OPEI talks on industry issues and next year’s tradeshow

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2017 GIE+EXPO tradeshow floor in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo: Jill Odom2017 GIE+EXPO tradeshow floor in Louisville, Kentucky.
Photo: Jill Odom

At this year’s 2017 GIE+EXPO in Louisville, Kentucky, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) held a press conference to discuss a few of the rising issues facing the green industry today and plans for next year’s GIE+EXPO.

“EXPO’s gotten into a groove where it grows every year,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI. “Next year, there will be a bunch of changes for 2018. We already know it’s going to be bigger.”

Along with the growth in size of the event, other changes for the 2018 GIE+EXPO will be the times open for Dealer Day. Traditionally, Dealer Day begins on Wednesday at 3 p.m., but next year it will be open from noon until 3 p.m. to allow dealers more time on the floor, and then it will open to other attendees from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Along with opening earlier, the show will also close earlier on Friday at 2 p.m. Another addition to next year’s show will be an appearance by Dr. Robert “Bob” Ballard as a keynote speaker.

“He’ll be talking about the world, the environment we live in, how we affect it and so on,” Kiser said.

Ballard is a retired United States Navy officer, and a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. He is noted for his work in underwater archaeology: maritime archaeology and archaeology of shipwrecks. He is most famously known as the discoverer of the sunken R.M.S. Titanic.

Kiser took note of some of the challenges currently facing OPEI and the industry as a whole by referencing the state of California’s desire to become an all-electric, all-battery state.

“The industry has very significant challenges; chief among them is the situation in California,” Kiser said. “California is wanting to go, essentially, to an all-electric, all-battery marketplace. Cars, equipment, you name it; they don’t want engines in the state. And they’re at odds politically with the current administration and EPA. The two agencies that typically work together are sort of at war with one another; we’re kind of in the middle. That could become extraordinarily challenging for the business.”

Kiser says that this first round is proving to be a challenge for the industry, and he believes that the 2020 emissions will also prove significantly challenging. In the future, Kiser sees battery and electric equipment playing a larger role.

Kiser also notes that because of the electrification of the country and its products, gasoline consumption is falling.

“There’s a law on the books that says you have to move all this alcohol into the fuel supply,” Kiser said. “When they did that, there was an assumption that gasoline consumption would continue to go up; that’s not the case. So, you’ve got a bad law in the books, and we’re kind of in the middle again because you’re putting fuels into the marketplace for which our stuff, and all non-road, are just not design-builder warranted.”

Kiser also mentioned the growing concern regarding managed landscapes. Kiser noted that there are individuals who believe that a managed landscape is negative and not environmentally helpful.

Because of this, Kiser believes that OPEI’s TurfMutt program can help shed light on the subject and educate a younger audience.

According to OPEI, TurfMutt is an environmental education program launched in 2009 that teaches students in grades K-5, their parents, teachers and homeowners the importance of properly caring for plants and grasses, shrubs and trees in their communities, backyards, parks and school grounds.

“A lot of data and studies say it’s imperative for health and growth to get kids outdoors nowadays,” Kiser said. “A healthy landscape means a healthy lifestyle. Use that outdoor space. You should have the right to tailor your yard for your needs and not have EPA tell you what you can and can’t have in your yard.”

Starting with only reaching a few hundred students in California schools, the TurfMutt program today reaches over 60 million students. The program has become an education partner with the United States Green Building Council and Scholastic Inc., and the program also has its own educational television show on CBS.

“We’re in the space to teach folks about their lawn and landscape as an important part of a broader green space,” Kiser said. “The business is in good shape right now. Everybody’s doing pretty well; weather helped this year. Shipment reports are strong across the business, and on the retail side of the equation, it’s very, very strong.”

Kiser noted that early next year OPEI will also be releasing the first ever robotic standard. It will be a European standard coming in from the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

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