February 15, 2016
Industry gathers to learn and share at Congress
A new feature at Congress 2016, HardscapeLIVE, drew large crowds to an area of the show floor.
New products, new suppliers, new services, new ideas and creating and maintaining relationships are the reasons nearly 12,000 people to attended Congress 2016, Jan. 10-12 at the Toronto Congress Centre.

Once you start talking with people at the show, it’s clear most are looking for something new to help them, or their business — whether it’s a new product to improve efficiency, a new supplier with competitive pricing or a wider selection, or advice from an expert or colleague to help solve a problem or issue. Congress attracts highly-skilled people from across the country — each turning to Congress to elevate their success.

Andrew Fuller, Pro Mow Maintenance, from Campbellville, Ont. has been attending Congress for eight years and enjoys the ability to meet with salespeople and discover new products in his off-season. “It’s a very good time of year for us to be here,” he says. In the market for a new riding mower, Fuller brought his staff with him to give their input and feel comfortable with any purchases he made. “When I’m buying equipment, I want to make sure it’s something (staff) are comfortable with,” he says.

Shelia Murray-Belise, a landscape architect with Belisle/Murray Landscape Architects, says Congress is a great place for her to meet with clients and see what’s new in the landscape industry. “I come to Congress to meet with the nurseries because developing that relationship is important for my business,” she says. “I also come to learn about new products.” As a landscape architect, Murray-Belise believes the more communication that occurs between architects and contractors, the more projects and clients will benefit.

Sean Trevisanutto of Trevisanutto’s Landscape & Design, Thunder Bay, Ont. attends Congress primarily to check out the various products, services and equipment that he doesn’t have direct access to in the northern part of the province where he works.  After looking around the show Trevisanutto says, “We met lots of good people and are thinking about expanding into pools,” something he never really considered before. “We have been here for two days and we could have easily been here for three or even four days because there is so much to take in. It’s a lot of information,” he adds.

men looking at new products at a trade showNew products, showcased at Congress, continue to be a popular reason industry members visit the show.
New this year, Landscape Ontario’s Hardscape Committee worked with show organizers to bring a live, interactive demonstration to the show floor called Hardscape LIVE. Running twice-daily, the one-hour demos led by industry expert Pat McCrindle (see sidebar) garnered a lot of attention and drew large crowds.

A first time visitor to Congress, Amanda Anderson, owner of Lipstick Landscaping in Fredericton, N.B., says she attended Congress partly because the show was highly recommended to her by some industry colleagues back home. Anderson attended all of the hardscape demos.  “They were all really good, especially for me because I am just starting out in that area,” Anderson says. “There were a lot of good tips and a lot of good tools — some I have never even seen before.”

One of the tips Anderson learned was to purchase an inexpensive lighting demo kit to show clients what her work would look like with lighting installed. The client can then choose whether or not to add landscape lighting and in most cases, it’s an easy upsell. “It was a good crash course on how to get started,” she says.

Congress show manager Heather MacRae was very pleased with the new hardscape event. “Having live, interactive demonstrations on the show floor brought more attendees to the show,”MacRae says. “It shows how much our industry is willing to share ideas to improve the skill level for everyone. Congress is just one free educational lesson after another.”

The educational component of Congress actually begins the day before the show opens on Warm-up Monday, making Congress truly a four-day event. The Landscape Designer Conference, IPM Symposium and a Peer to Peer Network session all provided a wealth of knowledge to specific sectors within the industry.

At the Designers Conference, keynote speaker, Adam Bienenstock shared his design philosophy and perspective as it relates to keeping play in our lives via outdoor playgrounds. The full day of intense sessions by a number of industry leaders was followed by a networking reception that provided a great opportunity for colleagues and suppliers to share ideas and socialize. Organizers would also like to thank Dynascape, Ed’s Concrete Products, Connon Nurseries NVK, Select Stone and Unilock as partners for the event.

During the Peer to Peer Workshop, Jacki Hart and Tim Kearney engaged participants and left them with a lot to think about. Leading up to the show, many participants who attended these sessions in 2015 said they found them to be one of the most valuable days of the year, so they couldn’t wait to attend this first session of 2016. Mentorship is becoming very popular in the industry and continues to improve those who get involved. Watch for more Peer to Peer Network events throughout 2016 and 2017.

At the IPM Symposium, a great line-up of technical presenters enabled some of those attending to qualify for six IPM Council of Canada CEU credits — the amount required annually. The closing keynote on the research related to the potential installation of real turf in the Rogers Centre from Dr. Eric Lyons, PhD was very interesting and kept delegates asking questions. Many delegates commented how they appreciated being provided the opportunity to renew their certification with this one-day event.  

Wes Rutter, City of St. Catharines, won the door prize of a 40 in. Sony Bravia TV.

The IPM Leadership Award, which recognizes leadership and contribution to the healthy growth of the industries represented in the IPM Symposium, was presented (posthumously) to John Wright. Accepting on his behalf was his son, Dave Wright. Delegates enjoyed a complimentary reception following the technical sessions. The day was made possible through presenting sponsor Lawn Life, Reception Sponsor BASF, Keynote Sponsor JB&D and tabletop sponsors Allturf, G.C. Duke, Koppert Canada and Plant Products.

Many other individuals and companies were honoured at the Awards of Excellence Ceremony held after the trade show on Jan. 12 at the International Plaza Hotel. See page 8 for complete coverage of the Awards Ceremony and pages 13 to 16 for a full list of winning companies and individuals.

class of students at a trade showBeth Edney (far left) brought her first-year design studio class from Niagara Parks to Congress to see things she could only tell them about in a classroom environment.
The LO Congress Show Committee hands out awards to exhibitors for various display categories and special promotion efforts of the show (see page 7). Show manager MacRae says the amount of skill and professionalism exhibitors put into their displays not only elevates the overall look of the show, but also attracts another small group of professionals from another industry to the show — those who run other shows.

“We’ve had a number of people from across North America come to experience the show not just for the content, but to learn how to improve upon other shows or elevate their exhibit to the level of the ones here,” says MacRae. “The level of expertise exhibitors have about their products is a definite reason to visit this show as well,” MacRae adds. “Our exhibitors are so educated, but also very realistic. Many times I overheard an exhibitor explaining to a prospective customer that their product many not be the best fit for that customer, and then directed them to another exhibitor in the show.”

That share-all attitude within the show, of competitors helping one another, not only creates a sense of community, but also works to help everyone become more successful and more profitable — something also evident in the topics and sessions of the Congress Conference this year.

The 2016 conference line-up boasted many new and impressive presenters who brought new energy and a fresh perspective to their audiences. Kate Davis and her approach to work-life balance was extremely well received — especially her encouragement to inject a little humour into our everyday lives. Mark Bradley and Mike Lysecki, both from presenting conference sponsor LMN, represented the professionals’ perspective. Their lunch session, “The Landscape Open” was an open Q&A format encouraging discussion about real-life problems and issues, and they offered real-life solutions. The lunch sessions continue to be a success, providing a fantastic opportunity to get caught up with peers and meet new people all while learning.

The 2016 edition of the Irrigation Conference focused on rainwater/stormwater management. Ken Nentwig from CANARM and Eric Meliton from TRCA both presented keynotes on principles of sustainability, best practices, what’s happening now and what’s to come; each with very different perspectives. Jeremy Harris from the Region of Peel also highlighted the WSIP program and how contractors can get involved. Lunch provided another occasion for delegates to get caught up and discuss the session content. Lunch was made possible through generous sponsors Rain Bird and Toro, and refreshments were courtesy of Hunter. Distributor sponsors were SiteOne, Turf Care and VBI.

Students, the future of the industry, play a large role in Congress as well. The show is a wealth of both knowledge and experience for hundreds of students. Congress boats five student gardens: Fanshawe College, Humber College, Niagara College, Durham College, and University of Guelph, all built and removed by the students.

“I wish the attendees could witness the process of the student gardens being built before the show,” says MacRae. “They work very hard and continue to raise the benchmark for the gardens each year.”

Congress Show Committee member Beth Edney brought her first-year design studio class from Niagara Parks to the show.

“I was first introduced to Congress by my instructor as a student back in my Ryerson days,” says Edney. “Congress was a place to see products hands-on and to meet people. It’s an ‘all-you-can-eat education in-a-day.’ For my students, it means things I have only taught in theory I can show in reality at the show — it’s actually right there in front of them,” says Edney. “The best type of learning is when you can actually see something or see someone who has accomplished what you want to accomplish. It gives my students a taste of what is actually possible — that’s priceless.”

That “one free educational lesson after another” which MacRae described earlier continued on the show floor with another new educational event titled Speakers Corner. Presented by the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORGCA) in partnership with Dig Safe and HortProtect, this up-close and personal series provided valuable information to contractors on the damage prevention industry in Ontario and tips on avoiding underground utility hits as well as steps to take when damage does occur.

ORGCA board member Terry Murphy (and one of the presenters) says, “People who were there were very, very interested and asked a lot of questions. Anyone who attended really dug into it. They got good value out of it and stayed after the sessions to continue asking questions.”

Developing relationships between organizations and industry or within the industry is another big part of the Congress experience. Many networking events happen post-conference or after the show closes, like the aforementioned Awards Ceremony which had over 650 industry members in attendance and the ever-popular Tailgate Party which had over 800 delegates through the door.

Once again, Congress provided opportunities for the landscape industry to gather and share new products and expertise, raising the bar for all those involved. Canada’s green industry showcase shows no signs of slowing down.

Congress 2017 runs Jan. 10-12 at the Toronto Congress Centre. Visit LOCongress.com for updates on next year’s show.