Heavy equipment and machinery of all sorts were on display last week during the 2019 Association of Ontario Road Supervisors (AORS) Trade Show in Chatham.
The event saw more than 300 vendors put on displays inside and out of the John D. Bradley Convention Centre.
The parking lot was full of equipment displays to the point the municipality used space on the vacant Navistar property for overflow parking.
Mayor Darrin Canniff said the trade show was the largest event hosted by the Bradley Centre to date and a great deal of work went into the event.
“We had to apply for this over two years ago. It’s a similar event to the International Plowing Match as far as industry goes,” he said.
The trade show took place June 5 and 6. It’s the largest of its kind in the province, showing off everything from snowplows to traffic signals to remote-controlled grass mowers.
It takes place annually, and bounces around to different municipalities in the province.
According to municipal officials, more than half a million dollars were pumped into the local economy as a result of the show.
Thomas Kelly, General Manager of Infrastructure and Engineering Services, said hosting the event was a major coup for the community.
“This is by far the largest event of its kind in the province,” he said. “We are hosting over 2,000 visitors, with over $50 million in equipment in the Bradley Centre parking lot on display.”
Canniff said the spinoff business benefitted the local hospitality industry as well.
“Hotels in the area were full. Restaurants were full,” he said. “I wish we had one of these every weekend. We’d have more motels built if we did.”
He said some of the out-of-town delegates couldn’t find overnight accommodations, including a group that had to drive back to Hamilton each night.
Dennis Chepeka, manager of Public Works for the municipality, said he heard a great deal of positive feedback from attendees.
“Personally, I received comments from visitors on how wonderful the Bradley Centre is as a venue and how organized the show was planned,” he said.
Chepeka said about 20 municipal staff were on site both days, handling traffic co-ordination, visitor registration and on-site cleanup.
Other staff had the option to visit the show as a learning experience for a couple of hours as well, he added.
Canniff said the show was also a chance to showcase the municipality to outsiders.
“It’s a huge opportunity. We took a lot of delegates out to RM and various other sites, showing what Chatham-Kent has to offer,” he said. “We’re definitely doing some marketing, and we gave groups all the wonderful reasons why they would want to visit or move here.”
In terms of using the Navistar property for parking, Canniff said it was done at no charge other than having some municipal staff do a little cleanup work in advance.
“We went and cut down some weeds for them and prettied up the parking lot a bit,” he said.
AORS covered the insurance costs to utilize the Navistar property for parking, Chepeka said.
Kelly said the municipal budget for hosting the event consisted of $60,000 of in-kind services. AORS and the Chatham Kent Road Association (CKRA) also contributed to the event.
Proceeds generated by the trade show will be redistributed to local charities.