Forest Products EXPO Has Rich History

It started with a breakfast and has grown into a feast – a banquet of tomorrow’s technology that has grown to international proportions by serving up the latest in forest products machinery and equipment. In a word, it is EXPO. The Southern Forest Products Association (SFPA), headquartered in suburban New Orleans, established EXPO (officially known today as the Forest Products Machinery & Equipment Exposition) to help advance the industry and provide a forum for the exchange of ideas contributing to improved sawmill efficiency.

A Brief History
EXPO traces its roots back more than 65 years, when members of the Southern Pine Association (SFPA’s name until 1970) held a series of meetings to determine how the industry’s mechanical efficiency could be improved. They determined that it was necessary to bring together machinery manufacturers and lumbermen for an exchange of ideas that would also lead to closer relationships.

The first tangible result was a “sawmill breakfast” held at SPA’s 1949 Annual Meeting. Equipment was on display and machinery manufacturers were on hand to talk about mechanical efficiency. And the idea of holding an industry-wide exposition to showcase these products on a regular basis took root.

On April 19, 1950, the first Logging and Sawmill Machinery Exposition opened at the Municipal Auditorium in New Orleans. More than $1 million of equipment was on display, and 500 lumbermen attended to inspect the latest technology.

On February 26, 1952, the first debarker was installed at a Southern Pine lumber mill in Warren, Arkansas. Two weeks later, SPA’s mechanical efficiency committee set up a meeting so other lumbermen could study the machinery. Widespread investment in debarkers and chippers followed, giving powerful momentum to the second exposition.

Although the expositions were originally planned to be held every two years, the second event was delayed until 1953 because of the Korean conflict. But the show got back on track with a burst of energy. From 1953 on, the machinery expositions sponsored and conducted by the association were held on a biennial basis. And with each successive show, the scope of the exposition grew. Locations for the event varied through the years, too, from New Orleans to Dallas to the show’s current venue in Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center.

In 1976, the show was granted international status by the Commerce Department, allowing foreign exhibitors to bring in equipment duty-free. The show thus became a true international exposition, attracting domestic and foreign exhibitors, and drawing thousands of potential buyers. Today, an array of technological tools and services is showcased at the exposition, which has become one of the largest indoor shows of its kind in North America.

On June 10-12, 2015, the 33rd exposition, EXPO 2015 was held in Atlanta. Displays of 188 exhibitors covered more than 54,000 square feet and greeted over 2,200 attendees who were there to sharpen their technology edge. New for that show was the comprehensive educational component known as INNOtech – the Innovations and Technology Program.

Showcasing the Entire Industry
From the beginning, Expo has attracted both exhibitors and attendees representing softwood and hardwood operations. “It’s true that SFPA represents Southern Pine manufacturers, but Expo represents the entire wood products industry,” SFPA’s exposition director Eric Gee notes emphatically. “Beyond lumber manufacturing, this show also features equipment and services for the treating, pallet and many other related segments of our industry,” he adds.

The hardwood industry has long been represented at this show. A long list of manufacturers serving the hardwood industry has supported Expo for many years. Companies like TS Manufacturing, Cooper Machine, Lucidyne, Oleson Saw, SII Dry Kilns, ISK Biocides, Air Systems of Lenoir, Pierce Construction & Maintenance, McDonough Manufacturing, Connexus, Corley Manufacturing, Wagner Meters, Buckman, Hurdle Machine, Brewco, Brunner-Hildebrand, Stringer Industries and Clereman all are on hand to show off their latest equipment and services.

“EXPO is a well-done show that provides hardwood sawmills with a hands-on look at our machinery,” notes Jack Corley, president of Corley Manufacturing in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Bob White of Pierce Construction & Maintenance agrees. “It’s not just a pine show. We have equipment on display for hardwood operations, too.”

“People come to Expo with a mindset to invest in their operations,” Eric says. “Exhibitors meet with a quality crowd, including company representatives ready to purchase new equipment and services from industry leaders,” he adds.

New App Guides Visitors
The next event, EXPO 2017 – SFPA’s 34th Forest Products Machinery & Equipment Exposition – is coming up soon: June 14-16, once again at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. To help those attending the show, a new smartphone application is now available – download FOREST EXPO in the App Store or Google Play; it’s free. Preview the floor plan, search for exhibitors and set up your schedule to visit them during show hours. “Here’s a handy tool to make the most of any visitor’s time on the show floor,” Eric says.

Now in existence for more than 65 years, this success story continues. Registration is now open to attend EXPO 2017; visit for complete details, including a show schedule.

Email: Richard Wallace, SFPA