Builders were propane buyers at the International Builders Show
The 2012 International Builders Show (IBS) held in Orlando, FL last month showed a modest increase in attendance. Over 50,000 attendees and 900 exhibits still makes this one of the largest trade events in the country, in spite of the downturn in the building industry. Propane was well represented in the gas industries exhibit with the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) partnering with the American Gas Association and over a dozen gas products manufacturers. These equipment manufacturers included Generac and Marathon Engine Systems showing off new generator and combined heat and power (CHP) technology developed through PERC grants.
The gas exhibit had lots of traffic with nearly 1500 builders visiting the exhibit and registering for more information about propane and related products. Total builder leads from PERC activities at IBS should total over 18,000. Expect to see them posted on the Propane MaRC in the coming weeks. Propane industry support from the field to provide volunteers for the exhibit was weak for this event with several companies pulling out at the last minute. We should all thank Ferrellgas and Liberty Propane for providing great volunteers to work with builders visiting the exhibit. They were kept very busy.
All of the builders stopping by seemed favorable toward propane and had great questions regarding a project or two of which they were working and how propane could fit into them. Two brothers who are HVAC contractors in propane country near Louisville spent over an hour with the Marathon representatives discussing how CHP could fit into their projects instead of geothermal. I talked with Jim from Arkansas who wanted to know if propane rather than electricity could fulfill his energy needs in his soon to be constructed 2,800 sq. ft. hunting lodge. By the time we were done talking, I walked him over to the Thermador section of the exhibit and he was picking out his gas range. And there was Bill from Idaho who wanted to know about propane tankless water heaters for a ski lodge project on which he is bidding. Don from Ohio was interested in learning about propane tanks that can be installed underground on some of his custom home projects. Matt from Pennsylvania has been building about 15 homes a year on propane and wanted to know more about being able to offer standby generators as an option for his clients. There were 4 different builders or developers who were looking for more information on community propane systems for projects they will start in the spring. Robert stopped by and was having problems getting a propane company to perform a site visit to determine tank location and piping needs for a custom home he is building for a client in Southern Florida. The home will be 18,000 sq. ft. in size and will have 5 propane tankless water heaters and numerous other propane applications throughout the home and backyard. And then there was the woman builder from New Mexico who attended a PERC sponsored “Meet the Experts” session who planned the purchase of 4 propane standby generators for projects on which she is working.
These are just a few examples of the high quality of the builder traffic stopping by the exhibit. It helped to have the high quality handout materials that PERC provided, such as the new Propane Technical Pocket Guide that gives comparisons between propane, natural gas, heating oil, and electricity. The Pocket Guide provides container location information, pipe sizing charts, and other technical information a builder may need to access on the job site. Another popular part on the propane exhibit was a big screen monitor that had the PERC construction professional web site online so builders could try out several online tools such as the Energy Cost and Carbon Calculator.
Builder attitudes at IBS were guardedly optimistic about building activity in 2012 based on the positive response they are getting from prospective home buyers. Custom home buyers seem to be leading the shift in sentiment and direction, and that is good news for the propane industry. Large custom homes in propane country have always been our sweet spot for new business. Don’t expect dramatic changes this year, but it is definitely time to connect with builders and remodelers in your area and turn favorability into propane sales.
If you want to interact with trade professionals, you should volunteer to work at the JLC Live residential construction show in Providence, RI on March 21–24. PERC will share exhibit space with the Propane Gas Association of New England and several products manufacturers at the Rhode Island Convention Center. You can find more details at www.newengland.jlclive.com.
Tom Jaenicke is the owner and principal advisor at ATomiK Creative Solutions, LLC, a company that provides marketing services, technical advice, continuing education solutions, and business development assistance to energy companies and support organizations. He can be reached at 810 252‑7855 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect on Facebook and LinkedIn