Test Drives, Equipment and Products, Oh My!

by Brooke Rockwell

        The co-located GIE+EXPO and HNA shows-with 750 exhibits, a 19-acre outdoor demonstration area, educational tracts and networking-squeeze a lot into a very short period of time. With some events starting as early as 7 a.m. (the HNA Hardscape Project Awards Breakfast) and happenings even after the trade show closes (4th Street Live concerts), it's a good idea to have a game plan before you get there.

        This was my first time attending the show, and after almost three full days I didn't get to see it all. What I did see, however, made an impression. Following are just a few of the things that stood out for me.

Ticket to Sales
        The HNA section inside the Kentucky Exposition Center had some beautiful displays, from a false house front and porch a with a paver driveway from Unilock to a complete and seemingly endless outdoor living space created by The Outdoor Great Room Company that included an outdoor kitchen complete with bar area, dishwasher, refrigerator, grill and other features you wouldn't expect to find outdoors. A separate section showcased a projection TV, seating area and fire pit.

        Over at the Belgard booth it was a different show altogether. While the Belgard booth did have some of the company's products incorporated in the display (Day 1 #6 & 7), the main event was the company's design software, the Belgard Design Studio. Visitors to the booth got their ticket for the show, which featured the winning designs of the 2013 Belgard HNA Design Challenge contest. The 2-D entries were also turned into 3-D renderings for a video. With the 3-D glasses charged and ready to go, contractors, popcorn in hand, saw how they can take their sales pitch to the next level.

Batteries Included
        At the Cushman booth, I got to check out the new Hauler Pro electric utility vehicle. Powered by a 72-volt AC electric drivetrain, it boasts a 9.6-cubic-foot cargo bed with a 600-pound capacity. The Hauler Pro offers a two-person bench seat, speeds up to 13 mph and 1,200-pound towing capacity. Front and rear Turf Saver tires are standard. Options include an on-board charger, windshield, roof and weather enclosure.

        In the outdoor demonstration area, attendees had a chance to try out Mean Green Mowers, some of the quietest mowers you'll never hear coming. The company first released its lithium-powered zero-turn and walk-behind mowers in 2012. According to the company, the 2013 models can mow continuously for up to four hours, and changing out the lithium module only takes 2 minutes, so operators can get back to mowing. Mean Green Mowers, based in southwest Ohio, offers several walk-behind, ride-on and stand-on mowers.

        I felt right at home when I saw the push reel mowers from Great States/American Lawn Mower Co. It's the type of mower I use on my lawn, but after seeing Great States' offerings, I'm tempted to upgrade to one of the company's cordless electric mowers. The company is more than mowers; other products include electric leaf blowers, pressure washers, hedge trimmers, chain saws and pole saws. The company got its start in Indiana in 1895 and has been growing ever since, but its commitment to earth-friendly, non-carbon footprint products has remained.

Do More With Less
        Although the company didn't have a booth at the show, I got to speak to Steve Padgett from DAP Products. Based in Baltimore, Md., DAP is making a move into landscape construction with its SmartBond Landscape Construction Adhesive. One 12-ounce can yields approximately 240 linear feet with a .5-inch bead. The polyurethane adhesive applies as a foam and turns into a gel, providing quick curing times and a permanent bond to common hardscape materials, including concrete, blocks, brick, and natural and synthetic stone.

Pimp My Skid Steer
        My dad was a salesman for General Tire, so I've spent some time around tires, but I've never seen anything like Michelin's X-Tweel SSL, and evidently I wasn't the only one. Before the show floor even opened, there was a crowd around Michelin's booth, entranced by the blue lights shimmering through the X-Tweel SSL. Michelin offers this as a replacement for the traditional tire/wheel/valve assembly. According to Michelin, it "delivers excellent traction, comfort and stability while eliminating concerns about downtime and maintenance." If you're looking to purchase these for your skid steer, keep in mind that the blue lights are not standard.

In the Operator's Seat

        After enduring rain and sleet on Thursday afternoon, Friday provided ideal weather for heading to the demonstration area. The pros didn't hold back - mowers took turns at high speeds, maneuvering around cones or hay bales, while other equipment was put through the paces, digging, climbing, spreading and chipping. Even this newbie had a chance to get behind the controls of a Cat 277D compact track loader.

        Caterpillar introduced three new Cat D Series Compact Track Loaders, three new Cat D Series Multi Terrain Loaders and two updated D Series Compact Track Loaders. These machines offer a completely new cab with designs that enhance operator comfort and control, new lift arm design for improved sight lines, and increased engine performance. The Advanced Display control monitor expands the number of security (operator) codes to 50 and can store and recall operating preferences such as language, gauge style, ride-control setting, creep speed, top-speed limit, response for the hystat drive system and response for the implement control system. The Advanced Display is video capable and supports an integrated rearview camera, providing additional work site visibility to enhance safety.

        For those of you in line behind me, thank you for your patience; and a big thank you to Kevin and Mike for making sure I didn't knock over the pumpkin ... or take out the fence.

        If you didn't get to the show this year, mark it on your calendar for 2014-October 22-24.