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Despite Turnout, Companies Say WESTEC Still Valuable

Although disappointed at the turnout, Valley-area companies nonetheless came to the 2005 WESTEC exposition and conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center last week, North America’s largest annual manufacturing and metalworking event. Officials of the companies maintained that the event was essential to spur sales and product interest. Chatsworth-based Fadal Machining Center, a division of Thyssen Krupp MetalCutting, gave product demonstrations of their vertical and horizontal machining centers to a crowd that gathered around the hulking machines. Tom Chambers, a sales engineer for the company found the trade show successful. “The conference has been very good thus far. It’s a time for guys to come into our backyard and see what we have,” Chambers said. “Even though some of our customers work with us on a daily basis, they want to come in and see our products and they want to see what everybody at WESTEC is showing. The response here has been outstanding. Sales have been brisk and we hope for that to continue.” Another company that purchased a great deal of floor space to showcase their wares was GibbsCAM, a manufacturing software company from Moorpark. Company President William Gibbs came to WESTEC buoyed by the company’s recent successes, having just registered the company’s best sales in its 20-year history last month. “WESTEC is kind of light this year, but we’re managing to keep busy. We’d like it to be busier at the conference but we have no complaints,” Gibbs said. “It’s a little better this year than the past three years, but not as busy as 2000 or before. It’s been a great year so far business-wise for the company. The economy is up and maybe all the jobs aren’t going to China.” George Jariabek, president of North Hollywood-based EDM manufacturer, Pacific Controls Inc., was particularly dismayed by the turnout at the event. “We haven’t had any sales yet this year but we’ve had a lot of interest. WESTEC used to be something like five times bigger, so this is pretty depressing,” Jariabek said. “But nonetheless being here allows you to make good connections provided that you have the workmanship to back it up.” Van Nuys-based American Manufacturing Network (AMANET), a custom manufacturing job shop, had also been relatively unsuccessful at this year’s conference. But despite the lack of sales, AMANET sales manager D.C. Kim maintained that the event had been instrumental in giving the company much-needed exposure. “I hope WESTEC doesn’t shrink any more. We’ll have to see if the products end up selling. Hopefully, business will pick up,” Kim said. “Coming to WESTEC allows you to gain exposure and leads. We’ve been getting both. If we didn’t get any leads we wouldn’t be here. Hopefully, we can get enough leads so that we can grow the business and of course, recover the WESTEC show cost.” While certain local manufacturers may have been disappointed with turnout, WESTEC’s organizer, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers claimed that attendance is starting to rebound from the recent manufacturing recession. “We had 19,284 people attend the show, numbers consistent with what we drew last year. After 9/11, manufacturing really went down. About four years ago, the show was much bigger,” the SME’s public relations manager Alex Yovanovich said. “But now attendance is trending back upwards. We actually expanded space this year. At least on the trade show side, we are seeing a manufacturing recovery.”

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