The International Surface Event East (TISE) made its debut in October at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami Beach, FL. The event, owned by Hanley Wood Exhibitions, brought together fabricators, retailers, architects, distributors, installers, manufacturers, designers and home builders. Additionally, the exhibition included an educational program, which featured seminars and topic-specific sessions for the stone, tile and flooring industries.

For its inaugural year, the show drew 185 exhibitors, which covered 50,000 square feet of the show floor. Exhibitors and attendees came from 50 different countries. TISE East attracted a global audience, including buyers from Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China Germany, Italy, Mexico and the Virgin Islands. A total of 26% of registered attendees had never attended TISE in Las Vegas, further demonstrating the necessity for a regional floor covering, stone and tile industry event in both residential and commercial design and construction markets, reports Hanley Wood. 

“The International Surface Event East attracted a completely new audience, compared to our sister event in Las Vegas,” said Dana Teague, vice president of Hanley Wood Exhibitions. “It translated into new business for our exhibitors. Our goal from the very beginning was to create a unique trade show experience that allowed attendees to take full advantage of educational offerings, certifications and networking, in addition to the exhibits and buying opportunities.”

Among the attractions in the exhibition hall was The Cage, presented by the Stone Fabricator’s Alliance (SFA), which hosted the “Fabricator Olympics,” where contestants competed in timed events, such as square eased edge polishing, half bullnose shaping and surface polishing. The contest finished in a tie and each of the winners received a cash prize.

In addition to The Cage, there were several different live demonstrations that took place throughout the show floor that featured hands-on, expert-led and up-close experiences. It allowed attendees with spot-on training and unique techniques using today’s stone, tile and flooring products and technologies.

“We were thrilled at the exhibitor participation for our launch event,” said Amie Gilmore, show director for TISE. “Equipment was sold, orders were written and new contacts were made. The on-site sales office was consistently busy with exhibitors signing up for TISE East 2015.”

The educational program

Over 20 different seminars took place during the four-day seminar. The SFA held a Mega Workshop called “Maximizing Margins.” The four-hour workshop was targeted toward fabricators and focused on maximizing their margins and increasing their profits. One of the speakers, Matt Lansing, spoke of how he changed his business around by implementing a new policy. “By the end of June, we had lost $350,000 in the first six months of the year,” he said.  “My accountant came up to me and said, ‘You shouldn’t stay open anymore; you can’t do it. Close it now, while you actually have something to sell.’ I took a look at everything I had. All of my equipment was paid for and over $1 million of contracts sold, but not fabricated or installed, so there was still a chance.”

Lansing talked to all of his employees, asking what they thought was going wrong and what they should do to improve business. Lansing found there were jobs being thrown into the shop last minute without all the details that were needed, which was pushing everything back. “The first thing that was put into place is what I call the ‘lock production schedule,’” said Lansing. “Now after the job is templated, we do the CAD drawings and approvals, and after approval the job is put into the shop. The production schedule is done in four days. If everything is done and approved on a Monday, the earliest we can set the install for is Friday. It cannot be moved up, no matter what. So Tuesday, CNC operations, Wednesday hand polishing, Thursday hand touchups and everything is finished and ready to go. That’s how it is, no exceptions.” Since then, Lansing has changed his shop around and now is making a profit.

Seminars such as the SFA’s Mega Workshop allow fabricators to share experiences and exchange ideas with their peers to improve upon their businesses. Lansing was among several panel members who addressed the crowd.

Also, the Marble Institute of America (MIA) held a Town Hall meeting during TISE East. Led by Jim Hieb, CAE of the MIA, as well as Tony Malisani of Malisani, Inc., Dan Rea of Coldspring and Tobias Morrison of BPM Channel at Metrostudy, the session was designed to address pressing issues faced by members of the stone industry.

Among the topics discussed was the challenge in finding qualified labor. “The pool of talent is not there,” said Malisani. “The MIA is working on an educational program. Education is huge to get kids interested in it.”

It was explained that this in not just a problem in the U.S. or Canada, but worldwide. “The challenge is to attract [young people] into the industry, and then to meet their needs,” said one audience member. “This generation is so different than any other.”

Morrison explained that remodeling jobs are up in the construction industry — fueled by luxury building. Additionally, the multi-family construction market is almost fully recovered. “Growth will taper off as single-family construction makes a comeback,” he said. “We still have 40% recovery to go, but we are going to see steady sustained growth.

“We have some challenges, but I am excited for the future,” Morrison went on to say. “We are out of the darkness. The future does look bright.”

TISE East also held two celebratory events, including the “140 Under 40 Luncheon.” The luncheon was led by eight “mentors” who were on-hand to answer the questions of guests. Also, TISE East hosted a “Launch Party by the Pool,” which had to be moved indoors due to inclement weather. The after-hours event featured an open bar, hors d’oeuvres and music.

Hanley Wood expressed that it was pleased with the results from TISE East’s first year, and plans to hold the exhibition again next fall, once again at the Miami Beach Convention Center. “Overall, we are very happy with the results of TISE East,” said Teague. “We believe that a solid foundation was established for our East Coast event, and we’re already planning for a bigger, better 2015 showing.”