ORLANDO, Fla. — Exhibitors and potential buyers from all over the world will converge on the Orange County Convention Center for the 23rd edition of the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show Thursday through Saturday. Show producer Steve Lewis is expecting possibly the best show yet.
The show annually draws thousands of participants looking to inspect the latest racing gear and make connections within the racing industry.
Lewis told National Speed Sport News that the trade show will welcome more than 100 new exhibitors this year.
“The first thing is there are a number of new exhibitors in the show. I would say more than 100 companies that have never exhibited before,” said Lewis. “The most important thing about a trade show is what’s new on the show floor, and new companies bring something new as well as complement all the other thousands of exhibitors.”
In addition to the new exhibitors, Lewis confirmed that as of Nov. 18, trade show officials had printed 2,000 more participant badges than the previous year.
“That’s quite significant,” Lewis said. “Inventory levels are down to an all-time low at all different aspects of distribution channels. People now are dusting off their airplane tickets, they’re dusting off their checkbooks and making the trek to Orlando to do business. We’re looking for a very, very strong event.”
Still, Lewis is quick to point out that things still aren’t what they use to be. He said that despite the new attendees, the number of exhibitors scheduled this year is approximately the same when compared to last year.
“We’re right where we were last year,” Lewis said. “I’d love to say we have an increase, but right now in this world we’re all dealing with, which is different than it was in 2007…I’d say termites have creeped into the system here and the racing industry is faced with challenges it’s never been faced with before.
“To say otherwise would be inappropriate.”
Yet all Lewis and his dedicated staff can do is continue to roll with the punches and focus their time and efforts on improving the PRI Trade Show and making it into the best it can possibly be.
“Our job is to do our job. I think the 23 years plus of what we’ve been doing stands,” Lewis said. “We’re continuing to improve what we do, continuing to do what we do better. We’re doing all sorts of innovative things to bring more buyers to the show. We’re making the show that much more important to everyone, and that is our job.
“I feel that we’re going in that direction and I feel the reward for all this effort is when people come in throngs to the event. That shows the industry and shows everyone what’s happening,” Lewis said. “I feel the beginning of some optimism returning to the industry. We talk to literally thousands of people every month because we are selling advertising, we are coordinating the show, we are making reservations for pre-registration. I don’t want to give the impression that what is happening around the world is suddenly over, but I do want to give the impression that there is some optimism, which to me is the beginning of something.”
Trade show participants will not only get the opportunity to browse the thousands of exhibits throughout the course of the three-day show, but they can also take part in a number of seminars and conferences that are being held in conjunction with PRI.
“We have some exciting events that surround our trade show. What we try to do is create a total industry event,” Lewis said. “Obviously the exhibits on the show floor, they’re the centerpiece of the event. But what’s happened of late, it’s kind of interesting, a number of elements are happening pre-show bringing people and the focus to Orlando.
“The heartwarming and interesting part is that people know the value of PRI. They know the importance of it and they’re taking extraordinary measures to come,” Lewis said.
One of those events happening prior to the show is the annual congress of the International Council of Motorsports Sciences, an association of medical professionals, scientific and motorsports health personnel concerned with improving safety in racing.
“Soft walls, HANS devices, all sorts of things,” Lewis said of the conference, which began Tuesday (Dec. 7) and ends today (Dec. 8). “Those types of technical innovations have come out of this conference and we’re having it on campus, which is really, really important.”
Another event taking place prior to the trade show is the annual Automotive Engine Technology Conference, a series of seminars on building racing engines featuring some of the top engine builders from all over the country. The conference began Monday (Dec. 6) and ends today.
“This is where the renowned engine builders of the country come to hear the latest on engine building technology from a select group of speakers,” Lewis said.
Other popular events taking place at the PRI Trade Show this week include the Engineering Stock-Car Setup Seminar, the RRDC/FIA Young Drivers Symposium, a large selection of management seminars, the annual PRI Breakfast and the popular Industry Roundtable featuring some of the sport’s most important names answering questions posed by the racing community.