imagesBuilding on the momentum provided by an improving economy and positive sales outlook, the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM) is primed for a “strong showing” at the 27th Annual Convention & Trade Show which officially opens today (Feb. 11) at the Ernest N. Morial Center in New Orleans.

“This looks like our best year since 2007-2008, right before the bottom fell out of the economy,” said Pam Trusdale, executive director for NATM which represents the light- and medium-duty trailer industry comprised of 410 cargo-type and utility trailer manufacturers and 350 suppliers. “We had to increase our exhibit space square footage, and ended up with 178 vendors and 230 booths. Preregistration by manufacturers was also up. I’m really looking for a great turnout. With business doing well for the industry as a whole, there just seems to be a lot of excitement.”

Trusdale told RVBUSINESS.com that the convention offers a prime venue for networking coupled with a heightened focus on training and education.

“As far as networking, the convention gives our vendors the opportunity to meet with their customers all in one place,” she said. “We have vendors from across the spectrum of the industry, including all the component suppliers along with an array of services and other products, like insurance and consulting.”

The RV industry also has a presence at the show, according to Trusdale. “We always have a lot of RV companies on the supply side, like Lippert and Dexter Axle. There are also OEMs who build trailers with living quarters. We have a pretty big overlap in membership with several related industries.”

The convention was ushered in on Tuesday with an afternoon golf tournament followed by a Young Professionals Reception that evening. In addition to the opening of the trade show, today’s agenda will feature two workshops, including:

“Is Green the Right Color for You”: A panel format featuring Tina Patzer, business consultant, and Lucas Landis of the Aluminum Trailer Co., which was the winner of the 2014 NATM Green Award.

“Introduction to Project Management: Tips and Techniques for Project Success” will be conducted by Lisa DuTullio of Your Project Office. The session is designed to introduce attendees to project management concepts and processes.

A technical forum is also planned, offering a full day of workshop sessions varying in length from 15 to 90 minutes that focus on engineering-oriented issues. The day will cap off with the President’s Reception.

The exhibit floor will be the spotlight on Thursday along with an awards breakfast and the Annual Membership Meeting & Luncheon offering a keynote address by Kennth Gronbach, a recognized expert and futurism in the field of demography and generational marketing. The convention closes out on Friday.

“Our goal is always to offer a complete experience for attendees,” said Trustone. “We want to keep them busy and engaged. They take time off from work to be here, so we want to provide them with a format that will help them improve their business.”