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Small businesses will stand out at large expos

As large trade shows come through Las Vegas, producers are looking to small business to supply innovation.

At conventions such as last week’s ConExpo-Con/Agg and January’s International CES, it’s often the small guys who can make the biggest splash.

While ConExpo took over nearly 2.5 million square feet at the Las Vegas Convention Center, much of the show featured school-bus yellow, neon orange and frog green construction equipment covering about 41 football fields. Produced by the Association of Equipment Manufacturing, the show attracted about 125,000 attendees who created an estimated nongaming economic impact of $157.3 million for the city, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

In all, 2,500 companies exhibited, many of them small businesses.

“For a trade show, a lot of the small companies are the engine of innovation,” GES President Steve Moster said.

This rings so true at the annual International CES that the Consumer Electronics Association created specific areas for attendees looking for those innovations backed by small companies, in two areas named Eureka Park and Eureka Park: Next. Those zones have produced products such as touch technology for grocery store freezer doors and ultraviolet “baths” for smartphones.

Trade shows can be expensive, but Moster said there are mostly positives in attending.

“I think trade shows in general are a great opportunity for new exhibitors,” he said. “The best part of it is they’re able to see a wide range of potential customers all in one (place.) Purely from an economic standpoint, it allows them to get much more visibility to their potential customers.”

And, Moster noted, for many businesses, there’s a real value proposition for small businesses to come.

“It creates an opportunity to be a part of the culture or environment of the industry they’re in. That’s very valuable,” he said.

Leading up to large trade shows such as ConExpo, attendees use social media to get prepared and see what’s on the trade show floor even before they arrive. For the first time, the Association of Equipment Manufacturing noted an uptick in its social media use ahead of the convention this year.

Megan Tanel, the association’s vice president of exhibitions, said much of the social media use revolved around attendees encouraging each other to go up and down every aisle because often it’s that one small business that you otherwise won’t hear about that can help out your business or give you an edge.

“A lot of people come to shows to see what they don’t know about,” Tanel said.

Keep that in mind the next time you’re debating whether to attend.

“If you’re not here, you could lose your existing customer,” Tanel said. “And if you are here, you could gain new ones because they’re looking to shop around.”

ConExpo-Con/Agg comes to Las Vegas once every three years, but Las Vegas hosts thousands of conventions and trade shows every month that cater to industries valleywide.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on TwitterE