Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ingalls pavilion offers local business space it needs for nearing expo

By Ronnie Thomas, The Decatur Daily

For the past 15 years, North America Fire Equipment Co. hosted a small vendor expo at its headquarters on West Moulton Street or at local motels.
“We’d have about six manufacturers to come and speak to our sales force of about 40 people during our annual sales meetings,” said Ronald Woodall, vice president of the company.
But at NAFECO’s 2012 vendor expo Thursday at Ingalls Harbor pavilion, Woodall said 21 vendors will display their equipment and apparel for emergency responders.
The public event will run from 2-7 p.m. Admission is free.
“There are other type of expos in which manufacturers come in and set up their displays, but this is the first time one the size of this one will be in Decatur,” Woodall said. “The reason we’re able to do it is because of the city of Decatur and the new pavilion.”
The $3 million Ingalls Harbor pavilion, the city’s largest event space, opened Nov. 27 and hosted a banquet for almost 600 players and coaches participating in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics women’s soccer tournament at the Jack Allen Recreation Complex.
On Dec. 9, about the same number of people came to the pavilion for the Decatur General Hospital Foundation’s XXVII Gala.
“We’ve had other smaller events,” said Tami Reist, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Nucor had two parties there for employees’ children and the Kiwanis Club held its meeting at the pavilion last Thursday. But what NAFECO is doing will be totally different from our other events.”
NAFECO will spread the displays featuring the manufacturers’ equipment for firefighters, police officers, industrial safety crews and others over more than 18,000 square feet of the 25,000-square-foot facility.
“We’re a distributor for these manufacturers rather than being a manufacturer ourselves,” Woodall said. “We’re expecting vendors from throughout the Southeast, as well as from Pennsylvania and Ohio. Our sales people are coming from the Southeastern region of the United States, from Virginia, to Florida and to Texas.”
Woodall said he expects public safety personnel from north and central Alabama and central Tennessee, as well as representatives of local industry.
He said with the expo being open to the public, he has no idea how many people will attend.
“But there will be 80 to 100 people among our sales force and manufacturing personnel,” Woodall said. “They are spending two and three nights in the city in preparation for the expo and working it. That has to be good for the city.”
Reist and city officials will be pleased to know that NAFECO plans to make its vendor expo an annual event at the pavilion.
“We’re excited about what we can do in the future,” Woodall said. “We may expand our expo more hours and more days.”
Decatur Fire Chief Charlie Johnson said he is pleased that the city has a local resource such as NAFECO.
“They’ve grown so much during the past 10 years I’ve been here, and I’m happy to see that they’re able to put together an expo such as this for the local and area fire and police departments, and for the whole region,” he said.
Johnson said the pavilion itself is a showcase for Decatur and the Parks and Recreation Department.
“NAFECO’s expo is a win-win situation — a local company showing off what they can do and being able to put everything together in one place,” he said. “This is a good use of the facility.”

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