The Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) wrapped up IFAI Expo 2021, North America’s largest specialty, industrial and advanced textiles event, on Nov. 4 at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tenn. IFAI Expo 2021 included 218 exhibiting companies and a total of 3,173 participants. This year was the 100th anniversary of IFAI Expo’s in-person show.
IFAI Expo provided attendees access to the industry’s leading companies, live product demonstrations on the show floor, the latest innovations in technology and textiles, and valuable education and insight into current and future trends.
For the first time since 2019, attendees had the opportunity to browse the show floor of the companies who were displaying their latest products, equipment and services. In addition to visiting exhibit booths, the show floor also hosted more than 20 campfire education sessions broken out by advanced textiles, specialty fabrics, and shade and weather protection markets.
The Advanced Textiles (AT) Conference was held on Nov. 1, the day before the show floor opened. The AT Conference offered an afternoon of 13 classroom sessions dedicated to the Advanced Textiles market and continued through Nov. 3 with campfires and additional classroom sessions. Topics included Advancing Textile Manufacturing through Collaboration, Innovations in E-Textiles, Medical Textile Breakthroughs, Industry 4.0 and Advanced Manufacturing, and Sustainability in Advanced Textiles.
Expo also hosted three days of market-specific classroom education with 33 sessions focused on shade and weather protection, graphics, marine, sustainability and business operations, along with a wealth of other specialty fabrics and advanced textile-focused content.
“The feedback I’ve received from exhibitors and attendees was both similar and positive. Everyone understood that attendance would be impacted by travel restrictions and concerns about COVID-19, but unequivocally IFAI Expo exceeded their expectations,” says Steve Schiffman, IFAI President and CEO. “Attendees had more time to spend at exhibit booths looking at the array of new products throughout the exhibit hall. Everybody seemed to enjoy the Opening Reception, which featured a look back at IFAI Expo’s 100 years, and those who went to the Industry Night enjoyed the sounds of industry band, Hangin’ by a Thread, and the taste of Nashville barbecue. Many exhibitors were very happy they exhibited this year sharing positive comments on both the quality of attendees as well as the number of new attendees who visited their booth.”
Schiffman adds, “Nashville was a wonderful location for IFAI Expo, and we’ll be back! The industry was excited to be back together, and we were delighted to provide the venue to help people reconnect. We’re already well into planning and looking forward to IFAI Expo 2022, Oct. 12–14, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C.”
Highlights at the show included IFAI Expo’s Opening Reception, which took place just outside of the show floor and allowed participants to socialize while enjoying refreshments; Industrial Fabrics Foundation’s Industry Night at Martin’s Bar-B-Que in downtown Nashville where attendees enjoyed live music from IFAI member band, Hangin’ by a Thread, which featured industry veterans along with some guest vocalists; the Annual Fun Run/Walk, which featured a route that allowed participants to see key landmarks around the city of Nashville; the Puppy Booth on the show floor; the first ever Fabric Structures Summit; and finally, keynote speaker Steve Rizzo speaking to attendees about how to increase productivity, find greater joy and enthusiasm, and reach new levels of success.
The Manufacturing for Good demo area returned to IFAI Expo this year where backpacks were manufactured and donated to the Boys & Girls Club of Middle Tennessee.
The Awards & Networking Breakfast took place on Nov. 3 and recognized winners of the International Achievement Awards, Show Stopper Program and Outstanding Volunteer Award. The winners of the Outstanding Volunteer Award were Tom Auer of Bearse USA, Charlene Clark of Signature Canvasmakers LLC, Keith Harris of TenCate and Paige Mullis of Glen Raven. They join an elite list of previous winners who generously gave their time to serve on different boards, task forces and committees; judged competitions; and provided education and leadership to others in the industry.
Just before the keynote presentation, the IFAI Annual Meeting took place and provided everyone with an update of the current on goings at IFAI. Amy Bircher was named IFAI’s 53rd chair of the board. Bircher is the founder and CEO of MMI Textiles in Westlake, Ohio. She succeeds Kathy Schaefer, CFO of Glawe Tent and Awning Co. in Fairborn, Ohio.
Attendees at IFAI Expo participated in market/division meetings, which took place in the IFAI Hub on the show floor where members and nonmembers came together to discuss challenges their market is facing, new opportunities and technologies.
Mark your calendar for IFAI Expo 2022, Oct. 12–14, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. For more information, visit www.IFAIExpo.com.