Major Infrastructure Events, UCT and ICUEE

In this issue, we preview two major underground infrastructure industry events, ICUEE and UCT.

The International Construction & Utility Equipment Exhibition is a bi-annual event held in Louisville, KY. This year’s show is scheduled for Oct. 3-5. ICUEE historically focuses on the below/above ground electric and telecommunications utilities, along with some gas distribution.

While underground exhibitors are present throughout the indoor exhibition, the big lure for attendees in underground markets is the outdoor exhibits in an area known simply as Lot K. That’s where the underground exhibitors are concentrated. You’ll find machines working and the dirt flying.

As more and more utility lines – including telecommunications and electric – are placed underground, it is rare that such a site is available for underground demos around convention centers. Lot K became available due to its former use as a landfill; underground lines were never installed in the area. After packing a little soil over the landfill area, it was perfect for underground demonstrations without the fear of striking a utility line. While that part was true, there were other issues that had to be resolved.

Because of the landfill debris, there are limits to how deep one can go for demonstrations, and exhibitors soon learned their limitations. Some of the debris exhibitors would hit when ICUEE first located to Louisville in the ‘80s is legendary. In those days, exhibitors were asked to just dig up anything they hit, place it on the road that circles the exhibits, and it would be picked up after the show. Slowly but surely, much of the near-surface obstacles were cleared.
Ditch Witch, tired of having its trenchers constantly hitting concrete and other obstacles, went so far as to hire a contractor to remove all dirt and debris from their exhibit area to a depth of 15 feet. It was then replaced with regular, debris-free dirt.

During an event in the mid-‘90s, an aspiring manufacturer of directional drilling rigs dreamed up a unique promotion. In those early days of directional drilling, companies were still constantly drying to educate customers as to the capabilities and applications of HDD.

This manufacturer (now defunct) rented space on opposite sides of Lot K. The plan was to set up a rig on one side, drill several hundred feet under the outdoor exhibit space to the company’s second booth on the opposite side, then pull back in a small casing and pressurize the pipe. When attendees would visit the first booth, their contact information would be recorded on a card, placed in a tube and launched under pressure to the other booth. Once attendees worked their way around to the opposite side of Lot K, they could drop by the company’s receiving booth, confirm that their information was there, pick up a complimentary T-shirt and be duly impressed with the capabilities of HDD. Or at least that was the plan. Lot K’s past, however, presented insurmountable problems.

The drilling rig hadn’t gone more than a couple of drill rods deep when it hit a refrigerator. Undaunted, the driller repositioned and tried again. He got a little further along before hitting a car. After colliding with rebar and concrete on the third try, a frustrated drill crew gave up – just too many obstacles from Lot K’s landfill days remained.

The Big Show

The major event that always kicks off the new year is the Underground Construction Technology International Conference & Exhibition (UCT), scheduled for Jan. 30 – Feb. 1 in historic New Orleans.

The program is complete and the exhibit hall is rapidly filling up. As always, industry businesses and associations are already booking meeting rooms and hotel space. UCT is the established business event for the underground infrastructure construction and rehabilitation markets.

A key element of UCT is always the RehabZone, that information-only, no-sell zone, show-within-a-show area of the event. In 2018, the ’Zone’s anchor display remains the Sewer History Exhibit, now managed by NASSCO. The sewer history founder and long-time curator is retired Arizona engineer Jon Schladweiler.

While Jon has experienced an outstanding engineering career, working for both consulting firms and municipal entities, these days he just likes to call himself a “Sewer Historian.” Jon’s soft-spoken charm sometimes is misleading. He can take what many would consider a stale subject and weave a remarkable story. He captivates audiences with his tales of how civilization came to embrace the concept and evolution of sewer systems.

Whether you’re into the sewer market or any other, the Sewer History Exhibit within the RehabZone at UCT 2018 is incredibly interesting and an
absolute must-see.

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