Educational series for side-by-side dealers to debut at GIE+EXPO
With summer coming to a close, powersports dealers are looking ahead and marking their calendars for the 2016 GIE+EXPO in Louisville, Kentucky. This year’s expo will feature the first-ever UTV University, an educational series administered by Powersports Business. Cub Cadet is the inaugural premier sponsor of UTV University, with Walbro as the track sponsor. Five presentations are set for Wednesday, Oct. 19, with one class on Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Kentucky Expo Center.
Assistant editor Kate Swanson had a chance to speak with Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) president and CEO Kris Kiser to get some insight into the upcoming event.
PSB: This is the first year for UTV University. Why was now the best time to launch such an event?
Kris Kiser: OPEI (Outdoor Power Equipment Institute) is the trade association of record in representing the UTV market and the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards developer for UTVs. They are an important part of our membership, and we believed the time was right to recognize this growing segment more formally at GIE+EXPO. The UTV market has grown substantially in the last few years, from the UTV manufacturers offering new products, to the powersports and outdoor power equipment dealer communities selling more UTVs.
PSB: How have you seen the UTV presence grow at GIE+EXPO over the years? Why do you think this growth has happened?
KK: There’s been a genuine increase in UTV product offerings in the last few years. Last year, we had a number of manufacturers debuting new UTV products at GIE+EXPO, and we expect more this year. This is in response to the manufacturers recognizing that the landscape community, landscape contractors, the hardscape community and others are substantial users of the product. They are finding their way onto job sites across the country more often.
PSB: Why did you decide to offer a UTV-specific event?
KK: GIE+EXPO offers the perfect audience for these products. We offer a day dedicated to dealers, and we have unique education sessions dedicated to powersports dealers. Again, this is our way of recognizing the market growth of the UTV market and helping the future of this segment with visibility, education, promotion and networking among peers. In addition to the UTV University, we will be offering several keynote speakers, including Jason Dorsey, Shannon Miller and Mark Mooney. On Thursday, four-time Grammy nominee Joe Nichols will also be performing a free concert.
PSB: Why do you feel an educational element is necessary?
KK: Education has always been a key component of GIE+EXPO. The event is structured well for a strong education component, from having the right venue to attracting the best-known education experts, many of whom are focused on the powersports industry. With top-rated speakers, such as Mark Mooney, Jennifer Robison and Ty Bello on the lineup, the new UTV University will offer a very relevant opportunity for powersports dealers. Education is part of our history, and we’ll continue to foster industry professionalism in this way.
PSB: What benefits do you think UTV University will add to the overall event? Do you think this event will have an effect on traffic?
KK: Most definitely. We were busting at the seams last year and expect to once again this year. The addition of powersports and the UTV market most certainly will contribute to the show’s growth — and in fact already is. We are running well ahead of last year, which ran ahead of its previous show. A number of major exhibitors have expanded their exhibits, and we will host many new exhibitors.To accommodate this growth and provide new opportunities for exhibitors and attendees, our co-locating partner, Hardscapes North America, will take over the north wing this year. They, too, are expanding. This year, the entire south wing will contain outdoor power equipment and UTVs, which is a genuine layout change for the show floor. It will allow manufacturers to expand and enlarge their booths, and a number of them have already reserved additional space to bring in additional utility products, which we know are coming this year. We expect a number of fresh product debuts.
It also helps that GIE+EXPO is one of the most centrally located locations for our industry — Louisville, Kentucky. Because of Louisville’s proximity to the Midwest and a number of major interstates intersecting, a substantial drive-to component exists. In short, it’s easy to get to, whether you’re coming from Chicago, Pittsburgh, Memphis, Milwaukee, Nashville, Atlanta or some other area.
PSB: Has the crossover of powersports units and OPE that we’ve seen in the past few years helped generate interest in this event (i.e. dealers who sell lawn mowers and powersports equipment in the same dealership, etc.)?
KK: For a dealer, this crossover means more product lines are represented. At GIE+EXPO, they can access many manufacturers and products in one location. The fact that the show lines up dealers, landscapers, manufacturers and other users in one place means business gets done. Also, the greater diversity among exhibitors, attendees and products has helped generate interest. In short, if you are in the landscape, outdoor power equipment or powersports community, you’ll want to be at the show.
PSB: What benefits does this event offer to the different participants at the expo: dealers and exhibitors?
KK: GIE+EXPO puts them all in the same spot at the same time. Attendees can engage with manufacturers directly about products, see new product offerings and learn what’s in the pipeline and demo products. It’s the only showcase of its kind where you can drive a product and try it out before you buy. You can compare products on the spot. The outdoor demo area, which is adjacent to the indoor exhibits, allows legitimate interaction among exhibitors and attendees.
PSB: What message do you want this event to convey to your audience?
KK: GIE+EXPO is a once-a-year, unique opportunity to view and demo products from a wide range of manufacturers from around the globe all in one spot. The show also offers a day dedicated just for dealers for private showings and allows them to interface with OEMs directly and individually. They can learn about industry trends, meet with colleagues and discover what’s happening in other parts of the country, from different market conditions to different climate conditions. For instance, what’s the impact on business due to the drought in the western part of the U.S.? How has the changing fuels marketplace impacted them? GIE+EXPO is the one place where they can address issues and topics important to the industry.
PSB: What else will we see at the show?
KK: This year TurfMutt will make a live appearance at GIE+EXPO. Seven years ago, OPEI implemented a long-range plan to push back on the changing perception of the lawn and landscape, a vital underlying asset to our industry, by launching the TurfMutt program. The program is a public education campaign that offers STEM-aligned youth curriculum (with our partner Scholastic Education) to schools across the country. More than 62 million kids, parents and teachers have used TurfMutt curriculum, which teaches that nature starts at our backdoor and should be cared for in a responsible way. It has legitimized our voices in the managed landscape debate and educated people on the value of green space. Our creative approach, which includes a real life dog spokesperson (who is also a rescue) has helped us showcase the environmental and health benefits that our managed green spaces contribute.