 to 24. The event was conceived as a regional edition of the larger StonExpo show that takes place every fall in Las Vegas, NV, and it offered a broad range of educational opportunities to complement the exposition.

Exhibits at StonExpo East included stoneworking machinery as well as tools, templating equipment, software, stone materials and maintenance/installation products. Many exhibitors had large-scale equipment in operation on the show floor, and attendees were able to see the machinery in action. In all, the event included over 200 exhibiting companies. As expected for a regional show, StonExpo East did not host the same attendance of the national StonExpo event in Las Vegas, but exhibitors reported that many of the attendees were ready to make purchases directly on the show floor. Total verified attendance at StonExpo East was 3,688.

StonExpo East also delivered a range of educational opportunities. The Conference Program featured 41 sessions (including both three-hour workshops and 75-minute seminars) in five targeted tracks, including Business Management, Design/Market Trends, Fabrication/Installation, Sales/Marketing and Care/Maintenance/Restoration.

The three-hour, pre-show workshops took place on March 21, while 75-minute seminars took place from March 22 through March 24.

The educational sessions included several forums, where attendees were given the opportunity to present questions to a panel of industry experts. These topics were then addressed by the panelists as well as members of the audience that could offer insight on the challenges facing industry members today. The Installation Forum featured presenters Clark Jones of Brentwood Granite, Marble & Tile, Lindell Lummer of Malibu Art Tile & Stone and Duane Naquin of Stone Interiors. Topics discussed during the forum included:

• Seam placement and job layout

• Acceptable tolerances

• Undermounted sink installations

• Top polishing of seams

• Out-of-level cabinets

• Templating

• Rodding placement and materials

• Supporting for overhangs

• Labor issues

In the seminar "Working with Engineered and Natural Stone Countertops," Duane Naquin and Jessica Rose provided facts on the pros and cons of each material as well as diminishing any myths about each. They spoke to a full room of fabricators, who listened intently and asked questions.

The seminar began with the geological composition of each material, and it also addressed the myth that granite harbors bacteria. "You do get customers that believe this," said Naquin. "Bacteria needs a food source. It can't eat granite. If you are going to be a messy housekeeper and leave food out on the counter, you'll get bacteria no matter what type of countertop you have."

Additional points addressed during the seminar included staining and color matching. There was a discussion on the benefits of sealing both granite and engineered stone, and what types of sealants work best.

A session on equipment purchasing, “CNC Machines - Research Before You Buy” was presented by Mark Lauzon of Stoneworks in Hubbard, OR. This session examined the features and benefits to be considered before making a purchase. It also reviewed additional costs that are often overlooked, including tools, software, training and transportation.

Taking the presentation a step further, Lauzon spoke about the “Digital Future,” with a stone fabrication environment that utlizes state-of-the-art technology in all phases of the process - from sales and marketing on the Internet, to job costing and tracking software, to computer-controlled equipment within the shop.

“A Safe Shop is a Productive Shop - Safety and Health in the Workplace” was presented by Jonathan Worrell, Compliance Assistant Specialist with OSHA’s Atlanta East Area Office. Worrell explained that OSHA’s mission is to “assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the nation, safe and healthful working conditions.” He added that OSHA and the Marble Institute of America (MIA) signed an alliance to work together to help enforce these safety rules and regulations throughout the U.S.

According to Worrell, one of the main areas of concern for OSHA is silica, which causes silicosis, a serious disease that industry workers are commonly exposed to. OSHA suggests that employers have their workers change their clothes at the end of the day, before leaving the workplace, to avoid bringing the dust home and risking exposure to family members.

Worrell also explained that OSHA hears about potential violations through complaints and referrals, as well as when accidents and fatalities take place, and they have two approaches to handling the situation - Inspections and Investigations. The seminar further discussed the ways in which to handle a planned OSHA investigation.

Stone LIVE! was also an important part of StonExpo East. These live, how-to demonstrations on the show floor took place at scheduled times throughout the show, providing up-close, expert instruction on some of the most challenging stone installation techniques for fabricators and installers.

Demonstrations at Stone LIVE! included:

• Setting Seams/Top Polishing

• Countertop Installation for Undermount Sinks

• Decorative Kitchen Backsplashes

• Taking the Guesswork out of Templating

The Marble Institute of America also hosted two events at StonExpo East, including its MIA Gala Reception and MIA Member Briefing. The Gala was held on March 22, while the MIA Member Briefing took place on March 23.