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Trade Show a Boon for Haas Automation

VALLEY AND VENTURA COUNTY | VENTURA COUNTY REVIEW /
LEO SMITH

March 31, 1998|LEO SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Haas Automation of Oxnard is hard to miss. With about 900 employees working in a plant measuring 420,000 square feet on 86 acres of land, the machine tool manufacturer needs little introduction to people within the regional, if not international, manufacturing community.

But company officials, nonetheless, appreciate any opportunity they can get to show their products off to large groups of prospective buyers.

That is why Haas, one of the top two dozen employers in Ventura County, spent about half a million dollars to send 30 employees and nine of its most advanced metal-tooling machines to the Los Angeles Convention Center for the recent Westec '98 trade show.

For four days, the exposition placed the spotlight on about 650 exhibitors who displayed the latest in advanced metalworking technology for the benefit of about 30,000 visitors.

Haas set up its display of metal cutting, drilling and shaping machinery--priced up to $400,000--in a 5,250-square-foot exhibit space.

Peter Zierhut, marketing manager for Haas, was pleased with the results.

"Attendance in our booth was higher than I'd ever seen it," Zierhut said. "I think we had more visitors in our booth than any other booth I could see, so we are getting more than our share of attention."

Because Westec was being held in Haas' backyard and because the Southern California market is important to its business, Haas placed a degree of importance on the show. But Westec is just one of many trade shows Haas officials will attend worldwide this year.

Next month, Haas employees or the company's foreign distributors will participate in shows in Buenos Aires, Seoul and Birmingham, England, as well as a show in Cleveland. The 11-show 1998 itinerary also includes stops in Shanghai and Sidney, Australia.

"Three years ago, you would have seen us going to two or three trade shows a year, period, but today we're attending every major machine-tool show worldwide," said Zierhut, who called the trade show tour an important piece of Haas' marketing strategy.

"Machine-tool shows tend to be attended by the largest segment of the market--job shops and contract manufacturers, aerospace subcontractors here, and in the Midwest, automobile subcontractors--anyone at all that needs to make precision metal parts," he said. "We saw a lot of Boeing people [at Westec]."

Haas executives approach each show with short- and long-term goals, Zierhut said.

"Our short-term goal from the shows are a minimum of 1,000 sales leads and 50 sales," he said. "Long term, because we're a relatively young company spending only about eight years building these major machine tools, we're really working hard on building brand-name awareness."

Another major function of the trade shows is to unveil new products. Some of the advanced metalworking machines Haas brought to Westec previously had only been presented in prototype form. Zierhut said they were well received.

"We are on target to either meet or beat our goals in sales and leads," he said. "We're lucky to be in the right market at the right time. The industry in California is strong. The consensus in the industry is that it will be another two or three years before it levels out, and we intend to take full advantage of it."

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