Tracking The Long History, Benefits Of ICUEE

Depending on seat location and approach path, attendees arriving by air for the 2017 ICUEE could have a good view of the Kentucky Exposition Center – 28 acres covered mostly with construction equipment, including aerial bucket trucks with booms extended, underground construction equipment of various types, sizes and colors, and outdoor exhibits.

It wasn’t always that way.

What now is ICUEE started 51 years ago outside the small town of Elburn, IL, west of Chicago, when Illinois Bell hosted a field event for suppliers to demonstrate equipment for its employees. An impressive turnout of companies participated and the idea was so well-received that Illinois Bell decided to hold another field day, and then another. The event became known as the “Elburn Show.”

Equipment displayed at Elburn included bucket trucks and trenchers. At first, “exhibits” were in tents. There were no utilities, so equipment exhibitors brought their own water and portable generators, if power was needed. For lunch, many companies sent someone to Elburn  to bring back burgers or bread, lunchmeat, chips and everything needed for an at-work lunch.

“The only ‘improvement’ to the grounds was portable toilets,” said Brett Overton, president of Show Management Services, Lisle, IL, who has been involved in the management of ICUEE shows and in predecessors since the Elburn days.

“At one of the early shows,” he remembered, “ the portable toilets had been set out,  and we were in the process of repositioning them to be convenient to all areas. A fork lift driver picked up one and went bumping over the ground to a new spot. As soon he set it down, the door burst open and a very disheveled man stumbled out.”

From the start

McLaughlin exhibited at the first Elburn field day and has been at every ICUEE since.

“Illinois Bell had a good idea,” said Dave Gasmovic, president and CEO of the McLaughlin Group, “Find an outdoor area where utility equipment can dig, invite suppliers to come, and bring company employees in to see equipment at work. It’s a concept that still works for ICUEE.”

What stands out in Gasmovic’s mind from his ICUEE years?

“Well, it always rains at least one day,” he said. “But I always look forward to it. Maybe it’s getting outside and showing our equipment and meeting people. There’s a great camaraderie at ICUEE, even among competitors.”

Gasmovic believes one key to ICUEE’s success is keeping its utility focus.

When I was on the ICUEE management committee,” he said, “that’s something that our company and Ditch Witch and Vermeer always emphasized – keep it a utility show.”

After the success of the initial event in 1966, the Elburn Show grew into a three-day trade event, and Illinois Bell turned it over to a professional management company.

The every-other-year event moved to the DuPage County (IL) Fairgrounds in 1975 and 1977, keeping the Elburn Show name.

New home, new owners

Next the show moved to Kansas with venues in Kansas City and Olathe. During that time, the show got its current name, the International Construction and Utility Equipment Exposition or ICUEE. The Chicago-based Equipment Management Institute  (EMI) acquired the show in the 1980s, and in 1987 ICUEE moved to Louisville.

With the merger of EMI and CIMA (Construction Industry Manufacturers Association) the renamed Association of Equipment Manufactures (AEM) became owner and producer of ICUEE.

Historically, ICUEE has been a favored place for launching new products, especially with underground construction equipment manufacturers and suppliers. It is ideal for comparing products.

The first compact horizontal directional drill (HDD) developed for the utility market was unveiled at ICUEE’s initial show in Louisville in 1987. It was a simple machine mounted on skids that launched the pilot bore from a pit. The power package sat [on?] the surface tethered to the machine.

The array of HDD models and support equipment that will be at ICUEE 2017 will dramatically document how far that industry has come in the past 30 years.

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