Here’s the scenario: It is mid-winter and temps have been mild (at least in the Midwest). The economy is allegedly in a slump and people are losing jobs in droves. The national and local media is telling John Q. Public that times are tough and it will take a while to turn around the r…rec…recess… (I can’t even say the “R” word).

Now toss into the mix a national trade exposition which is located in a cold weather state on the East Coast, and takes place a couple of weeks earlier than normal, just a few weeks after the holiday season — which often taps out the family budget. The recipe for disaster, right?


The 2002 International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo) Jan. 13-16 in Atlantic City, NJ, was everything the critics said it couldn’t be. As the story on page one indicates, there were record numbers of visitors to the Atlantic City Convention Center. (The News will provide more coverage in our special Post-Show issue next week). The local media got into the hype by noting that this expo was the biggest thing to hit the city since the 1964 Democratic National Convention.

Hotel rooms were sold out, the casinos and restaurants were doing brisk business, and people seemed to ignore the winter temperatures (they were unseasonably warm) and the “down” economy. If there was a lot of doom and gloom, it wasn’t evident to this journalist.


Just as important was the outstanding hospitality offered to attendees by the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority. All of the host members did their best to promote “America’s Favorite Playground” to visitors.

Members of the trade media were treated to a warm reception to kick off the expo on Sunday, Jan. 13. We had a chance to meet with the mayor of Atlantic City and schmooze with Miss America herself, Katie Harmon.

Traffic flowed smoothly, thanks to a beefed-up Atlantic City police presence and the many shuttle runs from hotels to the Convention Center. The News staff camped out at Bally’s, which was a mere five blocks from the Center. It made for a pleasant and invigorating walk for one who needs to walk and exercise more (yours truly).

I’m not much of a gambler — preferring the quarter or nickel slots — so I wasn’t the city’s ideal visitor. But I did see a lot of people at the slot machines, tables, retail shops, and restaurants, putting an estimated $50.8 million into the local economy (according to the formula used by the Atlantic City Convention and Visitor’s Authority).

And just as important as the site was the attitude of the AHR Expo attendees. They were looking and they were buying. Exhibitors mentioned the many good sales leads they were getting from the distributors and contractors. There was a large student presence at the expo, fueling optimism about the future of the trade.

The expo proved that our trade is still enjoying strong economic gains and that the “doom and gloom” prognosticators must have taken up in a city other than Atlantic City for that week. There were no grim reapers in this crowd.

And that’s probably because they have no business in our business. Atlantic City made sure of that.

Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); (e-mail).

Publication date: 01/28/2002