60 Seconds with… Tom Carbott, senior vice president of exhibitions at MHI

Modern Materials Handling's editor sat down with Tom Carbott, Senior Vice President of exhibitions at MHI to talk about ProMat and other industry events.

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Tom Carbott

Title: Senior vice president of exhibitions, MHI

Location: Charlotte, N.C.

Experience: More than 28 years with MHI

Duties: Responsible for the sales and operations of MHI exhibitions


Modern: How long has ProMat been around?

Carbott: 2015 was the 30th anniversary of ProMat, which was rolled out in 1985. Before that, it was the National Material Handling Show.

Modern: And, how long have you been attending?

Carbott: From the beginning. I joined the materials handling industry in a sales position in Charlotte in 1979. Part of my job description was to attend a Hoist Manufacturers Association meeting in Pittsburgh.

Modern: Let’s do some numbers. How big is this year’s show? How many exhibitors?

Carbott: The show has been sold out since last July, and we have a waiting list of exhibitors. All told, the net square footage will be 415,000 square feet, and we’re looking at about 930 exhibitors.
The Automate show is not included in those numbers.

Modern: Have you ever been sold out before?

Carbott: We have never been sold out that early. We sold 90% of the floor at our space draw in December 2017. It was a combination of new people coming in; a larger international presence; plus people who have always been with us taking larger footprints. For instance, robotics for warehousing and distribution is really starting to explode, and we’re seeing a lot of interest from that segment along with automation in general to address e-commerce. On the international front, we have exhibitors with headquarters in 31 different countries. And, everyone seemed to be upgrading their space. The traditional 10-foot by 20-foot space is now a 20 x 20-foot space.

Modern: Do you have a sense of what’s driving that?

Carbott: We do ask that all the time. In general, I think the economy is benefiting everyone. You know, our business is cyclical, and I think solution providers want to take advantage of the good times now knowing that they don’t last forever.

Modern: How is attendance shaping up?

Carbott: We think we’ll crest at 50,000 attendees. A week before Christmas, we had double the number of registered attendees that we would normally have four months out.

Modern: What’s new, and what’s different?

Carbott: We’ll have the same number of educational sessions on the floor as usual, which is about 108. However, in the North Hall, there will be an additional 20 sessions on emerging technologies. We’re also working with RoboBusiness to create a chief robotics officer curriculum that will be offered near the North Hall. We’re bringing back the Premier Club, which is an invitation-only exclusive area for senior-level executives. New this year is an app that will make it easy for people to navigate the show; after all, just because the show is bigger doesn’t mean people have more time to see everything. The other thing we’re doing new is to live stream one of the student tours and make that available to students who can’t attend through CICHME.

Modern: Finally, Tom, we heard you’re retiring after this ProMat. What will you remember the most?

Carbott: I’ve enjoyed it all, from being a resource to attendees and exhibitors, no matter how big or small, and being part of the matchmaking process that puts solution providers and end users together. But, at the end of the day, I’ll remember the people. At the end of that first hoist manufacturers meeting that I attended, I never ever thought that I’d go to the work for the association, but it’s been a real privilege to work with the people I work with.


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