UCT 2014 Succeeds Despite Record National Freeze

While typically, the Houston area of southeast Texas experiences mild winter weather conditions, January 2014 proved that the city is not immune to the horrific winter weather being experienced across most of the nation.

With forecasts for freezing rain for the first morning of the annual Underground Construction Technology International Conference & Exhibition, attendance dipped initially. While the forecasted icy conditions never materialized, the massive winter storm did spread ice and snow across other regions of the south, Midwest and east coast, keeping many travelers at home or worse – stranded at airports. In Atlanta, for example, ice and snow clogged freeways, trapping motorists in their cars for up to 18 hours.

Fortunately, with temperatures in Houston quickly rising back to seasonal averages, attendance rebounded for day two of the show. “No question the expected bad weather played a factor in attendance,” said Karen Francis, UCT show director. “But we finished out the conference strong.”

UCT is the only annual industry event that brings together contractors, utility providers, consulting engineers, manufacturers and service providers in a business and educational environment. The scope of UCT encompasses all underground construction and rehabilitation disciplines.

The 2014 UCT exhibition covered more than 130,000 square feet. It included the expanded RehabZone, a 10,800-square-foot show within a show providing objective non-sales information offering generic presentations about the rapidly-changing range of pipeline rehabilitation technologies.

New for 2014 was the DrillZone, a special area with interactive, hands-on exhibits and information for horizontal directional drilling (HDD) attendees.

Education opportunities

In addition to the largest exhibition focused on the underground construction and rehabilitation market, the unique educational program of presentations combined with panel discussions and interactive sessions continue to be an industry benchmark for creative learning and information. One-hundred sessions representing 73.5 hours of presentations plus another 80 hours of special pre- and post-show programs made up for a full week of the best education available to the underground market. Sessions included tutorials, panel discussions, interactive presentations and detailed case histories documenting underground utility construction and rehabilitation methods and technologies. The popular HDD Roundtable Forum introduced in 2013 was also included again.

Exhibitor John English’s concise analysis of UCT 2014: “Those who attended showed very good interest levels.” English is president of Horizontal Technology, Inc., based in Houston. “We introduced our new Viper RockReamer and DataTraX Cad software program at this year’s UCT,” he added.

Other exhibitors interviewed also had positive things to say about the show.

John Ostermann, Lakewood, CA, regional sales manager for North American Specialty Products (Certa-Lok PVC products) said: “Over the years, I’ve found people really interested in getting information at trade shows usually find a way to get to the show, even when there are complications. We had very good booth traffic – the quality was undiminished. Our Houston representative considered the show very good. I had the opportunity to meet with one prospective customer from the west coast that is preparing for a major project that will be a significant sale for the supplier who provides product for it.”

Josh Beddow, underground equipment marketing manager at Toro, Bloomington, MN: “Activity was good with a good mix of visitors to our exhibit giving us the opportunity to provide information about Toro’s line of horizontal directional drilling equipment.”

Jason Haas, director of marketing, HammerHead Trenchless Equipment, Oconomowoc, WI, said: “In spite of the unseasonably cold weather in the Houston area, we had a steady flow of traffic, with many contractors inquiring about new trenchless products from HammerHead, including the new HydraLiner lateral lining solutions seen for the first time by a UCT audience”

John Wornom, vice president – sales and marketing, Wyo-Ben, Billings, MT: “Weather delayed my arrival from Montana by a day, but we met a lot of good prospects, including many from Latin America and some from Russia. UCT also is a place we meet with distributors and prospective distributors.”

Good exhibits over a wide range of equipment and services and on-target educational programs, is the way Troy Freed summed up UCT 2014. Freed is director of trenchless technologies for Utility Services Authority, Belleville, MI. “UCT is the best show out there,” he said.

John Gustafson, owner Trenchless Construction, Arlington, WA, said he goes to UCT to see equipment. “I found exhibits this year beneficial. I had several people there to see; I met with all of them and accomplished what I came for,” he added.

Eric Lyons, owner of Gator Boring & Trenching, Pensacola, FL, attends UCT regularly. “I come primarily for the exhibits,” said Lyons, “and I always come away with something useful. Networking is good here, too, I meet people I didn’t know before and that can be very beneficial. Interactive displays in the DrillZone were good, and I also participated in the HDD round table; topics discussed were timely and good information was exchanged.”

Pipe bursting is a primary interest of Matt Timberlake, vice president, Ted Berry Company, Livermore, ME: “The educational sessions in this field were excellent and some were standing room only,” he said.

Ed Libby, Woods Construction, Colorado Springs, CO: “It’s been a while since I’ve been to UCT, so I was interested in the exhibits and found many useful and helpful. We were especially interested in air hammers for HDD work and sought information about them. There were a lot of electronics, and we’re interested in that because we’re finding project owners are requiring scoping sewer lines after installation.”

It had been several years since Danielle Martin’s last UCT. “Exhibits seemed to have more products and were more interesting,” she said. “It looks like exhibiting companies stepped up. I enjoyed the educational sessions – topics were widely varied and current. In addition, the event strongly supports interaction with other contractors, vendors, speakers, and associations.” Martin is general manager of Henniker Directional Drilling, Henniker, NH.

This was the first UCT for Rudy Fifield, director of operations for Global Underground Solutions, Chesapeake, VA.

“I’d rank UCT as one of the better shows,” he said. “I liked the layout with many useful exhibits staffed by knowledgeable personnel. I attended educational sessions, including mud recycling and sewer rehabilitation. I like the DrillZone concept, the drill simulator was good and the rock demo interesting. UCT opened our eyes about a lot of products and methods of utility construction.”

As usual, The RehabZone presented timely information about rehabilitation technologies and their implementation.

“It was evident attendance was down some (due to weather), but we had a good turnout,” said Guy Leslie, RehabZone co-chairman. “Volunteers staffed stations, presentations were conducted and every demo session was well attended. We consider 2014 another successful year for the RehabZone.”

A full report on RehabZone activities will be in the April issue of Underground Construction.

Something for everyone

Industry organizations scheduling events in conjunction with UCT continues to grow. A record number of committee and business meetings were held.

CUIRE (Center for Underground Infrastructure Research and Education) conducted training sessions; water professionals exchanged ideas at Water Works 2014; NASSCO held a PACP trainers class. An Ethics for Engineers course again was offered and Staking University held a new Train-the-Trainer Course of utility locating techniques.

The Northeast Trenchless Association (NTA) scheduled its 2014 annual meeting in conjunction with UCT.

“We were very pleased with the result,” said Matt Timberlake, a past president of the association. “Our members were in Houston in full force, and we were able to meet people in the industry from across the country who do not routinely travel to New England, giving us the opportunity to make them familiar with what we are doing in New England.”

UCT is sponsored by Underground Construction, Pipeline & Gas Journal and Pipeline News magazines with the support of corporate, association, and academic cosponsors.

UCT 2015 will again be in Houston Jan. 27-29. The weather is expected to be mild and sunny.

UCT: (281) 558-6930, ext. 222, http://uctonline.com

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