NEWTON, Mass. — Always a popular destination for METALCON, Tampa did not disappoint this past month. From intensive pre-show workshops to more than 40 free educational sessions to inspiring keynotes and super sessions, attendees learned from top industry experts and earned more continuing education credits than ever before at the industry’s only event dedicated exclusively to the application of metal in design and construction. 

“Our organization has been exhibiting at METALCON since its inception,” said Jim Bush, vice president of sales and marketing for ATAS International.  “We were quite pleased with the traffic and the potential new customers. METALCON has been the best venue to introduce our new products to contractors, the architecture community as well as our distributors.”

Kicking off day one of the show was keynote speaker, Keith Colburn, star of the Discovery Channel’s hit show "Deadliest Catch" and captain of the Alaska King Crab fishing boat, Wizard, who shared his insights on leadership, teamwork, safety and being successful in today’s hyper-competitive business environment by providing parallels between his life as a captain and the construction industry. 

Colburn spoke about the importance of staying calm in times of crisis. When describing what makes for a good leader, he said, “perseverance, a vision to see around competitive corners and to stay calm.”

“You have to find a way to keep your emotions in check and adapt well to the situation in front of you," he said, then touched on communication styles. “We all speak, learn and understand differently, so communicating is critical. We train. We drill. And we respond.” 

His autographed gear was raffled throughout the show to raise funds for Feeding Tampa Bay, which provides food to 1 million families in the 10-county area of West Central Florida. METALCON show management presented a check for $5,000 to the organization’s development officer during an on-site check presentation ceremony.

“We are delighted to have chosen Feeding Tampa Bay for our Give Back campaign this year,” said METALCON Show Director Judy Geller. “It has been METALCON’S tradition to give back locally to the community kind enough to host us. This year, we thought it was really important to reach out to those who may not have a meal on the table every night so we teamed up with Feeding Tampa Bay.” 

New to the show this year was The Architect’s Experience, the Insulated Metal Panel Pavilion and the Solar Education Center — all a bit hit among attendees. Plans for a repeat in 2022 are underway. 

On day two of the show, Ken Simonson, chief economist of the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America, discussed the current state and outlook for construction project types, materials costs and availability, and labor in his highly-attended keynote presentation.

“Eighty-six percent of contractors are having difficulty filling salaried jobs, particularly project managers and supervisors. The number one reason is available candidates do not meet the hiring company’s needs — they do not have the right training," he said. "Eighty-nine percent of contractors are having difficulty filling key craft jobs.” 

With regards to materials costs, Simonson said the costs of steel mill products up were up 111% from April 2020-August 2021.

"Lumber and plywood reached their highest in June 2021 at a 120% increase but has dropped to a 52% increase in costs since," he said.

On the subject of supply-chain bottlenecks, he explained at first it was a problem getting materials from China, then a shortage of containers, then too many containers stacking up in yards/couldn’t accept any more, then shipyards backed up in California with 70-plus waiting to dock/unload.  

“I am faintly optimistic we will see improvement on costs and availability,” continued Simonson. 

This year’s show included more than 200 leading companies exhibiting the latest metal construction industry products and technology. 

“This is our first time at METALCON,” said Frank Whitehead, sales manager of Reed’s Metals. “We’ve made some really good connections and done some excellent networking. We are always looking for new products and top-of-the-line innovative ideas to help us help our customers succeed, and there are a lot of good ideas here, a lot of good new technology that we can implement in our day-to-day operations. It is very important, with the market today, that we have multiple avenues to get the products we need for our customers so this is an excellent event for that.” 

Tom Laird, national sales manager for long-time exhibitor New Tech Machinery, said it was a pleasure to connect with customers, saying no words can express the importance of face-to-face interactions. 

“It is a pleasure to be able to come back and be in front of our customers again with other members of our industry and show off our wares to new and existing customers," he said.

Geller agrees, saying it was a fantastic show with a lot of energy.

“People are happy to be back," Geller said. "We are already very busy selling booth space for Indianapolis next year. It is proving to be a popular destination since it is located within 500 miles of 75% of the manufacturing distribution space in the U.S. ― a great pull for contractors, building owners, designers, manufacturers and suppliers.” 

METALCON 2022 takes place in Indianapolis, Indiana from Oct. 12-14 at the Indiana Convention Center.