Over the last few weeks, Iíve spoken with (e-mailed) many of you who
werenít going to Metalcon, had never been there and/or werenít even sure
what it was. I dedicate this report of my first 24 hours to you.
MONDAY NIGHT I arrive at Atlanta airport in the official
airline and take a cab to the hotel. Brief ride, friendly cab driver Ė
no sweat. $20. I check into The Westin Peachtree Plaza Atlanta, because
it is the official METALCON International 2000 Headquarters Hotel, and
Iíve done everything else by the book so far.
Wow, the view is spectacular. They call this place the tallest hotel
in the Americas, and it sure looks like it. From my room I overlook the
new Phillips Arena were the Hawks play, the home of the Braves, Georgia
Tech University, the Georgia World Congress Center (where Metalcon will
be held) and a lot of other stuff I canít name. Iím on the 50th floor
(to where I relocated from the 61st to get high speed internet access)
with windows from floor to ceiling on the exterior wall. Day or night,
the view is worth at least part of the price of admission. Time for bed
Ė I had a late flight.
TUESDAY MORNING Iím up at 6 AM because Iím going to the eBusiness
is Your Business seminar by Paul Doherty of the digit group in
Germantown, Tennessee. I grabbed my free breakfast at the hotel
(anything cold in the buffet including juice plus some oatmeal) and
started my 6 block walk to the Georgia World Congress Center. The
weather is sunny and warm Ė Iím comfortable in my long sleeve shirt. I
go in the doors and look for registration. Itís not readily apparent
where I should go. I watch people go down the escalator. I follow. At
the bottom, I walk about a city block and go down another escalator.
Hmmm. Where to go. I wander to the right to look at a lunch bar and
manage to miss the sign on the left that tells me registration is ahead
and down the next escalator. I find my way without the sign. I get to
the bottom of the third escalator and canít miss registration. Straight
ahead. I get in line. Iím not sure why Iím in line because Iím
pre-registered, but it seems like the thing to do. It turns out that Iím
in line to get a little holder for my nametag that I received in the
mail and had with me. On to my class!
There was nowhere to go but back up the escalator. I walk past
windows that give me a nice view of the floor displays and snap a few
pictures. Where to goÖ The hand guide tells me that my conference is in
A3. While wandering around I see little signs in front of various rooms
with even smaller names, like A3. The signs are mid-tone green and the
letters/numbers are small and black Ė I had to walk right up to each one
to read it, which meant I scoured the next 2 floors to find my room. It
was right across from the door where I entered the building to begin
Of 29 people in this seminar, 9 arrived late. Maybe I wasnít the only
one having a hard time finding my way around this morning. It would be a
disservice to Mr. Doherty to boil his words down to one sentence or
topic, but hey, here goes anyway. According to Paul, probably the next
biggest and best way that all this tech and internet stuff can help you
(not counting MetalBuilding.com, of course) will be when you can take it
all into the field to help expedite the work. Think hand-helds (like
Palm Pilots). Digital cameras. Cell phones. Video cameras. E-mail. Web
browser. All in one unit, maybe 2. Then give it loads of bandwidth.
Heís probably right, but itís going to take a while yet, especially
for it to filter down to the smaller contractors and erectors. A
workable system would have voice recognition Ė you canít expect these
guys to type (Iíve yet to read a review of this type of software that
got me excited about it for a desktop, let alone a handheld). The
delicate maneuverings necessary to successfully navigate a tiny handheld
would prove very frustrating to most field men that I know.
It would have digital camera and video capabilities Ė OK, weíve got
that now, but the storage capacity and streaming abilities need to
vastly improve for the video portion to be practical. And itís still too
big to have clipped to your belt and mostly too complicated for
practical field use. The device(s) would have to connect to the internet
Ė OK, the Palm VIIís do now, but not with nearly the bandwidth necessary
for streaming video or video-conferencing. It would have to be tough.
Like a stainless steel coffee thermos. Drop it, pick it up and pour some
coffee, right? Think NASA meets Little Tykes.
Why all this stuff? Who needs it? Well, most of us will eventually.
Imagine sitting in your office while your superintendent beams you live
video of a problem in the field Ė this video just saved you a 2 hour
round trip. Or you send him a punch list the minute it arrives in your
e-mail. Maybe he turns in the time sheets by handheld, thumbs through
the project website, reads over specifications, the list goes on.
Eventually, everybody will be doing it. Youíll save time, but youíll
need to. The time you save, youíll need to save just to keep up. The
pace accelerates for everybody. Does anybody get to kick back and relax
for a day because they saved time with a fax machine? Could you operate
your business without a fax? Do you expect this to be any different?
Sigh... I would imagine large, well-financed operations doing multiple
projects for a tech-minded owner are busy tinkering with pieces and
parts already. I know Iíve already set up a laptop at a jobsite with a
remote camera to capture pictures for website monitoring and photo
archives. Iíd be interested in hearing stories about some of your
high-tech experiences on the jobsite.
TUESDAY AFTERNOON Now I head back to the hotel to check and
answer e-mail, call the office and eat lunch. My route back takes me
along a large, open esplanade dotted with fountains. The one to my right
has a series of dozens of water jets that are choreographed to music
emanating from points unknown. It seems to be a crowd pleaser Ė 15 to 20
people are gathered around to enjoy the show. I find a deli around the
corner and down the stairs from the hotel manned by an old woman in a
wheel chair. Lunch is cheap, tasty and unique. Ah, Atlanta. I head back
to view the exhibits.
There are over 600 booths shown in the guide, and today Iím just
walking around to get a feel for the show. I pass out business cards Ė
since MetalBuilding.com just soft-opened 1 month ago, many of these
people donít yet know us. Thatís part of why Iím here. People are
generally very friendly with one notable exception. I give my card to a
funny little guy selling small power tools. He eyes me suspiciously as I
tell him he can list his stuff in our Classifieds for free. He looks at
my card and then glares at me as he thrusts it back at me, explaining
that he only sells his stuff at tradeshows. Iíd tell you his name, but
then you might try to get in touch with him and buy something and we all
know what kind of trouble and strife that would cause.
I met with a few people I had contacted before the show and even
bagged an invitation to the Metalmag.com party next door. Do the
Whirlwind people just happen to have several attractive, young, blonde
women working in the office, or do they hire them especially for this
show? If itís the latter, I canít wait to see what they do in Vegas next
year! I close the show and head to the Metalmag.com party. Food, drink
and live music. Nice people. The magazine even fits in my briefcase and
thereís a crossword puzzle! Iíll be doing a review of it in another
article, so I wonít go into details here.
TUESDAY EVENING - HALLOWEEN! I head back to the hotel. Itís
around 7:30 now. Iím intercepted by a scalper looking to sell me a Hawks
ticket. Iím a Magic season ticket holder and was disappointed to miss
opening night Ė what a break. I haggle with 3 different Ďentrepreneursí
before settling on a $50 seat for $20. Hey, the Hawks hardly ever sell
out and it was 5 minutes past tipoff Ė a buyerís market.
The Phillips Center is a few blocks away and itís Halloween. Many in
the crowd are dressed for the occasion and the arena is bloated with
high-tech goodies, food and spirits of all kinds. What fun. The Hawks
get pounded from the start, fight back, then get KOíd long before the
final horn sounds. I leave before the finish and end up dropping a buck
to one of Atlantaís homeless on the way back to the hotel. They
apparently like this area Ė Iím to meet several more before the weekís
So why go to Metalcon? You can go to http://www.metalcon.com to read
more about what they have to offer. I donít know where else you can go
to meet and deal with this many people in one place who know so much
about the metal building industry. It also gives you an excuse to spend
some of that money youíre making (you are making money, arenít you?) for
business purposes. Everything ends at 6 PM, so you have the evenings
free and hey, next year itís in Vegas! Oh yeah. And where else can you
find the funny little man with the power tools?
I enjoyed your travelogue. You certainly sold me on Vegas 2001! See ya there.
Nice article on Metalcom. We have always found it to be our best show as an exhibitor. The customers and architects who attend are there for a purpose and really attempt to become more knowledgeable with what is new in the market. Thanks.
By Mike Wallace