Saturday, 31 July 2004 17:00

Mini-trade show raises $18,000 for I-CAR Ed Fund

Written by Karyn Hendricks
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Too much traffic? Hard day at the body shop? Think industry meetings are repetitive and boring? If some excuse kept you from joining over 500 individuals and 84 vendors at the L.A. trade show and dinner fundraiser for the I-CAR Education Fund, you missed a worthwhile networking opportunity - and a free dinner. 

The event, held at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott, raised over $18,000 for the I-CAR Education Fund with donations still coming in, according to event organizer Toby Chess. Funds will be used to benefit local collision repair education programs.

The three-hour trade show, which began at 4 p.m., started slowly, but when it was time to break for dinner, the energy in the exhibit hall was palpable. Chess has received positive feedback from both vendors and attendees. "We all had a blast. The vendors want to do it again - and soon," said Chess.

The expense to set up a booth was considerably less than for a large trade show, such as NACE, and allowed vendors to communicate more personally with their local target prospects. Vendors feel they get more bang for their buck at these scaled-down "mini-trade shows" because the audience is relatively limited and they can take time to talk directly with industry professionals without feeling rushed to move on to the next person.

The atmosphere was casual - no pressure or heavy-duty sales pitches. It was more along the lines of a meet and greet. People met vendors that they had only spoken to on the phone. Others reconnected with old friends and renewed old friendships. And, of course, valuable new acquaintances were made. Chess ex-pressed that "people want to help each other in ways that can't be quantified."

Friendships - old and new

This sentiment was echoed by many attendees. Greg Matheny, manager, Prestige Too Auto Body, described his experience. "The I-CAR fundraiser turned out to be very pleasant. It is always nice to see your friends and acquaintances. I enjoy going to these events to ask the vendors about the products I've only read about in magazines. This way I get my questions answered on the spot and make that valuable face-to-face connection.

"The best part was the reason why we were all there. Anytime this industry supports education, it's a plus. We need to h

Following the trade show, a free dinner was served. Chess promised "no rubber chicken" and he kept his word. Matheny claimed that "the food was surprisingly good and there were even seconds!"

During the dinner, Chess presented an amusing slide show, featuring cartoon character "Joe Cool" pointing out what the collision repair industry was like 30 years ago, before I-CAR was formed. He then thanked the people who helped make the event a success - sponsors and volunteers.

Chess had great support from his family in putting this show together, with his wife and parents helping with the registration process and his daughter, a recent college grad, taking photos throughout the evening.

He also pointed out that the Marriott staff had outdone themselves with fine food and excellent service, going above and beyond with extra discounts which freed up more funds to add to the final tally.

Executive Director of the I-CAR Education Foundation Ronald Ray spoke briefly about the importance of events that support efforts to get young people interested in the industry. He pointed out that the net proceeds of the evening would stay in the Los Angeles area to provide scholarships and training aids to the community. He encouraged attendees to "get involved with local schools" and pointed out that graduates of I-CAR qualified school programs can walk in to any shop and get I-CAR credit as they begin their new jobs.

I-CAR's vision being realized

Next up was I-CAR Director of Business Development and Field Operations Rick Tuuri. He explained that 25 years ago I-CAR did not know where it was going, but the industry created a vision that it is living now - for every technician to have the necessary skills to do a complete and safe repair. He told the audience that "you are the past, you are the present, you are the future of this industry. The future of this society depends on the people in this room. I have a lot of confidence in you."

He expressed the importance of acknowledging volunteers and instructors for the work that they do in trying to fulfill the I-CAR vision. He also discussed the advances made to the I-CAR website, online training, newly configured I-CAR training paths, and relationships with the OEMs. He concluded by thanking Chess for his efforts in organizing the evening's program.

Lorene Lombardi, South Pacific Regional Manager for I-CAR, wrapped up the evening by thanking I-CAR volunteers for the time and energy they put into fulfilling I-CAR's vision.

In conclusion

Vendor Robert Hornedo, president of Car-O-Liner distributor Pacific Collision Equipment Company, summed up the sentiments of the evening. "Anything that we as an industry can do to attract people's attention to the needs of the industry's education process will enhance the overall professionalism of the industry. I had a wonderful time."


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