Trading places

by Chrystal Shannon
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GEAPS Exchange Expo registrations in Vancouver ‘on par’;suppliers looking forward to a well-attended show

his year’s GEAPS Exchange, because of its western Canada location, was initially expected to draw fewer exhibitors to the Exchange Expo, the trade show portion of the conference set for March 2-5 in Vancouver, British Columbia. But registration is "still pretty much on par with our usual numbers," said Jason Stones, GEAPS manager of member services and publications.

A month before the conference, 194 companies had reserved space in the 2002 Exchange Expo, accounting for all but eight out of a total 263 booths. In comparison, the Exchange Expos in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., in 2001 and in Kansas City, Missouri, U.S., in 2000 drew 208 exhibitors and 205 exhibitors, respectively. The 1999 Exchange in Tampa, Florida, U.S., had 198 exhibitors.

Most of this year’s exhibiting companies are based in the United States, but companies from Argentina, Brazil, China, Australia and, of course, Canada, also have reserved booth space. To be expected, the Vancouver Exchange is drawing significantly more companies from Canada (28), but their numbers also have been increasing over the last few years, Stones said. There were 18 Canadian exhibitors in 2001, 15 in 2000 and 13 in 1999.

Although this year’s Exchange isn’t likely to set any records for exhibitors, "numbers don’t always equate to the quality of the show," said Thomas E. Runyon, president of Seedburo Equipment Co., Chicago, Illinois, U.S. "We’re looking forward to a colorful, well-attended show with a lot of new equipment on display."

This will be Seedburo’s 50th year as a GEAPS exhibitor, he added. "We’re glad to be in Vancouver because a lot of our business hinges on the Canadian grain industry," Runyon said.

General attendance at the conference also is expected to be down slightly from previous years, but Runyon added that shows held in a more "exotic" location often draw higher numbers of management. "And from an exhibitor’s standpoint, it’s always nice to talk to the decision-maker, the one who can spec equipment or make a decision on site," he said.


Many exhibitors this year also face the challenge of shipping their equipment to another country, and having to clear customs and have the proper documentation, and then get their equipment back home again in a few days.

Companies like Seedburo that ship freight to 130 countries a year are already familiar with the customs process. But for companies less experienced, GEAPS has put together an exhibitor manual with hints for streamlining exhibits and information on shipping equipment and the required documents, "to smooth the process out as much as possible," Runyon said.

He added, "It does take a little more effort (going to Canada) than a Minneapolis or Kansas City show.

To begin with, border and airport security has been heightened since the events of Sept. 11. U.S. citizens who travel to Canada are not required to have a passport, only proof of U.S. citizenship (preferably a birth certificate) and a photo I.D., although a passport will make the process easier.

An individual gaining entry to another country is one thing. Having a conference in another country or shipping equipment and documents is quite another.

GEAPS has selected an official customs broker, Mendelssohn Customs and Transportation Services, Toronto, which works with an organization to get conventions or trade shows recognized months ahead of time by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. A "Canada-Bound Guide Book" is included in the exhibitor kit and mailed 11 to six months prior to the convention.

"Then the process really kicks in," said Ralph Schwengers, Mendelssohn’s director of sales and marketing for North America.

Mendelssohn makes "courtesy calls" to all registered exhibitors and walks them through the customs process, both in-bound and out-bound, and transportation services, both in-bound and out-bound. Exhibitors can also hire Mendelssohn to assist them with freight forwarding and clearing U.S. and Canadian customs. Another privilege of working with a customs broker is that the exhibitor’s shipments clear customs at the convention center trade show floor, and not at the land, sea or air border.

"Conventions and trade shows are unique," Schwengers added. "We’re talking about temporary importation to Canada, and then exporting the equipment back in a few days.

"Not many people know much about or care about customs. We’re here to make the process seamless."