Full House

With a growing wait list, IBEX adds new experiential seminars and expanded super sessions
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IBEX’s halls were booked to capacity by August. The docks continue to attract more exhibitor boats each year. 

IBEX’s halls were booked to capacity by August. The docks continue to attract more exhibitor boats each year. 

Marine professionals from around the globe are scheduled to converge on the Tampa Convention Center in Florida Oct. 1-3 for North America’s largest technical marine event. Now in its 29th year, the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition and Conference will host the people, products and technology responsible for moving the marine industry forward.

By early August, IBEX 2019 was sold out. Show director Anne Dunbar says 705 exhibitors have reserved their booths. “We have 17 companies on our wait list, and it’s growing weekly,” she says. “People keep calling.”

A major draw of the conference is the Seminar Series, produced by the IBEX technical team in conjunction with Professional BoatBuilder magazine, the American Boat and Yacht Council, the National Marine Electronics Association, the American Boat Builders and Repairers Association, the Association of Marina Industries, and IBEX co-owner, the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Courses include Design and Engineering, Composite Methods and Materials, Marine Electrical Systems, Marine Onboard Systems, Marina and Boatyard Operations, Survey and Repair, and Manufacturing Management Policy.

Electronics manufacturers, equipment makers and several dozen other exhibitors showcase new products on boats at the docks.

Electronics manufacturers, equipment makers and several dozen other exhibitors showcase new products on boats at the docks.

One highlight in this year’s Design and Engineering track is the “IBEX Special Seminar: Return to Thunderboat Row” at 11 a.m., Oct. 1. Professional BoatBuilder editors will moderate a panel of legendary raceboat drivers, including Odell Lewis, Bob Saccenti, Steve Curtis and Allan “Brownie” Brown, as well as builders John Cosker and Val Jenkins, who will discuss South Florida’s golden age of offshore powerboat racing and share memories of north Miami’s “Thunderboat Row.”

Also new for 2019 is an eighth seminar track: the IBEX Tech and Tool Lab. In this hands-on session, showgoers can learn about such topics as vacuum-bagging and 3-D printing. “We’re going to have a lot of new, live, experiential learning opportunities in the Education Hallway,” Dunbar says. “We’re even going to host an IBEX Vacuum-Bagging Challenge.”

The IBEX Education Conference will include 10 “super sessions” that cover a variety of topics and offer in-depth training. These are scheduled for Sept. 29-30, prior to the show’s official opening. As an example, “Marinas 101” will start with a four-hour marina industry introduction course; the next day, it will include a marina and boatyard tour of six facilities.

Outgoing NMMA president Thom Dammrich will hand the helm to Frank Hugelmeyer at IBEX.

Outgoing NMMA president Thom Dammrich will hand the helm to Frank Hugelmeyer at IBEX.

Eight more super sessions are scheduled, hosted by ABBRA, ABYC, Airmar Technology, CZone, NMEA, West System, and the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. “We have more super sessions than ever on Monday,” Dunbar says. “We’re grateful to all of our partners because everyone helps to make IBEX great. The show belongs to this industry.”

An important offering in this year’s super sessions lineup will be the NMMA’s “Challenges and Solutions in Workforce Development,” scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday. Participants will examine existing workforce development efforts, explore best practices and discuss ways for companies to develop a capable workforce.

Monday will conclude with Soundings Trade Only’s sold-out 40th Anniversary Gala at the Tampa Museum of Art. Some 250 guests are expected.

IBEX officially opens Tuesday, Oct. 1, at 7:30 a.m. with the Industry Breakfast and Innovation Awards, where the NMMA will introduce its new president, Frank Hugelmeyer. An outdoor recreation industry veteran, Hugelmeyer succeeds Thom Dammrich, who announced his retirement last year.

Also at the breakfast, keynote speaker Sam Potolicchio will discuss geopolitical trends that are likely to affect businesses with global exposure, specifically those that rely on trade dynamics and free movement of talent. Potolicchio was named one of America’s Best Professors by the Princeton Review, and the Future Leader of American Higher Education by the Association of Colleges and Universities. He is also winner of the OZY Educator Award, as one of six outstanding American educators.

Last year’s IBEX had 23 percent more visitors than the previous year.  Organizers hope for an attendance bump this year. 

Last year’s IBEX had 23 percent more visitors than the previous year. Organizers hope for an attendance bump this year. 

Wednesday, Oct. 2, will bring a new twist for IBEX: a pop-up show from Marine Innovators. Scheduled for 9 to 11:30 a.m., the show will present a variety of dedicated marine apps. “This group leverages technology to enable remarkable experiences on the water,” Dunbar says. “During the pop-up show in Room 25, they’ll be presenting apps that make boating easier and more accessible.

A new media experience called “Marinas of the Future” will be centrally located in the Marina and Yard Pavilion’s Level 1 exhibit hall. In a café area, a high-definition screen will showcase innovative ideas and products available to marina and boatyard operators. “People can learn about recycling, green marinas, boat sharing, electric power and more while they’re enjoying a coffee,” Dunbar says.

She observes that IBEX is constantly innovating as an event. “Doing the same thing again and again is not how we move forward,” she says. “We’re always reinventing, finding new ways to be more valuable to the tribe.” 

This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue.

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