1975: Hyatt Regency, Houston
“I'll believe it when I see it,” was the sentiment of one concrete contractor when informed about a new construction trade show called the World of Concrete (WOC). Hosted by CONCRETE CONSTRUCTION magazine (CC), and cosponsored by the American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC) and the American Concrete Pumping Association (ACPA), it promised both indoor and outdoor exhibits totaling 75,000 square feet, concrete-related demonstrations, and workshops. Among the first exhibitors were 17 manufacturers of forming systems. The most popular exhibit was an innovative product many felt would change the industry: tie rods.
The first Concrete Demos featured topics such as vacuum dewatering slabs, surveying with laser equipment, and the use of high-temperature lances for concrete demolition and cutting. Workshops, based on input from the Portland Cement Association (PCA) and the American Concrete Institute (ACI), included “Human Engineering and Motivation,” “Field Practices for Architectural Concrete,” and “The Role of Data Processing in a Medium-Sized Construction Firm.” The latter workshop was considered groundbreaking at the time as its premise was to “help attendees decide if there is a place for a computer in your organization.”
With the first WOC drawing a total of 1550 attendees and 71 exhibitors, the contractor who initially doubted the success of WOC commented, “There is so much going on here, I'm still not sure I believe it.”
During the remainder of the 1970s, WOC officials continued to fine-tune the event. When WOC '77 rolled into New Orleans, the nation's economy was struggling, and questions loomed about whether or not the residential marketplace would rebound concurrent to a downturn in commercial construction.
However the show continued to grow in the late '70s as attendees continually asked for more technical and educational information about concrete. One result was the debut of the WOC Film Festival, featuring a total of 13 concrete-related films covering topics such as the production of cement and construction safety practices.
In the early 1980s, WOC officials created Demonstration Seminars by combining existing seminars with live demos, lectures, and full-scale illustrations. Floor finishing techniques and shotcreting with fibrous highlighted the new event.
The first of many topic-specific pavilions was introduced at WOC '81. The Concept '81 Pavilion was described by CC as “a cavalcade of concrete ideas on residential construction featuring the newest ideas, designs, and methods involving concrete in residential construction, including single-family, low-rise, high-rise, earth-sheltered, cast-in-place, precast, and shotcrete construction.”
During the mid-'80s WOC recorded only slight growth, reflective of a flat U.S. economy. To keep WOC going strong, marketing efforts kicked into high-gear as WOC officials began incorporating themes such as Pour On the Profits Week; Forming Your Future; Act Now, Profit Tomorrow; and Take the Gamble Out of Construction.
WOC '85 in Las Vegas distinguished itself by introducing the Pre-Cast/Pre-Stressed Pavilion. Show officials also planned the construction of a 1200-square-foot all-concrete house. Built from the ground up, attendees learned several new techniques for constructing a low-cost, energy-efficient residential concrete home, as well as specific techniques and equipment used to build the home. At the show's closing, the five-room concrete home was transported intact from the convention center and placed into use in Las Vegas.
The Persian Gulf War dominated the early portion of the decade, and the 1991–1993 WOCs felt the economic recession gripping the U.S. construction industry as reflected by stagnant attendance. When examining attendee data, WOC officials noted rising numbers of management personnel in attendance, therefore the number of management-related seminars were increased.
Celebrating 20 years, WOC '94 convened in New Orleans with 26,670 attendees and 862 exhibitors.
The contractor's family was oriented into the WOC program as the show visited Orlando for the first time in 1998. The Future Leaders of Concrete Program debuted and included two programs geared toward children ages 8–12 and 13–18 with the premise of educating and challenging the concrete leaders of tomorrow. Also, the ACPA offered WOC attendees involved in concrete pumping the opportunity to become Certified Concrete Pump Operators. Those interested in certification were required to attend a specific concrete pumping seminar followed by an exam.
The final show of the '90s was also the 25th anniversary of WOC. The 1999 event occurred in Las Vegas, and was the first WOC hosted by new owner Hanley Wood, LLC. The masonry industry became a more prominent part of WOC's identity as the Masonry Pavilion was introduced.
WOC 2000 included more than 80 seminars meeting the varied interests and certification requirements of the construction professional.
In 2001, WOC partnered with World of Masonry and introduced the new 75,000-square-foot Producer Center devoted to producers of ready-mix, precast/prestressed, and other concrete products. Total WOC exposition area measured more than 750,000 square feet, as the WOC program spanned five days.
Not to be outdone, WOC '03 featured a total of 93 sessions broken down into eight targeted tracks, as well as the introduction of the Most Innovative Products (MIP) program (vote for this year's MIP entries at www.mip2009.com). Artistry in Decorative Concrete also debuted in the outdoor exhibit area showcasing the skills of decorative concrete contractors directly in front of attendees.
Bigger and better continued to define WOC as three new programs were introduced at WOC '06. First, was the Women in Concrete networking lunch featuring presentations geared toward women working in the construction industry. Second, was the editorial-related Hoover Dam Bypass Tour hosted by CC and THE CONCRETE PRODUCER. Finally, an auction benefiting the Construction Industry Management program was held, raising $224,225 from bids on equipment ranging from portable concrete pumps to a ready-mix truck.
WOC '08 introduced GREENSITE, which included dozens of exhibitors showcasing the technologies, video presentations, and information regarding sustainable construction. Projections revealed that in 2008, $21.2 billion was spent on green-building principles in the nonresidential market.
2009, Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas
The 35th anniversary of WOC showcases many of the programs that make WOC the ultimate construction trade show. This year's event features the seventh annual Artistry Demos, the second year of GREENSITE, a larger than ever educational program, certification programs and safety courses, interactive equipment challenges, the MIP program, and more. Launching in 2009 is the New Product Showcase display where manufacturers offer the latest technological advances to attendees.
More than 90,000 attendees are expected to visit over 1700 exhibitors located in nearly 1 million square feet of exhibit space Feb. 2–6, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. For more information, visit www.worldofconcrete.com.
Dan Anderson inherited CONCRETE CONSTRUCTION magazine after founder Bill Avery retired in 1985. Anderson was instrumental in the launch of World of Concrete as well as the growth in the early years of the trade show.