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IFAI Expo 2016: high points and highlights

Features | December 1, 2016 | By: , , , ,

Show photography © Mark Skalny Photography (except where noted). All Rights Reserved.
Show photography ©Mark Skalny Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Thousands of industry professionals joined the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) in the heart of the U.S. textile industry Oct. 18–21 to acquire a working education in the areas of specialty fabrics, shade and weather protection products and advanced textiles: seminars, exhibits, workshops, market roundtables and four days of concentrated networking. From business basics to emerging high-tech markets, attendees found new products, new methods, new markets, new relationships and new opportunities for growth—local, regional, national and global.

With specialized programming and exhibits in advanced textiles, specialty fabrics and shade and weather protection, and a host of special sessions and networking events, IFAI Expo in Charlotte brought thousands of industry professionals together to learn from each other—with the opportunity for each attendee to customize the best possible individual business package. For four days, attendees were able to meet, greet, wine, dine, earn, learn, donate, appreciate …  and ultimately form new and lasting business relationships to add to their success in 2017.


For more than 60 years, IFAI’s International Achievement Award (IAA) program has highlighted truly spectacular work in the specialty fabrics industry. In 2016, there were seven Best in Category Awards given, 34 Awards of Excellence and 33 Outstanding Achievement Awards.

The seven Best in Category winners announced at IFAI Expo: Globe Mfg. Co., Advanced Textiles; Covertex Membranes (Shanghai) Co. Ltd., Awnings and Canopies; Rainier Industries Ltd., Fabric Environments; Shanghai Taiyo Kogyo Co. Ltd., Fabric Structures; TenCate Geosynthetics Americas, Geosynthetics; Canvas Designers Inc., Marine; Mahaffey Fabric Structures, Tents.

For more information and images on these and all our 2016 winners, visit

Wednesday’s keynote: RECLAIM YOUR G.R.I.T.

Corporate and Commercial Photographer for Worldwide AssignmentsLinda Kaplan Thaler spoke with verve and vivacity about the importance of “keeping at it.” Thaler is president of Kaplan Thaler Productions ( and the author of the best-selling business book “Grit to Great.”

People who are impressive in their early years, Kaplan says, often are not successes in later life—because they did not learn how to overcome challenges. People such as Dave Thomas, Michael Jordan and Steven Spielberg didn’t have the “it” factor when young, but they had the “grit” factor to make it as adults: Guts, Resilience, Initiative and Tenacity.

Recently we’ve lost some grit, due to factors like the self-esteem movement, instantaneous stardom, the constant bombardment of data and the resulting shortening of our attention spans. Our average attention span is now eight seconds—and goldfish come in at nine seconds.

To reclaim your grit:

1. Ditch the dream. Work.

2. Lose the safety net. Over prepare.

3. Create your own highwire.

4. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Things are moving fast—so move faster.

5. Fail forward. James Dyson had more than 5,000 prototypes fail.

6. Solve small problems.

7. Move the spotlight. Listen to others.

8. Make small talk. Find commonalities.

9. Bend like bamboo. There is great strength in flexibility.

10. Embrace Plan B. Viagra, for example, was developed for high blood pressure.

Start anytime, but start. “We need to retire the word ‘retirement,’” says Thaler. “Call it re-wiring—and use your grit for good.”

Thursday’s keynote: FROM THE MOUSE

Corporate and Commercial Photographer for Worldwide AssignmentsDennis Snow, author of “Lessons from the Mouse,” spent roughly 20 years at Disney. As the head of Snow & Associates Inc., he has translated many of the lessons he learned there into practical advice on how to make customers come back.

Customer loyalty is often inspired not by a product, Snow says, but by exceptional service, or friendliness, or even cleanliness. “In everything that we do,” he advises, “we should do it with an ‘experience’ mentality, not a ‘task’ approach. That makes customers feel valued, not processed.”

First, look at everything you do as though you are a customer. He recommends a “service mapping” exercise: Look at every one of your processes and map the flow of each step. Then ask: What does excellent service look like at this step? What does mediocre service look like?

Second, pay attention to the details: “Everything speaks.”

Third, create moments of “wow.” Especially little “wows.” Customers expect accuracy and availability. But when customer service reaches the level of partnership, and when  you are able to offer them advice and teach them something, that’s the kind of behavior that brings customers back.

To improve customer loyalty, Snow advises, you need a team that examines every process—and is committed to improving each one.

GROUND RULES: GeoCharlotte

The first-ever GeoCharlotte one-day session drew engineers and exhibitors to Charlotte for a day of geosynthetics education and networking. The show-within-a-show also previewed the March 12–15, 2017, Geotechnical Frontiers conference, co-organized by IFAI and its Geosynthetic Materials Association (GMA) and the Geo-Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). For more information, visit

IFF: Industrial Fabrics Foundation


img_1120Harry Berzack’s unique collection of antique sewing machines wowed visitors on three tours at The Fox Company in Charlotte, Tuesday, Oct. 18. The tours were sponsored by the Industrial Fabrics Foundation (IFF) as a fundraising opportunity for the organization’s educational programs for students. Berzack, president of The Fox Co., treated guests to a personally guided tour of his collection of sewing machines from throughout the world; most of his collection predates 1900 and chronicles the development of the sewing industry—and of society at that time.


Gelvenor Textile of South Africa is the 2016 IFF Innovation Award winner, recognized at IFAI Expo in Charlotte, N.C. For its outstanding work on the VulAmanz Rural Water Filter (VA-RWF) project, the company was awarded a prize of $5,000.

Gelvenor’s unique woven polyester microfiltration fabric was developed for applications in water purification and wastewater treatment. A household water treatment unit was developed to provide safe drinking water to un-serviced rural households, without electricity or the addition of chemicals.

An Honorable Mention Award went to The Crypton Companies for its Crypton® Revl topcoat chemistry for PVC, a tough, durable, anti-graffiti topcoat chemistry for vinyl substrates.

For more information on the Industrial Fabrics Foundation, visit


5,023 Show participants

416 Show floor exhibitors

96,300 Show floor square feet

77 Number of speakers

56 Educational sessions

37 Campfire sessions

6 Equipment workshops

296 IAA entries (74 winners)

78 Show Stopper entries (6 winners)

5 IFF Innovation Awards entries (2 winners)

19 IFF scholarships entries (4 winners)

3 Sewing machine museum tours

2 Facility tours

1 Golf tournaments

NASCAR receptions

Free lunch Fridays

3,600,000 Steps taken by 44 IFAI staff (a Fitbit® extra) (S.W.A.G. estimate)

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