Southeast Conference Finds New Equilibrium
Rebranded as the Southeast Color Connection, the former Southeast Greenhouse Conference returned to its roots as a more intimate regional conference and trade show, June 16-18.
The past few years the conference has been rightsizing itself. A prolonged period of severe drought conditions in 2006-2008 significantly impacted growers, garden centers and landscapers in the Southeast. A number of businesses did not survive it.
This regional weather disaster combined with a national economic recession has hurt show attendance and commercial support the past few years. Economic belt tightening has also forced exhibitors to be more selective where they exhibit nationally and to send fewer people to events.
Changes that were made to improve the event were well received, including moving the trade show to Thursday and Friday, having dedicated trade show hours that did not compete with educational sessions and hosting a free lunch on the trade show floor.
The event’s chair, Willis Bruce of Bruce’s Greenhouses in Blythewood, S.C., says the objective always has been to host an event a state organization wouldn’t be able to arrange on its own. The seven partnering states that host the Southeast Color Connection are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
“Our goal is to bring speakers and vendors to help us with our business,” he says. “I’m fairly slow to change but can point to changes we’ve made in our business due to the Southeast Greenhouse Conference. It’s an event where you can meet face to face with your vendors and other growers in the region. We’re able to interact with the best in our business.”
Last week’s educational program offered a retailing and marketing track in addition to three tracks that were more grower focused. The Wednesday before the show, Robert Hendrickson of The Garden Center Group and Sid Raisch of Horticultural Advantage put on an all-day Garden Center Business Development Workshop.