DALLAS, TX — Contractors visiting the IAHR Expo here generally had a favorable opinion of product offerings. Many said they were impressed with the building automation section.

But more than one remarked on the absence of many of the marquee manufacturers of unitary products, chillers, and controls systems. We talked to a group of Texas-based contractors.

“I was really surprised,” said Ann Kahn of Kahn Mechanical, Dallas. “Where were Honeywell and the other controls people?”

Maybe the absentees tried to put a specific payback on the “extremely expensive” participation, she continued. That can be hard to quantify, but she cited her own experience a dozen years back at the big New York show.

She was attending as a contractor, but made an unplanned contact with a controls manufacturer that generated income that lasts to this day. “So you never know where your next opportunity comes from.”

Kahn also praised the ASHRAE session on e-commerce, which coincided exactly with the completion of her Website, www.kahn mechanical.com.

Time to rethink?

The absence of so many manufacturers also drew the attention of Pat Rucker, Entech, Dallas.

“Attendance was excellent, and I think some of the big guys like Trane and Carrier may have to rethink their strategies,” he said.

The big commercial systems contractor had a booth of his own to promote his chiller training sessions, rental equipment, and rebuilt compressors. He’s close to closing on a deal with a Malaysian account on a series of refrigeration units for cargo containers and some rebuilt compressors.

“I was also impressed with the controls and automation portion of the show,” he added.

Tom Gillette of Gillette Air Conditioning, San Antonio, TX, wasn’t looking for packaged equipment so much as for sheet metal and piping products, which were in abundance (along with fans, blowers, and other air-handling products).

The commercial contractor who specializes in office buildings and schools said new, sophisticated duct-fabricating machines are central to his business, which includes manufacturing duct and selling it to competitive contractors in the region. Lockformer, Flagler, and Engel were among the exhibitors that drew his attention.

Absent contractor

Speaking of absentees, San Antonio contractor Lee Rosenberg (Metro-Tech Service) told The News by phone that he missed the big show for the first time in years. He was busy doing business (and some pleasure in Milan — Italy, not Texas).

However, three of his staffers attended, and claimed to be “underwhelmed” at the lack of packaged equipment displays.

“I have gone in years past to get product development information from the equipment guys,” Rosenberg said. “The local vendors don’t do such a good job in keeping me informed, so I have gone right to the source.”

Drew Yaggy of TD Industries, Dallas, was drawn to the commercial humidification systems of Nortec and Dri-Steem because he’s doing a design-build job that requires this process. He also noted the “at least 100” software systems, but was too pressed for time to do more than a quick sampling of booths.

He also spent some time at the Lockformer booth, since his company had just bought and was setting up the company’s big duct-forming machine that was operating on-site. He also stopped by the Texas Instruments booth, a local manufacturer that is one of TD’s biggest customers.