(April 27) RENO, Nev. — The 2004 International Fresh-cut Produce Association’s annual conference marked the beginning of a new era for the association.

Kicking off the show, which took place at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, outgoing chairman Craig Delaney noted the departure earlier this year of former president Edith Garrett — who was unable to attend the show — while at the same time ushering in new president Jerry Welcome.

“We’re all indebted to Edith and the many contributions she’s made to IFPA,” he said, adding that Welcome “promises a fresh vision and an ambitious approach to IFPA.”

PLANNING TO BUILD

Indeed, Welcome himself said that he has big plans for the association as well as for future exhibitions.

“I want to build this show up,” he said. “I want to get a lot more attendees for these exhibitors. We want to start to develop relationships beyond the quality assurance people to the engineering staffs, the trainers and the maintenance people.”

Ken Hodge, director of communications for Alexandria, Va.-based IFPA, said the show’s attendance this year was about 1,200. That’s up about 100 from the 2003 show, though still not as high as the 2002 show, which drew about 1,350 visitors.

The show did, however, set a record for exhibitors, with 122 booths on 24,000 square feet of show floor space. That’s up from 110 booths in 2003. And people at those booths seemed to be happy with the show’s attendance.

Charlie Boggs, owner of Charlie’s Machine & Supply Inc., Boulder, Colo., said he was having a particularly good show.

“We’ve sold everything here,” he said, pointing to the half a dozen machines he had on display.

Some big names in the produce the industry were seen throughout the weekend, including United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association president Tom Stenzel.

Stenzel said he tries to come to the IFPA show every few years to check things out, and thought this year’s show was especially important.

“I wanted to give whatever support I can to (Welcome),” he said. “There’s a relationship there that we want to foster.”

JUST A WEEK APART

Some people at the show expressed concern with it being just one week away from the United and Food Marketing Institute shows in Chicago, but Stenzel said he wasn’t worried.

“I don’t think there will be an impact on our show,” he said.

Welcome agreed, adding that he hasn’t sensed any problems from his association’s members.

Welcome said he is more interested to see how the coming together of the United and FMI shows will affect other shows in the industry.

“As shows start to consolidate, it will be interesting to see how that impacts the Produce Marketing Association show more so than us,” he said.

IFPA attendees had other things on their minds as well, as breakout workshop sessions covered everything from food safety regulations to packaging to facility design.

Sanitation and food safety were big topics at the show. As Delaney noted in his opening remarks, recent government regulations could make things tough for fresh-cut processors.

“The bioterrorism act is creating some difficult hurdles for our industry,” he said.

The 2005 IFPA convention is planned for April 14-16 at the Phoenix Convention Center.