For the Southeast, FABTECH is a Chance to Showcase the Region – and Learn

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Like most manufacturers, metalworking companies saw sharp declines in orders during the Great Recession. But after a wave of consolidations in the industry, plus the absorption of excess capacity and the adoption of new technologies, metalworking has begun showing promising signs of re-birth. Industry experts reinforced this view at FABTECH 2012, held last November in Las Vegas. The large number of attendees and exhibitors at the annual event was alone evidence that the cluster may be entering an exciting new phase of growth.

North Carolina’s Southeast was among the participants at the show with a five-person delegation from the region. Each year the region showcases the assets and amenities that have long made it a lucrative backdrop for firms engaged in metalworks – from welding and fitting to high-end manufacturing done with state-of-the-art lasers.

Ervin Terwilliger, managing partner at Baltimore, Md.-based 321 Capital Partners, which specializes in mergers and acquisitions in metal fabrication, was among those offering perspective at the meeting. The industry now has very healthy companies with access to cash and a desire to invest it, Terwilliger noted. He is seeing more fabricators merging or being acquired by other fabricators that offer complementary product lines. The result is stronger market positions for combined companies.

Such optimism was welcome news to Joe Melvin, Director of Business Development at North Carolina’s Southeast.. “We gain a better understanding of the industry and its trends and the emergence of new technologies and sub-sectors,” Mr. Melvin says. Participation at leading trade shows is key to promoting the region to well-suited industry clusters like metalworking, but it also serves to keep economic development leaders here up to speed on what’s happening inside these industries. “FABTECH and the other trade shows we attend enable us to keep our fingers on the pulse of these industries and the companies that are driving them,” Mr. Melvin says. “We’re already on the books for next year’s event in Chicago.”

FABTECH 2012 hosted more than 1,200 exhibiting companies, who covered nearly half a million square feet of exhibit space at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The event welcomed 25,903 visitors from 80 countries, the meeting’s organizers reported. Participants came to evaluate, purchase and explore the latest technologies within the metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing industries. FABTECH was co-sponsored by the American Welding Society (AWS), Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International (FMA), the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) and the Chemical Coaters Association International (CCAI).